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