The little knives at the end of your cat’s so-called murder mittens. The cause of the scratches across your tummy and thighs when your cat leaps from your lap. The reason your house is full of cat scratchers and the most durable couch you could find. The most useful and versatile tool your cats have. Claws.
I think one of the biggest concerns cat owners have when they first get a cat is the scratching, Will my kids get hurt? Will my furniture be destroyed? How will I stop them from using their claws when I don’t want them to?
These are all valid concerns, and you shouldn’t have to live in fear that your cat will wreak havoc on your home. The solution to this “problem” is easy. Give your cat good, helpful ways to use their natural tools.
The most obvious answer to your cat’s needs is to buy several scratchers your cat will love. The best way to determine what type(s) of scratcher to buy is to look at how your cat naturally uses his claws. If she uses the arm of the couch, she’s probably going to like a horizontal surface. If it’s the back of your favorite chair, try buying him a vertical post. However, most cats enjoy scratching both ways and having multiple posts around the house is the best way to satisfy their natural and normal instinct to scratch.
Look for materials like sisal, cardboard and rope. Cats love the sound and texture and will gravitate to the right surfaces.
In the wild, cats love to climb, and they will utilize their claws for grip and balance. Being up high is also a great way for them to survey their domain, watch prey, and protect themselves from predators. That instinct doesn’t go away just because they live indoors. Encourage your cat’s natural need to dig their claws in, by giving them different levels of your house to explore.
If you’re not into turning your entire home into a playground, a tall cat tree or a couple floating shelves will do the trick. A window perch would also be welcome if your cat loves to bird and squirrel watch. A cat who has high places that are all his own will gravitate toward them
Want to make sure your cat is using her claws to grab toys and not your legs? Play with her. I remember watching an episode of Jackson Galaxy’s My Cat From Hell where a couple was distraught that their cat chased them into their bedroom every night. They would run. He would chase after them and dig their claws in. I was shocked they never considered that their cat was trying to play with them. And sure enough, Galaxy’s solution was to set aside play time. The cat stopped “attacking.”
Your cat needs to play, and if you encourage him to play with toys, he will leave your skin alone. Provided that you don’t use your hands and feet as toys. Cats love variety and toys that mimic real prey.
If your cat is having trouble using the tools and toys you’ve provided, make sure you’re not sending a mixed message. Don't ever punish your cat for scratching the couch, she may get the idea that it’s the scratching that’s the problem, instead of the location. And, it will erode the loving relationship you both share. Rather than blame your cat, find suitable scratching opportunities that you can encourage your kitty to use.
Absolutely never yell or use a spray bottle; instead, try enticing your cat with a cat attractant like silver vine or catnip. And when he does the right thing, reinforce the behavior by offering affection or even a treat. It may take a little time, but have patience and be consistent. Your cat will eventually catch on.