When your tiny tiger targets objects...
Triage the target
Assess the damage. If you feel that the item is beyond repair or not worth fixing, consider waiting to replace it until after your kitty has been trained and scratching is well managed.
Clean the area to remove pheromones. Cats have glands on their feet that leave chemical messages behind. These chemicals mark a cat’s territory and can encourage more scratching in the future. Enzymatic cleaners are helpful, but be careful to follow your item’s cleaning directions. Test any cleansers in a discrete location if you are not sure how the surface will react.
Prepare for “bandaging” by removing any loose strings or shredded material. These can be tempting to play with and make coverage more difficult. If the site can be repaired or patched, do so. Covering damage without taking the steps necessary to fix it first can cause more wear and tear. This may not be an issue if you intend to keep it covered longterm, but it is important to keep in mind.
Bandage the area.
Use slip covers for total protection on a temporary or permanent basis. Throw blankets can provide flexible spot coverage, but are less secure. Covers that have a different texture than the original surface may be less appealing to scratch.
Short curtains are usually less tempting to climb. Fold and pin up sturdy material and store more delicate curtains until training is complete. Ensure that blinds are kitty-safe by going cordless or keeping cords well out of reach.
For carpet, vinyl runners provide a strong barrier while carpet samples offer a cheap scratching alternative. Choose samples that are a different texture than your current carpet to help differentiate desired from undesired scratching sites.
Trim claws to dull the nail and prevent snagging. Cats can be taught to accept regular nail trimming through patience and positive training. Nail caps add another level of protection by covering the nail with a vinyl sheath. Nail trimming and cap application are services that are often offered by vets and groomers.
Provide a scratching sanctuary. Allow free access and seclude your kitty in sanctuary when unsupervised. Ensure that all needed and desired resources are available including ample enrichment; the key word is sanctuary.
Why not use punishment?
It can be confusing.
Training that uses punishment requires precise and consistent timing for clear communication. This is very difficult and often not actually feasible.
It can teach the wrong lesson.
Your kitty may learn that you or your home are scary. This can damage the bond that you have with your cat. They may also learn to scratch when you are not around.
It is not fair for natural behavior
There are many reasons that cats scratch, motivated by natural drives. It is not realistic or fair to try to completely eliminate such an innate behavior.
Keeping resources handy is an important part of effective first aid. Our handout is helpful for quick reference as well as sharing with family and friends. It summarizes the above information for a one page read.