From Tori Tyree. Questions? Leave a comment or email Tori at [email protected].
I recently had to buy new living room furniture. I was not aware of just how ridiculously expensive living room furniture can be and when I brought it home I discovered I felt immensely protective of it. Mostly I felt protective of it from my cat, Laila.
Laila has seven toes, on each foot, and she loves to knead all 28 of those happy claws into anything that is soft. I never realized this before — not until the living room furniture moved in!
The first time I came home and saw her scratching the side of my chair, batting gleefully at the little strings she had created, I wanted to kill her. Not really (but kind of). But then I thought about all of the people that turn their animals into shelters for this very behavior and realized this was my own fault.
About declawing: The official term is onychetomy. Most vets won’t even perform the procedure anymore because of the pain it causes the animal. It has been compared to removing your own nails, but at the last knuckle! The claws are not the only thing removed — tendons, ligaments and bones are also removed. This procedure usually results in litter box avoidance issues as well. If you would like more information on the dangers and problems associated with the practice, check out Good Cats Wear Black.
I’ve been telling people for years how to prevent this from happening, and for some reason had not yet followed my own advice.
Why Do Cats Scratch?
First of all, its important to understand why a cat is scratching. Scratching is a form of communication. Leaving scratch and scent marks is the cat way of stating I was here. They also scratch in order to stretch, while they are playing, or out of frustration for not being able to do something they wanted to do.
The fact that Laila wanted to communicate that this furniture was hers should not have surprised me. She’s a feisty little one. But it was also completely normal to her.
5 Tips to Prevent Shredding
Here are five things to do to prevent your cat from scratching, and shredding, items in your house.
1. Buy a scratching post. Maybe two. Because this is a normal and important behavior for cats, they need to have a designated place to do it. 10 times out of 10 you will not like the place they choose to act out this behavior. Encourage the use of the scratch post by putting it in a room where you hang out. They don’t care about communicating news to the back corner of your basement. Also, sprinkle catnip on the post. It’s fun for them — and its fun to watch.
2. Discourage scratching on furniture by making it less appealing. Cats like to scratch on things that are soft, that they can sink their claws into a little bit. But you know what they don’t like? Aluminium foil. I know this sounds tacky, but I just put it on the furniture when Im gone or when nobody is coming over. Remember: this is training. Once they focus on another place to scratch they like to go back to the same spot. If they discover the couch isn’t fun, they find another place to communicate (hence the scratching post )
3. Citrus. Cats are not big fans of citrus at all. If you get a citrus spray and spray the furniture, sometimes that is enough of a deterrent as well.
4. Calming devices. Consider the possibility that the cat is stressed out. For some cats, new furniture equals change, and change equals stress. There are now pheromone sprays that you can either spray on your furniture or plug into the wall that really help calm cats down and make the new furniture less stressful. I have seen very freaked out feral kittens in cages completely calm down after these sprays were used and was amazed. (I thought it was a gimmick, too!) Here is a link to the most popular brand.
5. Soft Paws. Soft Paws are vinyl nail covers. They were invented by Toby Wexler, a veterinarian in 1990, and have saved countless numbers of cats from going through the agonizing procedure of declawing. They come in different colors and last four to six weeks. I need to buy more than one packet at a time, but only because of the 28-claw thing.