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Cat Scratches:

Another kitty corner so soon! What could be better?

As we said before, cats aren't small dogs. They are both prey animals and hunters. They've also had a lot less domestication compared to dogs. 

One of the biggest factors in behaviours we don't like is that cats become intensely stressed if they feel forced or not in control of their choices and environment. This happens to dogs too, but they tend to suffer in silence more than cats do. The problem is that cat suffering is seen as a problem behaviour and them being bad rather than what it is: epic levels of distress that should be considered with a serious and empathetic mindset. 

This is more true of cats urinating on surfaces and aggression, but the other two can spring from our desire to stop cats from scratching. 

One thing I would make viciously clear, cats have claws, need claws, and should have claws. To declaw a cat for convivence, and any reason beyond medical is a convivence reason, is inhumane. I won't go off topic too much but will say: "cats scratch, dogs bark, and fish swim." If you cannot handle scratching in cats, they're not the right pet for you, no exception. 

So, how do we stop them from scratching what we don't want?

The answer is not a simple one, but there are some key factors to consider.

#1. Understanding the reasons behind scratching

Most people know it's to keep their claws in good wear, but there are others.
The other three reasons are #1 scent/territory marking, #2 Social activity #3 Releasing happy hormones by fulfilling one of their five freedoms: freedom to do normal, natural behaviour.

#2. One scratcher is not enough

Looking at the reasons they scratch, it should be clear that one scratcher is just not enough! Think about placement too. When we consider the social aspect of scratching, cats like to scratch in the places where their family regularly hangs out. They'll need at least 2 in heavy social areas (family rooms, near their cat highways, etc.) and at least one on each level of your home. 

#3. Think Types

Some cats prefer cardboard, others carpet, others twine, and some like all the above. Think of this in terms of yourself, do you like eating alligators? Maybe not, and that's fine. Perhaps you're more of a pasta person. However, others love a variety of different foods. 

It's the same with your cats and scratching surfaces. Outside they would have lots of options. We need to give them this in the home too.
Think about heights, too. Some cats prefer to stretch tall while scratching, some want horizontal scratchers, and, once again, others like variety. Offer this all to your cat.


#4. Getting them to use scratchers rather than your couch

Using the smell of citrus and double-sided tape can stop them, but there is a cost. This can cause so much stress that they either find somewhere else to scratch or start peeing on things due to frustration and discomfort. It's a punishment method that isn't needed in the long run. 

The best option is to encourage them towards where you want them to scratch. The biggest thing I see people doing wrong here is making the steps WAY too big. Cats need to feel in control. It can take 6-10 weeks to get them to switch food. Each step takes A LOT of time and needs to be the cat's choice and at their pace. 

Start with the scratcher right on top of where they are scratching now. They may mean getting some velcro adhesive and attaching the scratcher right onto the couch. Have a protector to keep the rest safe, then once the cat is scratching the scratcher religiously over several weeks, move it an inch, at most, and repeat another several weeks. Continue this process until the cat is actively going for the scratcher rather than your furniture in the location close to the couch but where you prefer. 

It takes time, dedication, and patience, but it is also the most effective method! 

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