Damage to furniture, carpet, and drapes is a serious problem and a major reason why many cats are relinquished to shelters. It can be a tough behavior to correct, especially if it’s been going on for a long time.

In the wild cats scratch rough surfaces to sharpen their claws and to mark their territory.

  • Stresses like moving, adding a new pet, conflicts among cats in the home, visits from neighbor cats-even a new house plant-can trigger this destructive territorial marking behavior.

Start with a scratching post.

  • You may need to present your cat with several offerings to find one he will use.
  • Sisal covered posts and upright fireplace logs have high approval ratings.
  • Locate the new home accessory(s) in front of or directly on items with a history of bad treatment from your cat.

To teach your kitty better behavior you’ll need to watch her like a covert operative when she’s loose in the house so she can be interrupted if she scratches the wrong thing.

  • When you’re not there to skulk around in the shadows she should be confined to a room where the only thing she can scratch is her post.
  • When you see her approaching the scratching post offer her a small treat and a brand new car.
  • When she actually scratches it be ready with a bigger treat and a dream vacation.
  • Permit access to more of the house as your cat shows consistent use of her post and a loss of interest in your excellent upholstery

Trim your cat’s nails often during his period of enlightenment.

  • You can even equip him with soft nail coverings (Soft Paws).
  • Spraying Feliway (a synthetic facial pheromone) directly on places your cat has damaged can help. Use it daily for 21 days on any place your cat may scratch.
  • To make your good stuff less inviting stick double sided tape on the damaged areas or use booby traps like a Scat Mat (www.scatmat.com), Snappy Trainer (www.scottsdog.com), balloons, or upside down mouse traps.

A word about punishment: fuggedaboudit.

  • Spankings at the scene of the crime, scoldings, and other humiliations will only cause your cat to fear you and still wreck your stuff, but only when you’re out of sight.
  • Meet this threat head-on by arming yourself with a compressed air can.
    • As the stealth enforcer you can silently fire off a quick shot just as the offender prepares to strike.
    • For a less Wild West-like correction you can position a motion activated version, Ssscat (www.ssscat.com), to startle your cat out of his evil mindset when he approaches your furniture.

All of these goodies are also available at retailers like Long Leash on Life (505-299-8800).

These recommendations are well researched and generally effective but they won’t correct every cat.

There is the controversial alternative of declawing. While removal of the front claws is a safe procedure, it is followed by pain, unless the veterinarian prescribes appropriate analgesic medications. Studies have shown that a properly performed surgery results in high rates of owner satisfaction (good recovery, improved owner-cat relationship) and no added risk of other bad behaviors. It’s a last resort, but it sure beats parting with your cat.