Taming Your Cat's Clawing Instinct

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Are the arms of your furniture growing fringes where they used to be smooth? Does your cat regard them as his own personal tree? Have you reached the point where you're considering covering everything upholstered with tarps? Why can't your cat and your sofa coexist in peace?

From your cat's point of view, that's just what they're doing. Furniture scratching is yet another normal cat behavior that doesn't meld well with our households. Cats scratch vertical surfaces as a means of marking their territory with scent from their foot pads, as well as leaving a nice visual marker — your scarred and tattered furniture. Scratching appears to be pleasurable to cats and entails stretching and exercise.

How to Redirect Your Feline's Scratching

You may have tried scolding, even swatting, your cat for his blatant disregard for your belongings, but chances are it did no good. Your cat may have learned not to scratch in front of you, but his take-home message is that you're crazy and for some reason interfering with his important work — especially when that work comes naturally and feels so good.

You can't get your cat to stop scratching, but you can redirect his scratching to a more acceptable surface. A variety of cat scratching posts and surfaces are available for sale. Cats tend to prefer those that are tall or long enough for them to fully extend their body with front paws stretched above the head — about 28 to 30 inches is good for most cats. The post must be secure enough that it will never topple over no matter what your cat does to it. The surface must be rough, such as fibrous textile, the reverse side of rugs or simulated tree bark. Besides placing scratching surfaces vertically, you can also place them horizontally, using strong tape or staples to hold them securely.

Don't stop with just one post. Remember, a major reason for scratching is to mark territory. Your cat will not be content marking it in only one place. He wants to advertise what's his from as many beacons as he can.

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