Sharpening Those Claws: Training Cats to Scratch on Our Terms
As we learn more and more about the feline species, we are understanding more and more about a cat’s fundamental need to scratch. Cats scratch to keep their claws healthy, to mark territory with scent and visual cues, to exercise, and to feel that good, comforting stretch.
When we bring our cats indoors, however, scratching behaviors can be troublesome to us. Training cats to scratch on our terms is an important part of living peacefully together with our feline family members.
Providing a Good Surface
A healthy cat is going to choose a surface to scratch on, whether we like it or not. By taking some strategic steps, though, pet owners can be sure that their cat is scratching in a mutually agreeable area.
Location is extremely important to cats. It is important to provide a scratching surface near where your cat naps so that he or she can get a good stretch in upon wakening. Cats also use scratching as a form of marking their territory. Take clues from places your cat is already marking with his or her facial glands or by scratching to know where to put scratching stations.
Surface is also essential, and no cat is the same as the next. In general, cats prefer vertical surfaces as least long enough for them to stretch fully. It is also important that the scratching surface be affixed to a stationary object. Experiment with surfaces to find your cat’s preferences. You might try:
- Scratching posts
- Carpet remnants
- Upholstery fabric
- Wood or logs
Training Cats to Scratch
Training cats to scratch where you want them too is usually not too difficult if you provide several good surfaces and put in a bit of effort.
Like dogs, cats respond well to positive reinforcement. Be sure to praise him or her when they perform this behavior in a desirable location. This type of encouragement goes a lot farther than punishing them otherwise. Pick a reward that your cat responds well to. Options might include:
- Verbal praise
Be consistent and patient. Most cats can be taught to scratch in appropriate locations.
Caring for Cats with Claws
By allowing your cat to scratch, you are already helping him or her take good care of his or her talons. You can help by trimming back the nails frequently (every other week or so). This will help to keep them from overgrowing and blunt the tips a little to prevent unintended damage.
Inspecting your cat’s nails and paw pads periodically is also important to help detect abnormalities and to clean any debris or litter out of your pet’s paws.
Training your cat to scratch on your terms can be a rewarding experience. Schertz Animal Hospital is happy to help you accomplish this goal so that you can your cat can enjoy sharing a home.
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