Catnip-laced targets for claws help to kitty-proof a home

Mutts

A Mix Of News And Features For Pet Lovers

October 28, 2007|By Nzong Xiong | Nzong Xiong,McClatchy-Tribune

Cats might make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside when they cuddle in your lap and purr. But when they start attacking your sofa, your thoughts may not be so kind.

Scratching is natural for cats. But indoors, that basic tendency can cause havoc for you and your home.

At least you have some options for encouraging your cat to scratch where it will be harmless.

Scratching is useful for cats for several reasons. They do it to mark their territory with both visible and scent markers, and to sharpen their claws.

What felines like to scratch depends on the cat. "It's an individual cat thing," says Mark Nample, a veterinarian with the Central California Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in Fresno, Calif. "Some like horizontal surfaces, vertical surfaces or both."

But the material on the surface often has texture, says Ramona Turner, a veterinarian at the Fresno Cat Hospital in Fresno.

Nample agrees. Cats typically like "irregular surfaces that they can get their grip on, such as textured wall coverings, furniture, carpeting and wood surfaces that are like trees."

Watch your cat to see what materials he likes to scratch and then look for structures with similar textures, advises a handout by Banfield, The Pet Hospital.

If the cat likes to claw on things vertically, try scratching posts. Rubbing catnip on the surface of the post can entice your cat to use it.

"Most cats will start scratching the area you applied the catnip to - to release the odor more," says Ed Loebach, a veterinarian and quality assurance medical adviser at Banfield, The Pet Hospital, in Portland, Ore. He adds that catnip doesn't usually affect young kittens; the attraction kicks in later in life.

He also suggests you try a scratching post with materials that aren't found anywhere else in the house. That way, if the cat wants to get his claws in that texture, he would be drawn back to that scratching post.

If your cat likes to scratch horizontally, scratch pads also are an option.

These can have various materials, such as corrugated cardboard, and may include catnip.

Besides providing an alternate location to scratch, you can make the sofa and other areas you don't want your cat to attack less attractive.

You can use double-sided sticky tape or sandpaper on the spots favored for scratching.

They don't like the rough feeling of the sandpaper, Loebach says. As for the tape, "I think it just feels weird to them."

Other things you can try include squirting them with water or shaking a can with marbles, Turner says. Cats don't find the shot of water or the sound appealing.

You also can try nail covers, such as the vinyl caps by Soft Paws. "You apply them with nail glue, and they go over the claws. When they scratch, they don't do any damage," Turner says.

Another option includes trimming the nails. "They really do develop sharp points on their nails," Nample says. "You can trim off that tip, and it makes a huge difference on their ability to hook into things or any surface.

"It won't curtail their activities, but there will be less damage due to the nails."

Another option is declawing your cat, says Turner, who performs surgical laser declawing. But it's often done only as a last resort.

"It's surgery, so there's always some risk of a bad reaction to anesthesia," she says. "Also, there is some pain involved, but we have really excellent pain management."

When cats are declawed, typically only the front feet are done, Nample says, adding that pet owners must agree the cats be exclusively indoor cats after the procedure.

"If they're outdoors and they encounter a dog, they'd have one less defense," he says. "They won't be able to climb trees as well or be as agile [compared to] if they had all four" feet with claws.

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