Destructive cat scratching

Most effective approach: Addressing inappropriate/destructive cat scratching behaviors.

Scratching of inappropriate objects is a frequent complaint of cat owners. Destruction of property is also one of the most common reasons given for relinquishment of a cat to a shelter and is the most common reason a cat is presented for surgical declawing.


Vertical Items Most Preferred

Recent polling of owners of cats showed, most cats have a preference for inappropriately scratching furniture items and carpet, particularly, those items oriented vertically to the ground.

This is very important to remember when considering a scratching prevention program.

The survey also revealed that cats were more likely to use scratching posts positioned vertically as compared with horizontal scratching pads. A preference for substrate was not identified in this study, although a separate, previously published survey of cat owners found sisal rope and carpeting to be preferred by cats.


Many Punishment-Based Methods Not Effective

Typically, many punishment-based methods were described as used by owners to prevent their cats from scratching inappropriate items and included yelling, clapping, spraying water or air, shaking a rattle can, throwing things at the cat, and/or “spanking” the cat. None of these methods were (or have ever been) found to be effective methods of deterrence.

Owners who attempted to teach their cats to scratch on a designated item, by placing the cat near the scratch post/pad, actually caused their cats to be less likely to scratch the designated item as compared with owners who did not use this method.


Rewarding Cats for Appropriate Scratching Shows Favorable Behavior

Although this study did not identify any method that may help increase the incidence of appropriate scratching, previous research has shown that owners who rewarded their cat for appropriate scratching saw an increase in their cat using the preferred scratch post.
Key pearls to put into practice:

1.  A vertical scratching post covered in sisal rope or carpet should be provided to cats to help prevent inappropriate scratching.

2. Punishment is ineffective in eliminating inappropriate scratching and carrying a cat to its “desired” scratching post will make it less likely to use it. Use of catnip on the desired object is appropriate and can be effective to lure the cat to the item.

3. Positive reinforcement (rewarding a cat for scratching appropriately with verbal praise, food, or playtime) is the approach most likely to provide the desired results.

Brook-Falls Veterinary Hospital & Exotic Care, Inc is a Menomonee Falls and Brookfield animal hospital which offers informational and educational media for pets and their owners by way of Blogs, Digital TV Series (Expert Veterinary Television), e-books, whitepapers, infographics and more. For more information, contact Brook-Falls Veterinary Hospital & Exotic Care, Inc.

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