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Is Your Cat Destroying Your Furniture?

By: Dr. Debra Primovic

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Cat owners always ask me this question: "Dr. Debra, how can I stop my cat from scratching my furniture and stuff?" The answer is - you can't.

Scratching is an instinctual behavior that's hard-wired into your cat's DNA. Your cat will continue to scratch no matter what you do. (Even cats that have been declawed continue to "scratch".)

Cats scratch for many reasons. But before I tell you why, I want to tell you a little more about your cat's claws.

Have you ever noticed how sharp your cat's claws are? And have you ever wondered how cats keep their claws so sharp? It's by design. Sharp claws help cats catch and hold on to their prey. Your cat's claws are retractable. That's also by design. Cats retract their claws when they walk so they can keep the tips razor-sharp.

Your cat's claws grow from the inside out, and as they grow the outer layer is shed. When cats scratch, it helps loosen that outer layer so it can be shed. This is one of the reasons cats scratch.

Here's another reason. In the wild, cats scratch to mark their territory. The scratch marks they leave behind are a visual sign that they have "claimed" the territory as their own. When they scratch, cats also release pheromones from the scent glands on the under side of their paws - these pheromones leave a scent behind which is another way cats mark their territory.

Scratching is good for your cat. It provides good therapeutic exercise. As your cat scratches, he extends and retracts his claws, working the muscles and tendons in his shoulders and forelegs to help keep them strong.

Your cat also scratches to express a sense of familiarity and well-being. You've probably noticed this behavior.

Scratching is natural and instinctual. But when your cat's scratching becomes destructive, it's a BIG problem!

There is nothing you can do to stop your cat from scratching, but you CAN stop him from scratching in inappropriate places if you have a good scratching post in your home.

Cats love the feel of the natural textured surfaces on scratching posts and pads. These scratchers will give your cat a safe, satisfying, therapeutic and non-destructive way to enjoy scratching.

If your cat is destructively scratching somewhere in your home (like the sofa, for instance) and you want him to stop, a good scratching post is the answer. Position it near the area - in this case, by the sofa. Before long, your cat will be happily scratching on the post - instead of destroying your sofa. And if you don't want to leave the scratching post in that spot permanently, you can gradually move it away to a more convenient spot.

Every home that has cats should also have a good scratching post.

What do I mean by a "good" scratching post?

  • Size matters. Pick a scratching post that is long enough for your cat to stretch to his full length - this way he can really work his back and leg muscles as he scratches.

  • Make sure it is sturdy. The post should be able to support your cat's weight as he scratches against it. It should not move around when your cat leans against it to scratch. The post should stay in place and give your cat a good solid surface to scratch.

  • Choose a good surface. Cats like the feel of natural fibers like sisal and other textured surfaces.

  • Look for a nice design. You will see the scratching post in your house every day, so choose a style, shape, design and color that you can live with.

  • Treat it with catnip. Look for a scratching post that has been treated with catnip - it will naturally draw your cat to the post and engage him. Occasionally rub the scratching surface with more catnip to refresh the smell.

    There are lots of scratching posts and pads on the market today in a variety of styles and colors, so find a good one that fits your cat's needs AND yours. If you've got problems with destructive scratching, a good scratching post is the solution. Your cat will love his new scratching place and he will stop scratching where he shouldn't - and that will make you happy, too.

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