One purpose of feline clawing is to sharpen claws. This is where the cat actually removes old claw fragments because of new claw growth. It is more like the shedding of a snake’s skin than the sharpening of a kitchen knife.
Feline clawing is an olfactory mark of territory because of scent producing glands in the paws. It is also a visual mark of territory since another cat can see a clawed mark even if the smell has gone.
Another reason for clawing is to exercise or stretch while clawing. If problem clawing seems associated with exercise, begin daily play sessions like string chasing, and provide an area to climb before the destructive clawing can take place.
Responding To Destructive Clawing In The Home
Make the old scratch location less desirable:
- Spray with scent repellent from the pet store.
- Temporarily apply plastic wrap or aluminum foil to the clawed area.
- Use a water sprayer or shake can when cat is observed in the act.
- Throw a small pillow or shake a magazine to startle the cat and make the area unpredictable.
- Don’t punish personally since it may cause anxiety, and decrease your bonding.
- Place a plastic runner with small spikes on the bottom upside down on the floor where the cat stands during destructive clawing.
Make the new preferred location more desirable:
Place multiple posts of different sizes and types. Place a scratching post close by where there is no runner, and next to the previously scratched location. Make sure the material is as close as possible to that of the chair. (e.g. wood vs. carpet vs. other fabric) If practical, temporarily remove the chair (or cover it in plastic) so only the post is available at that location.
Make the scratching post as desirable as possible:
- If the cat likes catnip, apply a liberal amount on the top and sides of the post.
- If the cat likes a particular person, rub a sweaty shirt from the person on the post.
- Move the cat’s claws over the post surface and praise him.
- Put the cat on the post, and praise her when in contact. (Otherwise ignore.)
- Put a favorite toy on top to encourage climbing with claws.
- Keep an eye on your cat when she wakes up as this is the most common clawing time.
- If your cat approaches the wrong clawing location, move him to the desired post and praise and pet.
Try isolating the cat temporarily in a non-carpeted room with the carpeted post. Observe to see if the post is used. If so, begin allowing free access to the entire house for gradually increasing periods of time. If accidents happen, go back to the isolated room and increase time in the rest of the house as correct clawing occurs.
The longer the problem has gone on, the more difficult it will be to correct, so a quick response is needed. It is perfectly fine to clip the cats nails every few weeks. It may not reduce the clawing, but it will reduce the damage done.
There is a product called “Soft Claws” which can be used. But be mindful that this product needs to be replaced periodically as it typically falls off with the old nail shell.
Here are some tips to look for when selecting a scratching post:
- Choose a post three feet or higher for stretching.
- Choose a stable post so it won’t fall over on the cat.
- Choose a material that is as similar as possible to the current target.
- Choose a material that the cat can dig its claws into to remove the outer dead shell.
- Cats tend to like a vertically oriented weave since it cleans the claws best.
- Choose at least one post with a resting spot on top.
- Consider a tall or floor to ceiling post that the cat can climb on for exercise.
Remember, if all else fails you still have other options:
Consider the declaw operation.
Consider making the cat an “outdoor” cat.