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Stop Your Cat Scratching and Save Your Furniture!

I used to have a real problem with my cat scratching. My couch ended up totally shredded and looked just like something from the reject store. My carpets were looking decidedly threadbare in places, but no matter what I tried, I just couldn't get her to stop. I bought one of those special cat scratching posts, but she just ignored it whilst she walked past on her way to the couch!

I was at my wits end... until I decided to get smart and learn the secrets to stopping this destructive behavior.

First of all, you have to realize that scratching it perfectly normal behavior for cats. They use it as a way of marking their territory, removing the dead outer layer of their claws and keeping muscles in shape. So you have to accept that your cat is still going to scratch whatever you do. Your job is to teach her that it's more pleasurable to scratch the things you choose rather than your brand new couch.

When a cat is outside, they are more likely to choose a handy tree to scratch, and whilst this might not be the most useful thing to have in the house, you can provide her with the next best thing to shred. The commercial scratching posts covered in Sisal rope are ideal, as this provides a satisfyingly rough surface for her claws. You will need to make sure that the post is tall enough for her to extend her body fully, and it must be stable. If it topples while she uses it, she won't trust it again.

So- how do you persuade her to use the scratching post rather than your furniture? You need to get smart here and make using the post her preferred option. Start by placing the post near to the places where she usually goes to scratch. The next stage is to help her to connect the scratching post with pleasurable experiences; play with her and give her plenty of fuss and attention near the post. Try rubbing cat nip into it, or hanging dangling toys from it. This will encourage her to 'attack' them and dig her claws into the post.

Don't be tempted to hold her paws and try to show her how to scratch- this will feel threatening to her and will put her off going near it. If you see her use it, make sure you give her plenty of fuss or a treat, and she will soon learn to repeat this. In time, she will hopefully regard the scratching post as her own- by scratching it she will mark it with her scent. In the meantime, there are things you can do to put her off scratching where she shouldn't, such as using citrus oil, which cats hate, and covering unwanted scratching areas with foil.

Once she has got used to using the scratching post, it may be an idea to get more than one and place them in the main areas you cat frequents. Don't be tempted to throw the post out when it gets shredded- in your cat's eyes it will have only just been broken in!

Are you having problems with your cat shredding your furniture? Are behavior problems becoming a real headache? Drop by our blog for tips and resources on how to deal with the most common cat training issues, and get your free e-course on common toileting problems.

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