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Understanding and Preventing Feline Scratching

Anyone who’s ever owned a cat has heard that Infamous sound. That scraping across your furniture or your carpets that makes you inwardly cringe with the knowledge that your cat is currently running their claws along something in your home. Unfortunately, this is more than often happening on a piece of furniture that you actually like.

This is one of the few downfalls to owning a cat, and something that we really have to learn how to deal with. Let’s face it, animals communicate very differently than people. This is part of why we like them, and part of what makes them so difficult to understand sometimes. Scratching things is a Perfectly Natural reaction for any feline friend. They do this in response to several different types of internal and external stimuli. In other words, they’re going to do it whether you want them to or not so you need to figure out an alternative for them.

Fortunately, your cat’s not doing this because they don’t like you. They’re simply doing this because there are some instincts that don’t go away just because an animal has been domesticated. Your cat’s doing exactly what it would be doing if it was running around outside and not living in your home. Just because fluffy has his food hand-fed to him everyday and spends 3 hours being copiously petted doesn’t mean that he’s not going to still Embrace his Wild Side sometimes.

When your fearsome fur ball starts flexing their claws on your favorite leather chair, it’s time to start looking into cat scratching Alternatives. There are plenty of things you can do to offer them a better place to sharpen their claws. Yes, cats need manicures too. They just go about getting them a very different way. Unfortunately, the cost of their manicure can sometimes be your Italian leather couch. They also love to run their claws along your favorite shag carpeting. If you want to stop your cat from scratching the carpet, there are a number of Alternatives you can look into:

Give Them Similar Options

Cats are some of the most stubborn creatures out there. When they genuinely want to scratch something, they’re going to find a way to do it. Sometimes, it’s a good idea to offer them a similar alternative. If they absolutely love scratching up a section of your carpet, see if you can find a carpet sample that mimics this and place it over the area. You can secure it with velcro or weigh it down by attaching it to a piece of wood. This is essentially making a flat scratching post that allows your cat to exercise their natural instinct without damaging your flooring.

Make Other Areas More Appealing

If you cat has one particular area in your home where they like to scratch, it may be a good idea to try to lead them elsewhere. You can do this by placing toys, brand new scratching posts, and even a little bit of catnip to draw them to that area. You can also place their food bowl next to it as an additional incentive. Cats like to be bribed. They’re independent, but they are far from stupid.

Make the Area Inaccessible to Them

Sometimes, the cat is absolutely Relentless with their need to use your antique duvet to stretch their claws on. This is when it’s a good idea to either remove that piece of furniture, or just shut the door. If you have a way to keep your cat out of that area, that’s really the simplest way to prevent them from damaging anything inside.

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A Quick and Cheap Scratching Post Your Cat Will Love

cat scratching post

Scratching posts are a great idea, at least in principle. Give your cat a place to expend all that destructive energy, and save your furniture! Unfortunately, many cats are unsurprisingly persnickety, and more often than not after a first inspection your fancy new scratching post will never again rate so much as a glance. How can you convince your oh so discerning feline to actually use what you provide?

Cats scratch away at whatever is available to them in order to clean and sharpen their claws, an instinctive behavior they will engage in no matter how much you discourage them. It’s all well and good to tell them no when they have a go at your couch, but unless you provide them an alternative, it’s unlikely to stick. That alternative needs to be at least as good as your furniture if you want it to see use.

3 Key Elements of a Successful Scratching Post

Cats look for three things in their scratching spots: stability, size, and texture, and the generic posts you can buy at any pet store fail two out of three of these considerations. If you’ve ever really watched your cat sharpening their claws, you know they put their full backs into it, and all but the most solid of posts will wobble or even tip over under this treatment, especially for larger cats. Cats also like to reach up high and dig in with both claws at once, and most posts are a bit too short and too narrow for this treatment.

A quick look at on-line source will reveal an enormous number of plans for homemade scratching posts, of varying quality, and many do work quite well. If that’s your preferred route, look for one of the larger, heavier models. There is, however, an easier, cheaper option. You almost certainly have any number of surfaces in your house that meet the size and stability requirements, but are only missing the third consideration, texture, and this can be quickly fixed.

First you need your texture. If you happen to have any old pieces of shag carpeting lying around, those work well, but otherwise a well-textured sisal or fabric welcome mat is perfect in both size and material, and should be available for about ten or fifteen dollars at any home goods or hardware store.

