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Shredders and Snaggers: C.A.T. Plan for Destructive Clawing

Clawing is a natural behavior that cats should be encouraged to do. Not only do cats claw to remove old claw sheaths, but also to mark territory, exercise, and relieve pent-up stress. That being said, there is no reason to tolerate the clawing of an undesirable object such as the couch.

You can’t remove the wild cat instinct that causes your cat to claw, but you can guide his behavior to a more appropriate place using my C.A.T. (Cease, Attract, Transform) behavior modification plan. All three steps must be performed simultaneously for best results.

Cease. If your cat has been clawing the couch for a while, he has developed a habit. In order to undo the habit, you must make the area undesirable or uncomfortable for him. On small areas you can use double-sided tape or the scratch deterrent product, Sticky Paws, to deter scratching. On larger areas or on furniture, consider draping or securing plastic carpet runners, with the pointy nubs facing up. Instead of yelling at him (which can make the behavior worse, or cause him to only do it when you’re not there), deterrence will allow him to conclude on his own that he doesn’t want to claw the undesirable area.

Attract. While showing him where he doesn’t want to claw, promote the new areas that are more desirable by luring him to cat scratchers with toys or catnip. Choose scratchers that mimic the layout of your cat’s former scratching area: if he was scratching on the vertical side of the couch, choose a vertical scratcher. You may be able to find a scratcher that is made out of a material that is even more alluring to your cat than the undesirable area. Experiment with textures and materials until you find one that your cat loves.  If you have a multi-cat household, you’ll need multiple cat scratchers and in multiple areas around the home.

Transform. As you cease the undesirable behavior and attract him to a more desirable behavior, you’ll be transforming your cat’s territory. Consider whether your cat may be bored or understimulated, or stressed out, and create a stimulating environment for him using toys (including interactive wanded toys that you maneuver), food puzzles, cat trees, and cat tunnels.  If your cats are not getting along, make sure they have a group scent (read Cat Whispering 101 article: Group Scent to learn more). Lack of a group scent can lead to friction and hostility between cats which can lead to excessive stress-reducing and territorial cat clawing behavior.  If you haven’t yet harnessed the power of Feliway friendly pheromones, these can work very well also in reducing stress in cats that leads to excessive clawing behavior.


Who is Mieshelle Nagelschneider?

Meet Mieshelle Nagelschneider, ACCBC, a cat behaviorist and author of the science-based cat behavior book, The Cat Whisperer (Random House Publishing). Her passion and curiosity about cats, along with her study in animal behavior, has enabled her to help thousands of cat owners solve their cats' behavior issues for over two decades. 

Learn more at The Cat Behavior Clinic, and look for her new book!

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