Teaching Your Kitten Where to Scratch
Scratching is an instinctual feline behavior. Cats do it to mark their territory with scent in their footpads as well as visually. They also scratch as a way to relieve stress, to stretch and to shed the older layers of their nails. Scratching feels good to your cat, too, which is why it’s important to give her access to a variety of scratching surfaces.
When bringing home a new kitten, plan ahead. Try burlap, cardboard and carpeted scratching surfaces, placed vertically and horizontally, to see which your kitten prefers. Keep the scratchers in areas your cat frequents and enjoys, and be sure you have enough scratching areas for the number of cats in your home (like litter boxes, it’s a good idea to have one more scratcher than you have cats).
Initially, you can apply catnip or attach a feather toy to make the scratching area especially attractive to your cat, and praise her when she responds to it. At the same time, discourage your cat from scratching on inappropriate surfaces by attaching foil, double-sided tape, plastic sheeting, carpet runners (with the bumpy side up) or inflated balloons to furniture or other surfaces you don’t want scratched.
If you’re covering surfaces you need to use frequently, like furniture, you can attach the foil, tape or plastic to pieces of cardboard and easily move them in and out of position. There are also herbal spray deterrents available that are designed to replace your pet’s paw pad scent markers on furniture or other surfaces with an odor that will discourage her from returning to that spot.
Keeping kitty’s nails trimmed short from the get go will also deter unwanted scratching behaviors. It’s important your kitten has positive experiences with nail trims (nothing scary or painful), so ask your vet to show you how to trim her nails, or watch my video on how to do this procedure.