I've been honored to share my life with five cats through the years. But only Gabby, a senior citizen we discovered at a local animal shelter, liked to scratch things. During our few years together, she shredded two sets of drapes, the arm of my favorite recliner, and the carpet in my closet, and became obsessive with attempts to scratch her face off mirrors.
When I talk with fellow cat parents, I hear the same things. Oh, they love their kitty, but oh my, the scratching. Why do they do this? And what can we do about it? I miss Gabby but not her scratching antics. I am ready to adopt again and have been scouring the Internet and consulting with other cat lovers for advice. I've learned three main ways to stop scratching if your cat develops an itch for it.
The first is to realize you can't stop the behavior. Cats love to scratch. Instinctively, it's how they leave their scent on their space. It helps them keep their nails sharp and their nerves calm, giving them a yoga-type workout.
The ASPCA, cited below, says instead of stressing about it, you ought to provide your cat with plenty of "good scratch" options. Specifically, this includes a sturdy scratching post --or two. For maximum benefit, find posts of different shapes and heights, place them in different rooms, and decorate them with some catnip and furry toys that move.
According to the ASPCA, it's best to disguise items you want to be kept safe, such as fabric. "Discourage inappropriate scratching by removing or covering other desirable objects. Turn speakers toward the wall. Put plastic, double-sided sticky tape, sandpaper, or upside-down vinyl carpet runner (knobby parts up) on furniture or on the floor where your cat would stand to scratch your furniture."
And after doing all of that, remember to direct your cat's attention to a nearby scratching post. He may never understand the difference between "scratch this" and "don't scratch that." But at least it won't be as easy to have your possessions destroyed by very sharp, tiny nails.
A second great suggestion is to keep your cat's nails trimmed a couple of times a month. The America Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), cited below, suggests using plastic caps to cover a cat's nails and protect furniture and other items. The inexpensive caps attach to the kitty's claws with an adhesive that lasts four to six weeks. However, be aware that declawing your cat is not a humane option. That practice is now illegal in many states and municipalities because declawing is a surgery that amputates the last bone of each toe. To put it in perspective, think of how it would feel to have your fingers amputated down to the last knuckle bone.
Since cats often scratch because they're anxious, a third idea is to keep your cat calm. Several products promise to mellow out your kitty and are worth a try. The ASPCA recommends providing plenty of space for your cat so he doesn't feel confined or threatened. And always remember that a scratching post should be the most essential piece of furniture in any cat parent's home.
Quote to remember: "Those who'll play with cats must expect to be scratched." - Miquel de Cervantes
America Veterinary Medical Association
"Alternatives to declawing"