Porky and Buddy Pet Health – Fixing A Scratching Problem

Porky and Buddy

Dear Porky & Buddy,
I just adopted a kitten, Tanya. She is about six months old and beautiful, but she has started scratching on my couch.

I really don’t want to declaw her, but . . . it’s a nice couch. Is there any way to keep her from scratching the furniture short of declawing? Someone suggested shaking a can full of coins every time she does it. Will that work?

Dear Jen,
Thanks for ruling out declawing.  Cats really like to keep that first knuckle on their feet and the claws that go with it!

Cats scratch for a number of reasons.

They mark their territory with the scent glands on the bottoms of their paws; they release excess energy; and they use scratching to keep their nails trimmed.

These reasons do not include an effort to annoy humans.

It is a natural and useful behavior and trying to punish it by frightening her with loud noises is completely counter-productive.

It will only confuse her because she is really not doing anything bad and she will continue to scratch when you are not there scaring her.

The better approach is to use positive training techniques to actually teach her where to scratch.

And yes, you can teach an old cat new tricks or is it a new cat old tricks? Whatever.

One of these methods that has proven to be very effective with cats is called clicker training.

Here is how it works.

Start out by getting at least one, maybe more than one, sturdy scratching posts and a small plastic clicker.

You can find them at any pet supply store.  Start out by just snapping the clicker repeatedly when she is eating a favorite treat, so that she will get used to the sound and associate it with something that is pleasurable for her.

She will think you are acting strange but she probably thinks that already.

Then start having actual training sessions.  Get about 10 of her favorite treats out and keep them in one hand.

Click once with the other hand and give her a treat.

When she has finished, make eye contact with her, click and give her another one.

Do it over and over for just a few minutes.

You will need to do these training sessions between 5 and 20 times, so she really associates the clicker with a treat.

Then make you couch obnoxious to scratch.

Use double sided tape on the area where she scratches or cover it with something that she cannot scratch through.

Put your cat scratching post right in front of the blocked area.

Sprinkle some catnip on it to make it even more irresistible.

Entice her over there by putting something on the post that she will be interested in. If she ignores the post, you can gently place her paws on it and encourage her, but don’t force or frighten her.

The minute she starts scratching on her own, click and give her a treat.

Every time you see her use it, click and give her a treat.

It will soon become her favorite place to scratch and when she uses it consistently, you can safely uncover the couch.

If you want to move the scratching post away from the couch, do that very gradually, a few inches at a time, until it is where you want it.

We personally feel that clawed up scratching posts, like scruffy dog beds, are fabulously chic furniture items, so there is no real need to get it out of that prominent place in your living room.

But we realize that you may have a different opinion.

Looking for a mischievous cat?

Come to the Oswego Tractor Supply Store on September 19 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

The Humane Society will be there with lots of cats and kittens for adoption in celebration of Pet Appreciation Week.

Too many cats already?

How about signing up for Every Dog Has Its Day, on September 27 at Fallbrook Recreation Center, 103 Thompson Road, Oswego.

It’s the 10th Annual 5K-9 Race and 1-Mile Family Walk and Pets and People Celebration, with registration starting at 11 a.m.

You can find out more and sign up online at www.oswegohumane.org

The Oswego County Humane Society provides spay/neuter services and assistance, fostering and adoption of animals in urgent need, humane education programs, and information and referrals to animal lovers throughout Oswego County.

Located at 110 W. Second St., Oswego, NY.

Phone: (315) 207-1070.

Email: [email protected]

Website: www.oswegohumane.org

Because People and Pets Are Good for Each Other.