When you walk into your living room and see the couch has been torn into pieces by your loveable cat, what do you do? Well, if you ask ten different people you will most likely get ten different answers. People that are into punishment may tell you to get a spray bottle and squirt the cat when it is scratching on the couch. Another good one is to put two sided tape on the arms of the couch. In addition, you may have heard to put a sheet of aluminum foil on the floor in front of the couch so the cat doesn’t like standing there. Well, what I am going to tell you is that scratching is a normal behavior for your cat so it can maintain its claws. “The human” in us has us trying to get the cat not to scratch. We need to start spending time teaching the cat where it is appropriate to scratch. One way of doing this is to get a few different scratch poles. For example, a round one that stands up by itself and/or a flat one that hangs on a door knob. My cats like the wavy ones. Rubbing catnip into the posts can help to get things started. Playing with the cat twice a day for a few minutes with a toy that gets the cat up onto the pole is ideal. When you see the cat start to use the pole toss a special treat as a reward to help reinforce the behavior. In addition, once the cat is really using them you should move them into different rooms. This allows your cat a chance to look for and find the pole so it can attack it once again. This process may take up to three weeks but when you save the couch and the pain of a declaw it can be worth it.
Dr. Steven G. Stratemeyer, D.V.M