Scratching is a natural part of your cat’s behaviour. Even if your cat has access outside, you might still get the occasional scratching happening indoors.
A scratching post is invaluable to every cat owner. To prevent your cat from choosing to use your furniture as a post, provide an acceptable alternative.
Scratching has several very important functions for your cat. It removes the outer surface layer of the claw and it spreads secretions from the glands between the footpads, which is an important part of your cat’s marking rituals.
For this reason it is important to have the right post for your cat. A perfect post should be at least one and a half times the length of your cat when your cat is standing up on his hind legs. You can also experiment with the texture covering the post. Generally scratch posts are covered in carpeting or rope. You also get wooden posts.
If your cat has already decided on a piece of furniture as his scratching spot, get a post of similar textile consistency, and place this directly in front of the unwanted scratching area. Cover the furniture being used either in bubble wrap, or in cling wrap. You can also spray anything citrus scented on the bubble wrap as most cats find that smell aversive.
Make sure the post is right up against the furniture being used, so if it’s on a corner of the couch, place the post right up against it. Encourage your cat to use the post by training him. This is simply done by being consistent – if you hear the cat using the furniture, interrupt and then redirect him onto the post.
You can then, once your cat is reliably using the scratching post, start moving it gradually to the desirable area – bearing in mind that cats will need to have at least one meter of space around the post to allow for stretching horizontally.
Once you have moved the post, and want to remove the bubble wrap, use some citronella or citrus essential oil spray on the area of furniture where the cat used to scratch. Please test for fabric fastness first though, and don’t use tea tree oil, as it is poisonous to cats. This way, you will make that area undesirable for future scratching. If you have a cat that is targeting carpets, get some citrus scented carpet spray (or again, use essential oils diluted with water and sprayed onto the carpet) to deter the cat from using it.
Who is Karin Pienaar?
Animal behaviour guru, Karin Pienaar, has been working in the field of animal behaviour and behaviour therapy in South Africa since 1997. She completed her Diploma in Animal Behaviour in the UK, through the Centre of Applied Pet Ethology (COAPE) and is a qualified Practitioner member of the COAPE Association of Pet Behaviourists & Trainers (CAPBT) in the UK and South Africa.
For more info visit: http://coapesa.com/