Cat scratch behavior: What you need to know - Dr. Marty Becker

Cat scratch behavior: What you need to know

Tuesday, May 31st, 2016 | By Dr. Marty Becker

I love it when people reach out for help with their puppies and kittens before problems develop! That’s the case with one reader — here’s how I answered her question about training her new kitten not to scratch.

Q: I just got a kitten, and I want to make sure she doesn’t ruin my furniture or carpet by scratching it. Do you have advice on how to trim her nails and keep her from scratching?

A: You are so smart to be thinking about this early in your kitten’s life. Now is the best time to help her learn how to accept grooming with a minimum of fuss and teach her where it’s OK to scratch.

One of the ways cats communicate is by scratching. They have special glands in their paws (and elsewhere on the body) that release scent when the cat scratches or rubs against objects or people. Encouraging your cat to scratch a post or other acceptable items will help her to feel secure in her surroundings and reduce the likelihood that she will mark with urine. Scratching is also an important way that cats stretch their muscles.

Experts recommend providing a tall scratching post in a prominent area so your cat can get attention for her scratching skills. Put it somewhere the family spends a lot of time. Choose a post that’s at least three feet high so your cat can stretch out to her full length. It can be vertical or horizontal as long as it’s sturdy and not wobbly. Most cats like a post covered in sisal, a ropelike material.

In combination with scratching, trimming nails reduces damage to your furniture, clothing and skin. Trim nails every week or two, ideally when your cat is feeling relaxed or sleepy. Put a little pressure on the toe to pop the claw out, and trim above the curve. If your cat is resistant, clip one or two claws a day and give a treat afterward. Your cat will soon welcome the attention.

Read more, including what to do if your dog is stung by a bee, in this week’s Pet Connection!