September 2009 Issue

How to Curb Destructive Scratching

Redirecting your catís natural behavior will require a two-pronged approach. Hereís some expert advice.

Not long after youíve invested in new furniture, your cat picks her favorite spot. And itís not where she wants to take a nap, either. Itís the place sheís chosen to give herself a pedicure, and soon that beautiful new sofa looks like itís gone through a shredder. Why Cats Claw. You may notice your cat flexing her nails when she first gets up and stretches or suddenly stop to sink her nails into the wall-to-wall carpeting as she crosses a room. She may scratch at the end of a burst of energy after playing with her favorite toy. Fabrics, carpet, wood, cardboard ó anything in your house made of materials your cat can sink her nails into can become a target for her clawing. "Clawing helps them shed the outer layer of their nails," says Katherine Houpt, VMD, PhD, and the James Law professor of Behavior Medicine at Cornell Universityís College of Veterinary Medicine. In addition to having a practical purpose, clawing serves a more esoteric function. Cats indoors and out leave olfactory and visual signals on the surfaces of whatever material they claw. "Indoors, cats leave the marks on well-traveled areas like doorways or in more obvious locations like the ends of a sofa," says Dr. Houpt.

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