It's very important for you to know that your kitten needs to scratch and climb. If there aren't appropriate objects for your kitten to use, your furniture, rugs and drapes may be damaged instead.
Why Cats Scratch and Climb
Scratching helps your kitten remove old layers of its nails that are overgrown. Unlike dogs, cats like to move vertically and climb. Both scratching and climbing are normal feline activities. Provide your new kitten with a variety of scratching surfaces and textures and teach her/him to use them instead of something inappropriate.
Until you can trust your kitten not to scratch and claw your furniture, you should not allow your pet to run free in your house when you are not home to supervise. If your kitten has a single favorite but inappropriate scratching site like the arm of a chair, you can temporarily protect it by covering it with some netting, loosely woven fabric, plastic or double-sided sticky tape that is not fun or comfortable to scratch. Cats do not like to snag their claws.
Confinement is not a long-term answer, but it can help train your kitten to use a scratching post or pad when you aren't home to actively train your kitten. The confinement area should be well-stocked with a variety of scratching material and climbing posts so your kitten will have no other choice of things to scratch and climb.
Teaching Your Cat to Use a Scratching Post
You can buy scratching posts at your pet store or you can build one yourself. Rough-hewn 4x4's set vertically with a few horizontal resting platforms are ideal. If you buy carpet to cover a homemade post or purchase the finished item, bring along a comb to test-check that there are no loops in the carpeting to snag your kitten's claws. You can also attach the carpeting underside-up, as the backing has a rough texture that cats enjoy. Sisal rope or cardboard scratching posts are great alternatives to carpet, especially if you have lots of carpet in your house already. Many cats prefer the texture of sisal rope or cardboard to carpet.
Whether you're trying to prevent or cure a scratching problem, the single most important thing you can do is praise and reward your kitten for scratching and climbing her/his appropriate scratching post. Simply placing a few posts in front of your kitten is not enough. You must specifically train your kitten to scratch these and only these items.
If your kitten is not interested in its scratching post, it's up to you to show how much fun they can be! Put your kitten's favorite food treats on some of the platforms. Attach toys so they dangle down enticingly. Rub the post with catnip. Most cats scratch immediately after waking up while performing stretching exercises. As soon as your kitten wakes up from a nap, call her/him to the post. Scratch the post at a point a couple of feet off the ground. Most cats will reach up and stretch and scratch their front paws on the post. Praise your kitten profusely, especially if she/he makes appropriate scratching motions.
Don't physically force your kitten to scratch by holding its paws. Your kitten will resist and may begin to dislike the post. The most effective method is using lures and rewards. Always be ready to praise your kitten with affection, attention, and even a treat any time it scratches or climbs the post without your encouragement. Never take this for granted.
You can even train your kitten to scratch the post on command. Stand by the post with a treat in hand and say "Kitty scratch," "Kitty climb," or some other suitable request. Give your kitten the treat when she/he comes running to investigate. If your kitten is not interested, wait until dinnertime and try again. Once your kitten shows interest, hold the treat higher and higher up until she/he has to climb the post to get it. Place a treat on the highest platform and give your kitten the command to "Climb." In time your kitten will learn to climb the post on command for treats, affection, attention and play time.
Teaching Your Cat What Not to Scratch
Once your kitten understands that scratching and climbing the appropriate scratching post is fun, rewarding, and gains your enthusiastic approval, it is time to teach your pet not to scratch the drapes or furniture.
If you catch your kitten clawing at anything other than the post, immediately aim a blast of water from a plant sprayer or a sudden loud noise to startle your kitten and stop the inappropriate behavior. Your kitten will soon associate unpleasant things with the drapes or furniture and remember how rewarding and positive it is to scratch its approved post.
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