Q & A: Scratchy cat

Q: How do I discourage my cat from scratching my lounge suite when I have a scratch post close by?

A: Cats need to scratch: it stretches out their body, it removes any pieces of dead nail, and it’s part of communication, as they leave scent markings where they scratch. Make sure your scratching post is appropriate for your cat. Some cats like upright posts, while some prefer ones that lay flat on the ground. It should be long or high enough that they can really stretch out. It’s useful to have a few options so that your cat can choose which they like best – it also provides more options that are not your couch! Put some dried catnip on the post regularly to encourage your cat to use it; daily is ideal to start with. If your cat doesn’t react to catnip, try dried valerian. You can also play with your cat on and around the scratching post with her favourite toy.

Avoid scolding or punishing your cat in any way if she does scratch your furniture. This is rarely effective, and could cause your cat to become fearful of you. If you catch her in the act of tearing at your lounge suite, gently redirect her attention to the scratching post. While encouraging your cat to use her scratching post, you can try limit her access to the lounge suite by putting a large cushion against the area where she usually scratches, or block access with a chair or even just a piece of plywood. Prevention is useful, because if your cat is not practicing scratching in the undesirable area, she’s not becoming better at it!

Katherine Brown, behaviourist

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