Cat Scratching Q&As
Screen door scratcher
Q. Hi there!
We have just moved into a new house which we are renting and our cat always scratches the wire doors to come in. I really don't want the screen doors to be ruined by her but I guess this might be an old habit hard to break. I have also bought a new lounge and she always scratches the furniture. Is it too late to train her to use a scatching post (she is 7 yrs old) and can we curb her behaviour to stop her ruining the screen doors? Would love some advice on this.
A. Here's a problem that is most easily fixed by the use of barriers. I suggest you erect a solid barrier over your screen doors. This obviously needs to be removable at the end of your lease but there are a number of options - light wood, plastic etc. Even just making the bottom of the door less see-through will help. Something as simple as covering it with tin foil may help.
Make sure that your cat has another way to communicate that she wants in. And make sure you never respond to her scratching at the screen (this will reinforce her scratching behaviour), only her alternative behaviour.
It's never too late to train your pet
Good luck, Dr Jo
Everything but the scratching post
Q. Dr Joanne,
I have just moved into a brand new home - new carpet and new curtains. Jordy my kitten likes to climb my curtains and sharpen her claws on my carpet. She has 2 scratching posts but does not use them. I have tried squirting her with a water pistol when she does this as well as making loud noises. She does not seem to get the hint that she is not meant to be doing this.
Is there anything I can do?
A. Forget the water pistol. Usually all this does is make your cat afraid of you and scratch behind your back.
Cats scratch to sharpen their claws but also to scent mark. There are scent glands on their paws and rubbing their paws over soft furnishings leaves their scent all over your house. Very comforting to a pussycat.
Cats often like to scratch when they first enter a room. I believe this is their way of replacing unfamiliar scents with their own comforting aroma. Do we cat owners ever put the scratching posts in the immediate entrance to the room? Never!
Try relocating your scratching posts to areas where your cat is more likely to use them. (You may be able to relocate these gradually to a different area.) Take your cat over to the scratching post and gently lift her paws on to the post.
Try providing some real bark too. Also it is good to provide vertical and horizontal posts. Deterrents such as citronella or peppermint oil and physical barriers should prevent your cat from using your furniture.
Make sure your cat has enough stimulation in her day to day life so that the curtains don't become a permanent form of entertainment. Cats do love a vertical environment so make sure you have lots of shelves for her to sit on.