Dear Miss Behavin’: We bought new furniture last week and our two cats are already trying to scratch at it. We’ve tried scaring them off and squirting them with water bottles, but it’s not working. Is this why people get their cats declawed?
Reply: Declawing your cats might seem like a straightforward solution, but most veterinarians and behaviorists are strongly against this procedure. It is not a simple nail-trimming; it is more like amputation of part of each digit. The procedure can result in traumatic emotional consequences for your cat and lead to physical complications such as muscle deterioration.
Rather than fix your problem, declawing your cats might actually create new concerns for your feline friends. Keep in mind that scratching is a natural behavior for your cat — so your goal is to direct this behavior to an appropriate outlet, such as a scratcher or post.
Your first temporary solution is to protect your furniture while your cats are learning about the new rules. Cover your couch, chairs, sofas or any furniture that your cat is scratching with flat bed sheets or towels to protect them.
Next, you’ll want to place a scratching pad or post next to these items. Try to make these interesting for your cat by having both tall, vertical scratching posts, and horizontal, cardboard scratchers available. You can even purchase a few carpet sample squares to mount on a wall or hang from a door knob.
Once the furniture is inaccessible and there are more appealing items for your cats to scratch, they should be more inclined to use those appropriate posts. Praise your cats verbally when you see them using the new scratchers, or offer a yummy cat treat as a reward. Once they are consistently using the new posts and scratchers, you can gradually move them further away from the furniture and remove the sheets and towels. If you notice your cats scratching the furniture again, temporarily repeat this process of covering the furniture and eventually they will understand.
Lastly, as many cat owners can attest, cats do not learn from punishment. Squirt bottles, yelling, or spooking your cat are useless in the long term. Repeated punishment will only stress your cat, further leading to potential litterbox issues or health concerns. Try a positive approach so you and your kitty can enjoy a purr-fect life together.
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