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Norwich Bulletin - 8/9/2009

Alternatives To Declawing

The alternative to declawing is called training. Cats are smarter than dogs and really can be trained quite easily if you spend a little time and if you are just a little creative with your feline friends. Cats can be trained at any age to not scratch furniture or other objects, such as door frames or people.

I cannot believe that many cat owners do not even realize that they should be providing a scratching post for their cats. Many who do, use the excuse that the cat wonít touch the scratching post, but loves the couch. These people donít realize that cats need to be trained to use a scratching post if they donít go to it naturally.

If you donít provide the proper scratching area or train the cat, your furniture is at risk. Scratching is a normal stress reliever for a cat. It is also the natural way that cats hone their claws. It is a deeply ingrained instinct in cats and they need a place of their own to follow that instinct.

There are many types of scratching posts ranging from a six foot cat tree with several posts and sleeping areas, to the $7.99 cardboard scratcher you can get at Walmart, and everything in between. If the post is vertical, it should be at least 28 to 36 inches high to allow the cat to stretch to its full height.

It can be natural soft wood, or posts covered with sisal rope, which tends to be more popular with cats than the carpeted posts. Plus you probably do not have any furniture made from sisal rope, but you most likely have a carpet or two and would prefer to have the cat not like the feel of carpet under its little claws.

Your post needs to be sturdy. Wobbly posts will cause your cat to seek out something more stable, such as your couch. I always rub a new scratching post with catnip to make the product more desirable to the cats. There are all kinds of offerings you can make to your cat with regards to the type of cat tree you may want in your home. They come in all sorts of shapes and sizes and colors with features such as hidey-holes, platforms, dangling toys and anything else you can think of that would be attractive to a cat.

We have two six foot trees in our living room, color coordinated to our walls and we have an end table that is actually a cat scratching post. We also have smaller trees in our computer room and bedroom so that wherever we are, the cats can be with us and have a place to scratch. Besides the elaborate, we offer several of the cat scratchers that lie on the floor from Walmart.

The cats love them and they are here and there throughout the house. Feline behaviorists, myself included, believe that a quality post, properly positioned, will meet the catís needs to scratch.

How do you introduce your kitty to his scratching post? Place the post in a room where the cat spends a lot of time Ė especially where they like to nap because cats love to wake up, stretch and scratch. In order to introduce the post to your cat, try using catnip as a lure for an older cat and rub the catnip into the rope and call the cat over to the post.

Then, scratch your nails along the surface of the rope, this helps the cat learn where to scratch. Cats are great imitators Ė but on the other hand, they hate to be forced to do anything. So donít try to make the cat scratch by force Ė just simply scratch yourself and make it appear to be an enjoyable experience and then walk away. After your cat begins to scratch, praise him and give him a treat. If your cat has already been scratching on a piece of your furniture, place the post directly in front of it.

Cover the spot the cat has been scratching with Sticky Paws (available at pet stores or on line), double sided tape or aluminum foil. Cats hate the feel of any of these surfaces on their paws and it will help direct kitty to the post.

Most cats will take a post Ė you just have to find the right one. You can go to different web sites Ė www.arubacat.com; www.jorenecattrees.com; or google cat trees and see what you come up with. There are so many to choose from. And if you or your husband/wife are handy, there are different web sites that will show you how to make an irresistible scratching post for your feline buddy.

Please do not reward your best friend by declawing him. I am fairly certain most of the people who read my column are those wonderful people who love their cats. Please think carefully about your kitties who trust you and rely on you for their very existence. Make the humane choice and do not declaw.

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