Do you think you’ve tried everything you can think of to stop that behavior without luck? I have a new method that just might be the miracle you’re looking for.
Another lesson from the great feline teacher MissyCat.
Missy was 12, years old when I got her and had a reputation for scratching up furniture. She had been my aunt’s cat. When my aunt passed away I went with the family to help settle the estate. It was my first time there since Lived in Virginia and she was in New Hampshire.
What I saw was all the living room furniture and the TV room furniture with horribly scratched up legs. My aunt had even tucked dish towels around the legs of the furniture try to avoid destruction.
One look around and it was obvious…it hadn’t worked.
After we settled, the estate mom took MissyCat home with her all the way to Virginia, fully expecting the same result, but hoping for the best.
In fact, MissyCat did make straight for the furniture whenever she wanted to stretch or scratch. You know they say you can’t teach an old dog, or in this case old cat, new tricks. Well, mom passed away shortly after her older sister. And I decided, the old cat would live with me. She had been through quite enough emotional turmoil in her life.
I had been taking care of mom lot that year so MissyCat knew me quite well. In fact when I would spend the night the cat would climb in bed with me rather than her usual place with mom. I felt guilty about it and told her to go to her own bed, but apparently, I was to be “the chosen one”.
Let’s take a minute and consider why does a cat scratch up the furniture.
Claws are an important part of a house cats character. It’s perfectly natural for them to scratch things! It’s part of their wellbeing, they scratch in order to stretch, they scratch in order to condition claws. They obviously scratch to sharpen their claws. It acts as both a visual and olfactory marker…and it’s an important way that they relieve stress. That’s why you absolutely never, never declaw, a cat. It’s barbaric mutilation. You can destroy their sense of well being. You could end up with a cat that is moody and depressed a lot, unable to walk properly, or maybe distrusts you.
But by all means Trim the Nails regularly. The Humane Society has a simple explanation of how to do it.
When MissyCat came into my life I had not made any plans or thought at all about adding a pet to my life. And so I decided I will treat Missy like a roommate, rather than a pet. She would live with me, but I’m not going to get all emotionally attached. Missy had other plans.
I also decided not to train her. She was just going to sort of move in.
Missy was a hugger and she would get up to your shoulder and rub her head against you. I always thought that was great. But what really annoyed me is when people would try to make her do it. “Look what the cat can do!” ‘Give her a hug. Go ahead, Missy give her a hug”. I didn’t feel comfortable making the animal do a trick for approval or treats. To me, if a cat gives you a hug or a kiss it should be because they want to, then it’s real, and it comes from their emotional center. Otherwise, I think it’s meaningless. That’s just my personal opinion and nobody else has to agree.
Choosing to not train her for any specific behavior is how I fell into a mental and spiritual relationship with this cat that I didn’t even know was possible. In fact, had someone told me it is possible I would have said “Yeah, Sure. And you can talk to fairies and garden gnomes, too”.
I definitely did not want my nice furniture all scratched up so what was I going to do?
Most cats like scratching on something tall and sturdy that they can use to stretch out their back. So, 1st, I bought a couple of nice scratching posts and I took time to explain to MissyCat how they’re used.
This is MissyCat’s “Castle”. from Purrfect Post. Very well made and just the right height to sit in the office window which was always open on sunny warm days:
I put them near some of the key target furniture. And I took Missy over to the scratching post and explained to her as I would speak to a child, “this is what this is, this is how you use it”, etc.
Then I illustrated by scratching it myself. I also found that rubbing some catnip into the post to made it more attractive, even though Missy was never very fond of catnip…but she didn’t dislike it either.
Another thing I did was to take her paws in my hand and rubbed them gently on the part of the post where she should scratch it.
Now that wasn’t enough to give her the idea having done it just one time. But whenever she went toward the furniture with that target look in her eye, I would first give her a firm but gentle command, like saying, “Hey, don’t do that. Use your scratcher, Sweetie.”
Then I would take her over to her new scratching post and we’d go through the ritual again as I explained the proper use of a cat scratcher. One might argue that this is training of sorts. But I looked at it as no more training than you would give to a young child that you were trying to teach safety tips to, like look both ways before crossing the street or not to touch a hot stove. Just being a good parent.
What I’m saying is that I treated Missy like an intelligent being not an animal. And she responded with
an awareness that grew and became part of the foundation of our deep connection. Eventually MissyCat became so self-controlled she didn’t scratch anything that was not hers!
Eventually MissyCat was allowed anywhere, even on the antique furniture.
To be completely transparent, the new carpet wasn’t quite so lucky. Occasionally, she would stop dead in her tracks and do some cat scratching right on the carpet. After all, a lot of cat scratchers are made using carpet so I can understand the confusion.
At first I would try and dissuade her, but eventually I decided she’s not scratching any other furniture even when I’m not home so I will grant her this leeway.
Our relationship grew in communication and trust in other ways also.
For instance, the little round one foot tall Asian table that I used to eat dinner at (photo) is a perfect target for an animal. You don’t even have to jump up to grab food off of that. Massive temptation!
But MissyCat was in control. She never grabbed anything. She would sit next to the table beside me (cross legged on the floor) and just wait, knowing full well she would get the best parts.
I could even leave the room. And when I would come back she would still be sitting right beside my plate, waiting patiently. I admit I was totally amazed at this un-animal like behavior. She wasn’t behaving on impulse, and she wasn’t behaving on training to command. She seemed to have chosen this action on her own.
And I always shared with her. She knew that about me eventually, as I knew about her that I could trust her.
Another way her consciousness and our relationship manifested was in the experience of the dreaded coughing up of hairballs.
When that would happen Missy would actually try to get on the vinyl floor like in the kitchen or bathroom. If she was on a chair she would hop down.
If she was on the carpet, she would head toward the shiny floor, as if she was consciously, trying
to keep the carpet and chairs clean.
I can only assume that’s what was going on because, like I said, I didn’t train her, I never scolded her. I never yelled at her or squirt her with a water bottle or make loud, scary noises to chase her away from doing something. It was always conversational and respectful between us. I think she was training me and rewarding me for being a good human.
Am I guaranteeing this will work with your cat. Absolutely not.
Every cat, like, every human has its own personality, its own level of understanding, and you’re just going to have to spend the time to get to know your little friend and see what happens. That’s part of the amazing fun of having a domesticated animal in your “family”.
But I can guarantee this, you never know what kind of unexpected and totally amazing relationship can develop between you and your animal friend.
And the potential rewards for the both of you are beyond your imagination.