What To Do about Scratching and Biting
by Richard H. Pitcairn, D.V.M, Ph.D. & Susan Hubble Pitcairn
A Rodale Press contribution

A common training problem with cats is teaching them not to scratch your carpets, drapes and furniture. The best solution is to "reward" your cat for appropriate behavior by providing a scratching post that beats anything else. PETsMART.com carries scratching posts. The best ones are covered in natural sisal rope, which many cats enjoy scratching. Rub a little powdered catnip into it occasionally to make it irresistible.

To make your own post, nail an untreated 4 X 4 (2 to 3 feet tall) to a base of 1/2-inch plywood about 16 inches square. Then wrap the post with sisal rope or a piece of carpeting turned inside out to expose the rough side (posts with soft coverings are not sufficiently attractive to most cats). For maximum stability, lean the post up against the corner of a room or tilt it on its side. Make sure the post is secure. If it falls over and frightens your kitty even once, it may be enough to make her avoid the post altogether.

If your cat needs instructions on the use of a scratching post, simply lay it sideways and place her on top of the post. Scratch the post yourself with one hand and use the other to firmly stroke her neck and back (that will stimulate the urge to scratch). Don't try to push your cat's feet against the post, as cats will resist force.

If your Pet is still inclined to scratch at the furniture or drapes at times, move the drapes or the chair slightly and put the post in that spot. Move the post gradually and put the furniture back when the cat is actually using the post instead. You may need to cover a corner of the couch or roll up the drapes temporarily until your cat makes the transition. It's often good to position the scratching post near the spot where your cat sleeps, since many cats like to stretch and scratch on waking from a nap.

Declawing your cat is not a suitable solution to scratching problems. It is a painful and difficult operation that many veterinarians refuse to do. In fact, it's the equivalent of removing the first joint of all your fingers. It can impair a cat's balance, weaken it (from muscular disuse) and cause a cat to feel nervous and defenseless. The resulting stress can lower your Pet's immunity to disease and make it more likely to be a biter.

It is helpful to trim your cat's claws. Because they are shaped like a scythe, their very tip is the part that does the most damage. A cat will slide that curved tip behind a loop of upholstery fabric and pull its foot straight back -- snapping the loop. If the cat makes a practice of this, your sofa will soon look like it needs a shave.

The nail tip is also the part that so easily punctures the skin. It can be removed with ordinary nail clippers. (Be sure to clip only the very tip, or you'll hurt the cat.) Wait until your cat is relaxed, perhaps taking a nap in your lap.

To extend a claw for clipping, press your index finger on the bottom of her foot while pressing with your thumb just behind the base of the nail at the top of the foot. Press gently. The claw will slide from its sheath so that you can get at it with the clippers you're holding in your other hand. You may get to cut only two or three claws in a single sitting, but you can try again later.

Here's another piece of advice about claws. Never let a cat or kitten scratch your bare hands -- even in play. If you do, the animal will think it's okay to bite and scratch you and won't understand that he can hurt you. So when playing games like "pounce on the prey," use a toy or a piece of cord. Save your hands for stroking and holding.

If your cat has developed a habit of clawing or biting at you, you can break it fairly easily by consistently following a method described by Anitra Frazier in her book The New Natural Cat. If the claws are in you, relax and calmly disengage them by first pushing the feet a bit forward. To get out of a bite grip, relax and press your arm or hand toward the teeth (which confuses the cat). Then put the cat away from you with a gentle but firm message of disapproval and disappointment.

To underline the message, ignore her for several minutes. Don't even look at her. A few repetitions are usually all that is needed for a cat to learn that if she wants to play with you, it's not acceptable to claw and bite. Thereafter, she will respect your wishes.

To avoid more serious contact with cat teeth and claws, which are quite sharp, never try to hold on to a cat that wants to be free (unless you are trained in handling cats properly). Teach children this point, too. If you must restrain a cat to give it medicine, wrap it firmly in a towel or blanket. To transport it, use an animal carrier. (I know of more than one serious accident caused by a frightened cat bounding loose in a moving car.)

A few cats have a more deep-seated problem with aggression. I'm talking about cats that are completely, violently intolerant of all other cats, even their own adult offspring. And once in a while, I've treated cats that are pretty nasty to their owners, too. Over the years I've come to the conclusion that many of these problems are more rooted in the constitutional makeup of certain cats than in situations.

Chronic disease can also play a role in such behavior problems. In many cases, careful, individualized homeopathic treatment has helped. Cats that are unusually timid or aloof for no apparent reason have also responded to this treatment.

[Source: Petsmart.com ]