Dear Cat Ladies,
I have two wonderful cats that I love, but lately, they’ve been scratching everything to shreds! The carpet, my couch, the curtains… nothing seems to be off limits. My husband says to declaw or kick them out of the house. I don’t want to lose my babies, but I’ve heard some awful things about declawing. How can I get them to stop scratching?
— Torn in Youngstown
Your cats are not out to get you… or your furniture. It only seems that way. Before we get into stopping the problem, it’s important to understand why your cats are scratching.
The outer part of a cat’s nail is always growing. Unlike humans, the nail of a cat has an outer layer of tissue that must occasionaly be removed. As your cat is scratching and digging its nails into the furniture or any other surface, it’s pulling that outer layer off to expose new growth. This is an important grooming process.
Don’t panic. I’m not talking about spraying. A cat’s paw pads contain secondary scent glands which can help them to establish their territory, which includes your couch, drapes, carpet, and even you. By pawing, scratching or kneading, your cat is releasing a scent marker so other cats in the area know that this is HIS territory.
Watch your cats when they scratch. Their shoulders are flexing, their legs are extended to their longest possible position… in short, they’re getting a great upper-body workout. It’s like Kitty Yoga.
Scratching relieves frustration and has the added bonus of possibly tearing all the stuffing out of your couch, which is sooo much fun to roll around in. What’s not to love?…. if you’re a cat, of course.
CURBING SCRATCHING BEHAVIOR
Scratching is a difficult thing to stop cats from doing because it is a perfectly natural behavior. Unfortunately, scratching is also one of the top reasons cats lose their homes and wind up in shelters where they often lose their lives. Fortunately, there are solutions for deterring cats from scratching your valuable furniture and ways to prevent it or eliminate it entirely without resorting to declawing.
Scratching posts are great for teaching your cat where it’s appropriate to scratch. Select a scratching post that is tall enough for your cat to comfortably stretch out and get those muscles working.
There are many styles of scratcing posts available covered in both carpet and/or sisal rope. Many people find it helpful to choose a scratching post covered in sisal because it sends a clear message to your cat that rope is for scratching and carpet or fabric are not. You can find sisal scratching posts in many sizes at the Cat Ladies Society Boutique.
When your cats try to scratch on a surface they’re not allowed to scratch on, keep a squirt bottle filled with plain water handy. A quick squirt will usually send the message loud and clear that they should choose something else to scratch. Don’t forget the positive reinforcement too. When they scratch on the scratching post, lots of praise, love and petting is in order.
Whether you’re having a scratcing problem or not, trimming your cat’s nails is good for your cat and you. Indoor cats, even with scratching posts, often aren’t able to scratch against enough hard surfaces to wear down their claws, but this doesn’t stop their claws from continuing to grow. The result? Your cat’s nails will grow… and grow… and grow, which leads to claws sticking in the carpet or rugs and in some cases growing all the way back around and into their skin which is painful and can cause infections.
Luckily, trimming your cat’s nails is quick and easy. Use a pair of guillotine-style clippers available at pet stores or Cat Ladies Society. These clippers are designed specifically for your cat’s nails, which will make for a much more pleasant experience for your cat. Avoid using human nail clippers. Gently press on your cat’s paw to extend their nail. If you look closely, you can see a slight pink under the nail at the base. This is the nail’s blood supply. You want to trim the nail far eough back to take off the point but avoid hitting the blood supply. Your cat’s nails should be trimmed every 2–4 weeks depending on how quickly they grow.
If you’re nervous about trimming your cat’s nails for the first time, visit Cat Ladies Society with your cat. We offer nail trimming services for only $5 per cat. If you’d like to learn how to trim your cat’s nails, just ask for a demo during the trimming. One of our volunteers will be happy to teach you the proper way to trim nails for no additional charge.
Soft Paws are soft vinyl nail caps that fit over your cat’s nails after trimming. They’re applied just like fake fingernails, and they completely eliminate scratching for 3–6 weeks. These are a great alternative to declawing, and they’re safe and comfortable for your cat. Most cats don’t even notice they’re on. They’ll continue to pretend to scratch on surfaces, but they won’t leave any scratches behind.
Soft Paws are available at Cat Ladies Society. You don’t need an appointment. Just visit during adoption hours with your cat. They’re actually really fun because they come in a wide variety of colors. You can even mix and match them so your cat can support your favorite sports team or match the color scheme of your living room. Soft Paws application is only $15 per cat.
I hope this helps you out. Good luck!
Do you have a question for the Cat Ladies? Email Ask@CatLadiesSociety.com with your behavior, training or cat care questions.