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How can I stop my cat from scratching my floors and rugs?

CatChannel behavior expert Marilyn Krieger, CCBC, offers solutions other than decalwing the cat.

CatChannel behavior expert Marilyn Krieger, CCBC, offers solutions other than decalwing the cat.

Q: How can I stop my cat from scratching my hardwood floors and rugs? Should I declaw my cat?

A: Cats need to scratch for a variety of reasons. Scratching is one way cats communicate information about themselves to the rest of the world. On the bottom of their feet are scent glands, so scratching is a way of communicating both visually and through scent. Cats also scratch in order to give themselves kitty manicures, maintaining the health of their nails. Another reason cats like to scratch is because they like a good stretch.

I am against declawing cats. It is a cruel and painful procedure that can result in cats developing behavior problems, such as biting and litterbox issues.

Cats can be easily trained to use vertical and horizontal scratching posts instead of the sofa or the rug. All cats need to scratch, but they do not need to scratch your floors, furniture or rugs.

Start by providing your cat with both horizontal and vertical scratching posts in the rooms where your cats like to hang out. Most pet supply stores carry reasonably priced double-wide horizontal cat scratchers and vertical scratching posts covered in sisal. Both are hits with the cat set.

Regarding your rug, one solution is to make your cat’s favorite parts of the rug to scratch inaccessible by placing either a horizontal scratcher or another object on top of the scratched area. When making an area off limits for scratching, it is important to provide an alternate scratching surface right next to or on top of the scene of the crime.

If your cat is scratching the sofa, make it off limits by either using Sticky Paws® or by covering it. Next provide a vertical scratching post directly in front of the target area. Praise your cat when he or she is scratching the post. After your cat is using the scratching post regularly, move it gradually — over a period of weeks — to a preferred location.

Don’t forget to praise your cat when he or she uses the right surfaces for scratching. Regularly clipping a cat’s nails also will help solve cat scratching problems.

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