Stopping Your Cat’s Destructive Scratching

Destructive Scratching 

Is your cat scratching up a favorite couch? A fabulous carpet? Or just something you would prefer to not have shredded? As a cat owner, you most likely learned quickly that scratching is both natural and instinctive for them. They scratch for numerous reasons, to stretch, to remove the outer layer of their claws or to even mark their territory. They scratch when they are playing–It’s just who they are–scratchers.

Cats are particularly attracted to coarse, or textured surfaces or something suitable to sink their claws into. One way to reduce scratching is make sure the nails are trimmed often. The routine clipping of the nails will ensure they stay at a healthy level for both your cat and the furniture. You can take them to a professional groomer or learn how to do it yourself. If you’re anything like me, or just trying to navigate life with Covid-19 safety restrictions, you will want to clip them yourself. Here is a video of a veterinarian walking through it step by step. Once the nails are under control the next step is to understand your cat’s behaviors to teach the designated areas and items to scratch. 

Texture, Noise and Scent to Deter Scratching

If your cat has a habit of scratching up curtains or a couch, making them unattractive and unappealing to their claws can also be a good way to curb the behavior. To use texture, try double-sided tape on your furniture–they won’t like the stickiness. Loud noises can also act as a deterrent, and you can get creative with balloons or even bubble wrap.  Cats have up to 80 million olfactory or smell receptors, so using their strong sense of smell can be an effective way to communicate with them. We recommend citrus as it is a scent they usually hate but is not toxic and safe for them to be around. Spray some cotton balls with a citrus-scented spray and place them in the spot you want them to avoid. The scent helps to deter them from coming to the area for a scratch.

It is important to communicate where scratching is off-limits but equally where it is permitted.  Providing a variety of scratching posts with different textures and surfaces is key. Try posts made of cardboard, carpeting, wood, upholstery–see what your cat prefers and make it available and easily accessible throughout your home. You can build DIY posts or purchase them.

Catnip as a Teaching Tool  

Catnip is another great resource when you are ready to show your cat where scratching is permitted. 

For those that need a refresher on it as I did, catnip is a perennial herb categorized in the mint family, scientifically referred to as Nepeta catariaIt affects certain receptors within a cat’s brain, however, kittens younger than six months usually don’t respond to it and some cats never do. When catnip ‘connects’, the result is a happy or euphoric feeling. A majority of cats respond to catnip and find it irresistible. They are literally drawn to it–which is exactly what you want.

They feel the herb’s effects by simply sniffing or ingesting it. The effects last about 15 minutes, followed by up to two hours where there is no response to the herb. Not only is it safe but cats do not build up a tolerance, which means it’s a treat that is effective indefinitely.

Responses can range from rolling, rubbing, drooling, licking, jumping or even complete relaxation after exposure–in either case, catnip cannot hurt them. However, something to be aware of is that kittens younger than six months usually don’t respond and some cats never do.

Catnip comes in a variety of forms: fresh, dried, and sprays. Emisha Hemp Catnip is a safe and natural product to introduce the health benefits of cat hemp CBD and dried catnip. Studies and cat owners have witnessed how hemp CBD is an effective way to ease cat anxiety, pain, inflammation and GI issues. 

If your cat does respond to catnip, try using it as an additional resource to teach scratching zones. To use the herb as a training or redirection tool, sprinkle some on posts where scratching is permitted and they will automatically go to that spot. 

Anxious Behavior

Like most animals, cats can experience anxiety. Signs of anxiety come in many different forms and some cats show it when they get extra vocal, aggressive, stop using the litter box, overly groom themselves, or excessive scratching. This can be difficult to catch and it may feel like they are exhibiting bad behaviors. Before resigning yourself to bad behavior, try to pinpoint the environment or event that first triggered the behavior. Was a new animal introduced in the home? Perhaps you moved the furniture around? 

One thing to consider is your schedule. Cats love a consistent schedule of play. Make sure to spend some time playing with your cat daily toys they find interesting. Catnip can also be used to calm your cat down and ease anxiety. Consider sprinkling some in the crate for your next car ride or put some in a cat toy for distractible pleasure. 

Learn Your Cat Emotions & Body Language

As with all housemates, communicating with each other is key to maintaining a happy home. This can be said for cat homes as well and becoming an expert in your cat’s behavior and associated emotions offers an opportunity to uniquely love and know each other. 

They are able to experience a wide range of emotions and can express anxiety, happiness, fear, relief and frustration to name a few. This cat behavior guide can help with navigating the various complex emotions and associated body language cats often feel and express. 

Each cat has specific personality traits and quirks. By learning your cat’s unique perspectives, it will not only build a strong communication foundation but allow you to better understand them and appropriately respond when needed. They are amazing, loving animals and with intentionality and care cats can thrive and live a happy and healthy life.

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