Next you need a surface. An out of the way door frame is probably the best spot, but any really solid location will do. If you do use a door frame, it’s just a matter of wrapping the mat or carpeting around the bottom corner of the frame, and fixing it in place with a staple gun or small tacks. Running it lengthwise up from the floor will create a surface tall and wide enough for any cat, and pulled tight and stapled securely it will be as solid as your house itself. Don’t worry too much about damage, the tiny holes the staples leave can easily be fixed with paint alone, and even tacks will only require a swipe of filler. Now just introduce your cat to their new post, and hope they take the hint!

Quick Results

For less than twenty dollars and five minutes of work you can have a rock solid, easily replaced scratching spot that will hopefully have your cat turning up their nose at the inferior option provided by your furniture, rather than the other way around.

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What Are the Uses of Catnip

What Is Catnip?

“Catnip” or officially Nepeta cataria is a herbaceous perennial herb of the mint family. Its white flowers may be pleasing to the eye, however beware: if you plant catnip in your garden, you will soon understand how it earned the name “catnip” – many of our feline friends go absolutely bonkers for it.

cat-wearing-glasses

Why Do Cats Love It?

For your kitty, it’s all about the euphoric effects of nepetalactone, which is found in the leaves and stems of the plant. Cats may attempt to nibble or crush the catnip in an effort to extract the plant’s nepetalactone containing essential oil.

Common kitty reactions to nepetalactone include rubbing the face and body, loud purring, chewing and licking, all with the blissed out appearance that is tell-tale of a happy cat. Most cats will interact with the catnip for under ten minutes, and then seem to enter a bliss-like state which may last for about an hour. Some kitties will become very possessive of the catnip, and react with aggression if interrupted.

Does catnip work on humans?

Have you ever noticed that you don’t roll around on the ground and rub your cheeks into the carpet when catnip is present? That’s because nepetalactone doesn’t effect humans in the same way it does cats. However, emerging research indicated that nepetalactone shows promise as a bug repellent, with studies indicating that it could be tens time more effective than DEET.

Catnip Uses:

Make Toys More Enticing

Has your cats favorite toy lost some of its luster? Bring it back to life with a sprinkle or spray of catnip. This is also a way to introduce new toys to your kitty, making them quick favorites.

cats-playing-with-toy-mouse

Bliss Out

For felines that react to nepetalactone it doesn’t take much to have a good time. Simply sprinkle a little of the dried herb near your cat, or spray a spritz or two of catnip spray onto a papertowel or other object, and stand back and watch as your kitty happily entertains himself.

 

Oh this post is for ME?

Sometimes a scratching post or cat tree is not immediately embraced by our furry friends. While we would quite like them to attempt to scratch their own, personal scratching post to shreds (instead of the new lazy-boy recliner), it can oftentimes take a little convincing. A sprinkle or spray of catnip on the feline furniture will in many cases do the trick.

Does Catnip Work On All Cats?

The ability to enjoy nepetalactone is a genetic trait that is thought to be present in an estimated 50-75% of cats. Among those who share this trait, the reaction to nepetalcatone varies from mild to much stronger reactions.

Don’t be discouraged if your kitty is delighted with catnip just yet; cats under eight weeks do not have fully developed senses, and are not yet able to react to nepetalcatone. Give it a try once they are a couple of months older.

Catnip Alternatives

Cats who do not react to catnip, may react to one of these natural alternatives. Also, cats who do react to nepetalactone may enjoy these herbs as well:

Valerian

You may be familiar with valerian as it is found in health stores world-wide, promoted as a calming agent in humans, and also in dogs. However, for many cats valerian root has the reverse effect and acts as a stimulant. The feline-activating constituent of Valerian root is actinidine, which for some cats is a stronger draw that the more famous nnepetalactone from the catnip plant.

The downside to valerian is chiefly that some humans find the scent to be, well… not quite as nice as your cat hopefully will, to put it mildly.

Honeysuckle

Honeysuckle is often effective for the segment of felines who do not respond to catnip. It’s important to note that while the honeysuckle sawdust shavings are for kitty, the plant’s berries are toxic to cats. Also of note, not all varieties of honey suckle have cat-attractant properties, only Lonicera tatarica (tartarian honeysuckle sawdust) specifically has the ability to charm our feline friends.

