"Ask the Dog Guy" with John Wade

"Ask the Dog Guy" with John Wade

Puppy and Obedience Training Without Food or Fear

Kitten Scratching Furniture

– Posted in: Columns

My kitten has a scratching pad, but she never uses it. However she’s great at scratching furniture and carpet. I don’t know what else to do to make her use her scratching pad. Amongst other things, I’ve tried spraying her with water but nothing has helped.

L.E.

Hi L.E.

Cat experts used to say that this sort of scratching was useful in claw sharpening. Now they’re pretty sure that when the scratching is directed vertically as in the sides of furniture it’s is a “post-it-note” territorial sort of behaviour, “The humans in this household are already owned. Look elsewhere.”

When it’s horizontal (floor) scratching the theories depend on where. The “around the litter box” theory is that it’s done to cover up any sign of their presence. I have my doubts about that. When my old cat Timmy made a deposit you could drop several tons of baking soda on top and it would still make the neighbours’ eyes water. Its covered status didn’t fool my dog much either who if left unfoiled seemed to think such things were treasured delicacies and more than once provided me or a guest with an ecstatic kitty litter moustached snout-in-the-face.

You don’t mention any food in the vicinity but cats that scratch about their food are thought to be doing as their wilder brethren do which is caching leftovers for later. It could also as simple as your kitten finding your past reactions amusing and she’s just pushing your buttons. Dogs do similar things like sometimes swiping the skimpiest underwear they can find in the laundry basket so they can parade it around when the in-laws are visiting in hope of a chase and a tug of war which happily enough for them is often the outcome.

The trick with getting a cat or a kitten targeting a scratching post is usually in its physical placement, consistency in the consequence for not doing so and most importantly getting the cat to believe it was all their idea. The way things now sit she is just as likely thinking you have spontaneous periods of madness for which spraying her with water has become your only relief and in order to calm her harried nerves she has developed the habit of seeking solace in furniture scratching.

If this is territorial in nature it might help if you can borrow a pre scratched post from a cat owning friend. That miffs some cats into scratching a message right back. There is a potential risk, more so with an adult rather than a kitten. Some cats might decide a more powerful message needs to be sent and decide to send some spray marking pee-mail as well. Let’s try the following first.

To have maximum appeal a scratching post should be set up in the most heavily used and trafficked areas of your house. Unless you’re in a small apartment, get more than one. You can also try alternate scratching surfaces. There’s rope, cardboard, boards, even logs to choose from.

For consistency in consequence and to prevent your kitten from developing a nervous twitch every time you turn on a tap, ditch the water bottle and buy some two way carpet tape. Fasten the tape to targeted furniture as a “Don’t scratch here” spot. It’s a temporary nuisance and if you keep a scratching post in place as the acceptable alternate your kitten should re-direct and as is the preference of all felines, pretend it was all her idea in the first place.

Pawsitively Yours

John Wade

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