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ARF Column: The Itch To Scratch

A look at claw management for cats.

Scratching is a natural instinct for all cats so claw management is just as an important issue as quality vet care, good nutrition and grooming. It provides important exercise by stretching muscles in the back and legs and it sheds old nail sheaths. It is also a very powerful stress reducer for cats. But mostly, cats scratch because it feels really great and is a good form of entertainment.

Without a proper, designated place to scratch, it is not uncommon for your cat to turn to your favorite piece of furniture. However, with guidance, positive reward and patience, a cat’s urge to scratch can be redirected to ‘their’ furniture. There are plenty of scratch-worthy toys and cat furniture available in all shapes, sizes, materials and price options. Providing many different kinds of scratchers will start your kitty off on a ‘good paw.’

Cardboard scratch pads are affordable and can be placed all around your home. To make them even more appealing to your cat, you can sprinkle cat nip into the crevices of the cardboard. Tall, well constructed sisal carpet or rope scratching posts provide a wonderful texture for your cat to really dig their claws into while also providing a strong, stable place to stretch their limbs. Kitty condos are also a wise investment, as they provide a great place for your cat to scratch and their own special spot to escape the elements of a busy household.

Introduce your cat to her new  condo and scratching posts with something enticing, such as toys, treats or catnip. Praise cats when they use their claws in the right place by giving them affection, treats or a fun play session. Positive reinforcement will get far more effective results than punishing them.

Additional cat-friendly options for stubborn scratchers are Soft Paws and Sticky Paws. Soft Paws are vinyl caps that you place over your cat’s nails with a little bit of adhesive. They are comfortable for the cat, easy to use and replaceable when they fall off every four to six weeks. Sticky Paws is a double-sided sticky tape you place on areas you do not want your cat to scratch. Cats do not like the feel of the tacky tape and will soon associate scratching on your favorite piece of furniture with a less than pleasurable experience. After a few weeks, once your cat has stopped scratching, you can remove the tape.

Scratching is an integral part of your cat’s daily activities that make them so enjoyable to live with. It is important to not only understand their need to scratch, but to provide enjoyable places for them to follow their natural instincts. Interacting with your cat and giving lots of positive attention when scratching their own ‘furniture’ will make for a balanced happy home for you both.

This column is written by ARF staff.

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