Silvervine

Long popular in Asia, silver vine (also called matatabi) has recently started to make its way into Western markets. Like Valerian, silvervine contains the cat attractant actinidine, but unlike Valerian root it also contains a second cat attractant: dihydroactinidiolide. This one-two punch may be why Silvervine has a reputation for being the most potent feline stimulant for many kitties.

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How To Stop Cat Scratching

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It might be your expensive Italian leather sofa, your intricately woven rug, or even your crappy old recliner with the cushion coming out – no matter the chosen object of destruction, your cat probably isn’t tearing it apart as a judgement on your taste in décor. Rather, he is engaging in a normal and natural feline behavior, that can be, in most cases, redirected to a more mutually copacetic location.

Why Do Cats Scratch?

The scratching behavior itself is normal and natural, and the aim should be to redirect your cat’s habits to an appropriate location rather than stop the behavior in its entirety.

Scent Marking

When your cat scratches your new leather recliner, he is depositing his scent on it, marking it as a safe place that he recognizes. This scent encourages your cat to return to the same spot over and over again, creating both a habit and a soothing behavior that he enjoys.

Scent marking also means that cats who live in multi-feline households can be more difficult to break of the behavior, particularly if the household cats do not fully accept each other. Additionally, felines who are anxious, fearful, aggressive or seeking territory dominance are more likely to engage in excessive scratching behavior in order to repeated leave their scent in the area.

Of course, even well-adjusted kitties enjoy some amount of scratching – it provides a degree of exercise, and would help to in keeping nails sharp and groomed in the wild. In fact, it is a good idea to trim your cat’s nail’s regularly, as cats with long nails may engage in more scratching behavior. Ultimately though, all cats deserve a place to exercise their scratch instincts, and providing the right scratching surface in the right manner will maximize the chance that it will be a location you are both happy with!

How To Pick A Scratching Post That Your ­Little Lion Will Love:

First, what NOT to pick. Posts that are unsteady are the first no-no. Your cat wants a post that he can stretch out and lean on with his full body weight. If your cat doesn’t feel secure in doing this with your post, he will be happy to simply use your sofa instead.

Carpeted posts may teach your cat to scratch on carpet. So, unless you are looking for a feline powered carpet removal service, stay away from carpeted scratching posts.

So which surfaces make for ideal scratching posts?

Sisal posts, are extremely popular with cats and owners alike. There are also a number of vertical cardboard-type scratchers on the market, with many feline aficionados declaring successful purchases. Keep in mind, that it’s a good idea to provide your feline with a variety of scratching options, and this is even more important in multi-feline households, as some cats would rather not share scratching equipment.

cat on sofa

Why Declawing is NOT the Answer:

Declawing is not the equivalent of trimming the nails, or having a tooth pulled. It’s far more similar to having a limb amputated, as a cat’s claws are crucial for balance, and while a domestic cat would hopefully never require its claws for survival, the loss of its primary weapon can cause severe mental distress.

Declawing is a permanent surgery, akin to an amputation which physically removes the last joints on the cat’s paws. The surgery is prone to complications of both a physical and mental nature for your cat. Should your cat ever become lost, it will be without its main defense mechanism, and lacking the balance felines are known for. Also, your cat may become more likely to bite, engage in nervous behaviors such as inappropriate urination (marking), develop a fearful personality.

The paws may become very sensitive or even painful after the procedure, causing some felines who were previously litter-trained to stop using their litter box, likely due to the pain from scratching the litter after the procedure. You may be replacing one problem behavior with another, with serious consequences for your kitty.

 cat wearing a tie

How To Convince Kitty To Use The Designated Scratching Surface

Initially, put the post where your cat goes to scratch.  This may be by a sofa, a chair or wherever Kitty has chosen as her territory, and you may need more than one post to cover her favorite spots.  Security is a major factor in making the post appealing to your cat.  If it topples or shakes, she won’t use it.  It should either be secured to the floor or have a base wide enough and heavy enough to keep it stable.

To begin, place the post near where your cat currently goes to scratch. This is very important because the cat has a routine of scratching that area, and may have deemed it an important territory to deposit its scent. You will want to set your cat up for success by making the routine as easy to change as possible

If your cat reacts to catnip, you may want to increase the desirability of the post by using a catnip spray or rubbing some of the dry herb on it.

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