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Original Question: Tipper tends to scratch at our furniture. How can I get him to stop? I have tried spraying him with a water bottle, spraying catnip liquid on the 2 cat trees but we’ve had no success. - Anne
Thanks for your question, it’s quite a common one. Here are some strategies…
- Start working on nail trimming immediately if you can. Take time to massage and probe the toes and paws so your cat gets used to you handling them first before adding the stress of clipping. Then get some good clippers and clip one nail. That’s it. Do one nail a day only. If you clip all the nails in one day it can be a stressful episode and they can be turned off of it for good. Use treats and give lots of love after each trim. Gradually make the nail trimming episodes longer and clip more nails. You can watch my video, “How to Safely Trim a Cat’s Nails” that demonstrates nail clipping which I think will help.
- Get appropriate toys and products that they are allowed to scratch. Buy a scratching post and focus their attention on it by sprinkling catnip on it or placing treats on it. This will give them an outlet for the behaviour that is appropriate and tolerable. There are great resources for this. You can even buy corrugated cardboard boxes that you can sprinkle catnip into which really draws their attention to it.
- Avoid punishment if you can. If you do find that your cat is scratching the couch, you could discipline or punish it in the moment. I strongly recommend not to do this but I am guilty of it in a minimal way. My wife and I have made a short simple hiss noise to shoo them away from doing it when we see them scratch the couch. Getting serious with this can make the home a scary place and create other problems due to anxiety.
- Consider other products. There are products that you can apply to the nails to ‘cap’ them so that they aren’t sharp. They can be difficult to apply but your veterinarian and the Registered Veterinary Technicians can certainly help you with this.
- Engage them as much as possible. By providing environmental enrichment and consistent stimulation, they may not develop the habit of scratching at all. You can give them lots of interaction and activity to avoid them having to entertain themselves by engaging with your furniture. Use laser pointers, treats, scavenging games, cat toys, and automated cat toys to keep them as busy as possible. You’ll find lots of options in your local pet supply store for this.
I hope these ideas help. If you are consistent and persistent, I’m certain you’ll be successful.
Dr. Clayton Greenway