Guidelines on how to keep your cats from scratching inappropriately:
1) Do not confuse stretching with
scratching - cats like to stretch and the posture can look very much like a
scratching position, but unless those claws are out and they start pulling at
the fabric, it's just a nice stretch and shouldn't be corrected. This will just
confuse your cat!
2) Furniture near open windows and doors can be especially tempting to the cat,
as one of the reasons they scratch is to mark territory. Particularly if you
have free-roaming cats or other animals in your area that the cat can smell and
be aware of outside your house, they may feel the need to let these other
animals know that this is their house and the other animals are not allowed to
come in. Placing a sisal post or floor scratcher between the furniture and the
open door/window will give them a place to mark and make them feel more secure.
3) During the first few weeks of the relocation you may opt to confine the cat
to a smaller area during the day or when you are not around to supervise. An
enclosed kitchen or bathroom is a good area as there are few soft objects for
them to scratch on, and if you leave a sisal post or floor scratcher in with
them it will help divert them to use these items for scratching.
4) When you are home with the cats, it is important to be consistent with
correcting the unwanted behavior and praising the correct behavior.
5) Clipping the claws:
Keep clippers handy and snip off those ultra sharp ends
frequently! This does not take away the urge to scratch (it's inborn, even declawed cats will "scratch"
but they don't get the exercise benefits that the pulling action provides) but it will save a lot of wear and tear on your
household and your body! I start clipping toenails when kittens are about three
weeks old and starting to scuttle around. Those baby needle sharp claws are
fierce, and they don't yet have the ability to sheath them! Once cats are a year
or two old, clipping is necessary only about once a month, but while they are
growing you may need to clip them weekly to keep the edges dull. Particularly
when they are kneading or playing they may find it hard to keep those claws in,
so for everyone's comfort, keep them clipped.
Moosecoons Maine Coon Cats & Kittens in Maryland
Moosecoons Maine Coon Cats & Kittens in Maryland
Notes on Declawing
If you have routinely had cats declawed to live in your home, I ask that you consider these basic facts: the procedure is not simply removal of the nail, it is the amputation of the entire first digit of the toe. Such a major surgical decision should not be made lightly. The slightest error with the surgeon's knife can leave a cat with destroyed ligaments, leaving it lame for life.
Even if the surgery is done "perfectly" the recovery is extremely painful and the cat must learn to walk all over again; imagine having the first digit of all your own toes surgically removed and how that would impact your life. I watched my mother during her recovery from having her hammer-toes fixed - weeks in a wheelchair suffering tremendous pain, and when she was able to walk again it was months of more suffering. If you've ever broken a bone, you know how incredibly painful bone injuries are - just because the bone is removed by a surgeon's knife or laser doesn't make the impact any less, and cats don't have access to wheelchairs during recovering!
They must immediately resume use of their feet; walking, running, jumping, scratching in their litter box - as a species they are much more adept at hiding their pain, as their instincts tell them that such a weakened state makes them vulnerable to predators, so they remain stoic but believe me they are in pain.
And, should your declawed cat manage to escape out the door he IS completely vulnerable and doesn't even know it! Declawed cats don't really understand that they no longer have that defense.
There are many reports as well of cats whose personality changed after being declawed. I have one friend who had her cat declawed many years ago, not realizing the dramatic impact of the surgery. "George" was a very happy, friendly easy going young cat, affectionate and curious and a delight to his family. After he was neutered and declawed, he spent 3 months in hiding, scooting from one place to another fearful, and would actually cry in pain for the first 2 weeks when he had to use his litter box. When he finally came out of hiding, he was still fearful - the cat who would always greet visitors would now dash under the bed whenever someone new walked in the house. He became aggressive with the dog. He never did resort to biting, but I have heard stories of cat who did do so when they couldn't discourage an aggressor with a swipe. He eventually had to be rehomed as an only pet with an older couple who had a very quiet home.
Cats, unlike humans, don't walk on their feet - they walk on their toes!
First step is to provide them with a proper scratching post (or two or three, depending on the size of your house). (see "Your new MC kitten" and the paragraph about "Cat Trees")
A squirt bottle filled with plain tap water is a wonderful tool to discourage unwanted behavior. I start when my kittens are just 6-8 weeks old and starting to explore. There are sisal posts and cat trees around my house, which they are allowed to scratch on, as scratching is a natural and healthy necessity for them. (as you wouldn't have a puppy without providing chew toys, you shouldn't have a kitten without providing a scratchable surface) When they exercise their claws on any piece of furniture, the first correction they get is a verbal "no" and a hand clap. This will startle them, as cats are very sensitive to noises. If they do not stop altogether I follow up with a stronger NO and more vigorous hand clapping. The third step is a squirt from the water bottle, which invariably makes them run off!
This three step process is important. The cat will learn very quickly that if it doesn't desist the unwanted behavior after hearing the NO and hand clapping, it will get squirt. (another option to the water squirt is to shake a small plastic container with pennies in that will make an unpleasant sound for the 2nd warning) Cats are smart and use logic. After being corrected when they try to use furniture or carpeting to scratch on, and NOT being corrected when they use their sisal post or cat trees, they will quickly understand what is acceptable and what isn't. After a few times, the NO alone should be sufficient to discourage them, and if they don't get the message soon enough, you can skip the NO and go straight to the squirt bottle!
It is also good to use approving sounds when your cat does use their scratching posts. This will reinforce the good vs. bad behavior modification.
The reason I don't have a declawing clause in my contract is simple. I think it is more important that a cat be loved and receive good nutrition and care and be kept safe indoors at all times. If the cat/kitten has lived in your home for several months and persists on scratching inappropriately, the owners' choices may be limited to having it declawed or something much worse - like allowing them outside or giving them away, rather than having their home and belongings shredded. In most cases once the emotional bond is created with the cat, it is almost impossible to give the animal up. I would prefer the owner chose the lesser of the evils.
I must reiterate however, my kittens are trained to use their scratching posts before they ever leave my house. In all honesty none of my Maine Coons use their claws on my furniture, (though I do have a couple of domestic mutt cats that have made a mess of a couch and a couple of upholstered chairs in their day - in my life, the cats are more important to me than my furniture!)
Kittens will need reinforcement of their training when they are relocated, so it is important to use the "NO" procedure outlines above until they learn what areas in your home are appropriate for scratching and what places it is not allowed.
While I do not have the declawing clause
in my contract, I do require you to give the cats a chance to prove themselves.
It is true that some cats simply cannot be trained, but I have never had that
trouble with my Maine Coons, which tend to be intelligent cats and want to
please their human family. This is the biggest key in their trainability - they
want you to be happy with them and once they understand your rules, they will
abide by those rules! Remove unrealistic temptations from their environment and
be consistent in your requests for obedience and you will have a cat who is
happy and you will live many contented years with them and an unmolested
household! I must admit it is very satisfying when people inquire, "But don't
they wreck your furniture?" and I can reply, "No, my cats are trained."