Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Cat Scratch Fever

by Beau Dove

My friend just got the cutest little kitten and I have to admit that I have never been more scared of something that small in my life. The little rascal pounces, scratches, and bites! What may be considered playful behavior in to others, seems more like malicious acts of terror towards me. Despite the fear that is invoked, I have been very welcoming and understanding of this little curious companion. 

Since this is a house cat, I have come to terms with a certain amount of pent up energy it strives to release on house visitors. Sometimes the little cutie will even hop into my lap and purr for a pet and some much needed attention. That is, until “OUCH” the claws come out and pierce right though my pant legs! As much as I want to be mad at the cat, I can’t hold her responsible. These animals need to stretch out their claws and keep them sharp. A lot of house cat owners only look at the claws as a nuisance and will have the cat declawed. Yes, this will keep them from scratching everything in sight (visitors, couches, walls, pillows, shoes, etc.) but I believe that the easy way out can lead to a huge disadvantage for the cat’s well-being.

Here are a few alternative ways to keep your ferocious feline from tearing apart your furniture and your skin.

Designated scratch areas
Having a designated scratch area will help with the cure the need for claw sharpening in an appropriate manner. Most cat owners have some sort of scratch post or scratch box set up for their feline friends. After doing some research, no one scratch object stands out above the rest… the only trick is making sure the cat understands that they the scratch tool is their sole area allotted for using those sharp claws. Spread scratching posts throughout the house to make sure that there is one whenever the need strikes.

There are a few tricks you can use to discourage scratching on your favorite items. Try double-sided tape or aluminum foil. Both of these are not nice for the cat's claws. Cats also dislike citrus smells, so a bit of scent can help keep your house cat out of a particular area. There are even products like softpaws that fit over the claw like a cap and are intended to stop scratching from happening. Keep claws clipped short so that destruction is kept to a minimum.

Use your authority
Personally, I find it much easier to discipline a dog versus their cat counterparts. Despite this feeling, you must still set the rules for a house cat… especially when your furniture is in jeopardy. My friend with the kitten mentioned above uses a squirt bottle to teach her about the boundaries. Now the cat has a much better idea of what is for scratching and what is off limits. If you are without a squirt bottle or just believe that squirting their cute faces is a wrongful act, then a sharp and distinct tone like “NO!” seems to suit.

Block off the fragile
I see child gates in dog owner’s houses all the time. Obviously, this will not work for high jumping cats but closing them off while you are out of the house by using doors. Non cat owners do not know of the destruction that an unsupervised house cat can create during the owner’s absence. Simply guarding a house cat from the temptation can be your best bet at keeping furniture in tip top shape!

Bottom line, cats need to scratch, and it's unrealistic to expect them to stop this activity. So provide them with a scratching alternative, discourage them from attacking your precious possessions, discipline them if they do, and finally, eliminate the potential for destruction by removing the cat's access to your favorite things.

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