To declaw or not to declaw...
January 7, 2012 11:14 AM   Subscribe

My kitty is going to destroy my furniture! I don’t want to have her declawed…help!

First off, let me start by saying I have never been a cat person. I have had dogs my entire life. After my last dog died in June 2011, I moved into an apartment. I really started wanting another dog, but being in an apartment and working full time I didn’t want to have to train a puppy or walk a dog several times a day. A cat seemed ideal for apartment life, however, I’ve always been allergic to cats. A friend recommended the Siberian breed as a hypoallergenic alternative. Long story short, I found a Siberian breeder and went to look at her 6 week old kittens. While I was there, I absolutely fell in love with a little 5 month old, silver tabby female, who the breeder did not have for sale- because she was going to keep her and breed her. The kitty, more or less, picked me and the breeder agreed to sell her to me. The first few weeks we were at home, she was content with her toys and her scratching post. Now, for the last 3 weeks, every chance she has, she scratches my living room furniture! It is expensive furniture and I do not want it scratched! I have tried the kitty claw caps…but she just pulls them off. I think de-clawing a cat is cruel, but I’m at my wits end and don’t know what else to do. Other than the clawing (and the psychotic kitty antics) she is a WONDERFUL pet. She is now almost 7 months old. Help!!!
posted by Amalie-Suzette to Pets & Animals (53 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Get a spray bottle filled with water, and spritz her when she's doing something she shouldn't be doing. It should only take a few spritzes and she won't be naughty anymore. It's literally the only thing that has ever worked to "train" my 2 beasts.
posted by katypickle at 11:17 AM on January 7, 2012 [4 favorites]

You need MANY scratching toys. Not just one. Many, in every single room. I recommend the cardboard kind because they are cheap. Get lots of them and put them near any surface your cat wants to scratch. Any time you catch the cat scratching furniture, pick her up, place her on the scratching board and demonstrate scratching. Give her treats when she does it.

Also, look into the Turbo Scratcher. It's round, with the scratching surface in the middle and a ball on a track around the outer edge. Every cat I've had has gone NUTS over that thing.
posted by joan_holloway at 11:20 AM on January 7, 2012 [3 favorites]

She has a turbo scratcher and I have scratching posts in front of every where she tries to scratch…but she just goes around them. I do pick her up and take her paws to demonstrate scratching on the appropriate surfaces…and OCCASIONALLY she will use those, but not often…and she is most definitely scratching when I am not home. I will try the spray bottle for when I am at home, but I also would like recommendations for when I’m out. Thank you MeFites!!!
posted by Amalie-Suzette at 11:24 AM on January 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

Bitter apple spray might work.
posted by Sticherbeast at 11:27 AM on January 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

BTW, the answer to "declaw or not to declaw" is always "no". She didn't ask to be born a cat with claws who need to be scratched, or to be brought to a place with lots of satisfying scratching things; it's not her fault that she can't yet get the arbitrary difference between "ok to scratch" and "not ok to scratch". It's up to you to either solve the problem without mutilating her, or find her a home with someone who can. Perhaps the scratching posts she has aren't ones she finds satisfying and you should find some other ones. Or maybe get some plastic covers for your furniture at least to use while you're out.
posted by bleep at 11:28 AM on January 7, 2012 [25 favorites]

Cats want to scratch on something that they can dig their claws into and then pull back with their weight. A sofa is perfect for this, because it is heavy enough not to move when they rear back. The scratching posts that attach to the wall with screws are a great solution for a furniture scratcher.
posted by Nickel Pickle at 11:29 AM on January 7, 2012 [5 favorites]

Put double-sided tape on the furniture she's scratching. She'll hate it. (warning: you may come home to a mangled ball of tape with bits of fur stuck to it.)
posted by chowflap at 11:29 AM on January 7, 2012 [5 favorites]

You can also confine her to another part of the house when you're gone for now.
posted by fshgrl at 11:30 AM on January 7, 2012 [3 favorites]

Spray bottle for the cat. Double-sided tape, temporarily, on your furniture where she likes to scratch. More appropriate scratching places including upholstered cat-tree-type furniture, in as many rooms as you can afford.
posted by juniperesque at 11:30 AM on January 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

Don't know how great it is, and it might have some of the same negative psychological effect as declawing but a friend recently put these claw cap things on her cat because they're about to have a baby and also bought a brand new sofa. You sort of paint the cat's claws and it hardens, but it's not permanent, they dissolve after some time (6-8 weeks IIRC?).
posted by ifjuly at 11:33 AM on January 7, 2012

I use Soft paws on my dog, and my sister uses them on her cat. She reports success with the cat. They are a miracle for the dog, and keep him from scratching up doors, furniture, and floors.
posted by Acer_saccharum at 11:35 AM on January 7, 2012 [2 favorites]

If you aren't already doing so, clipping her claws will probably help. I clip ours with human nail clippers. They will resist at first (it may be a two-person job the first few times) but eventually they'll get used to it and not freak out too much.
posted by something something at 11:36 AM on January 7, 2012 [11 favorites]

Water squirt bottle.

Put one next to each piece of furniture you're trying to protect so it's always handy. BE 100% CONSISTENT AND SAVAGE with the squirt bottle. The moment she begins to scratch, squirt her several times. Don't bother doing it if you only catch her after she finishes scratching - it won't help.
posted by Salvor Hardin at 11:49 AM on January 7, 2012

Seconding soft paws. I've used them successfully with two cats. They barely notice them.
posted by spinifex23 at 11:50 AM on January 7, 2012

I second the clipping her nails. Do it when she's relaxed and make sure not to get the vein inside. You can see it through the nail, just clip below. Also invest in a pair of these. My cats like them much more than human ones, as they cut more like sharp scissors and put less pressure on the nails. Here's a more detailed guide.
posted by amileighs at 11:51 AM on January 7, 2012

Also BTW the OP has tried claw caps, the cat takes them off (as well she should).
posted by bleep at 11:52 AM on January 7, 2012 [2 favorites]

I misnamed when I said claw caps and clarified you paint them on and they dissolve over time; others have jogged my memory that they're called SoftPaws.
posted by ifjuly at 11:55 AM on January 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

Squirt bottles of water are effective when you're around, and may suffice to train the cat out of the habit.

There's a product called "ssscat" that shoots compressed air, actuated by a motion sensor. It's startling and cats hate the noise, even if it doesn't shoot them. You just set it up and let it do its thing. We had a cat that was jumping up on our pantry shelves at night, and this trained her out of it after just a few days.
posted by adamrice at 12:08 PM on January 7, 2012 [2 favorites]

In addition to putting double-stick tape on the spots you don't want her to scratch, I would rub some catnip on the scratching toys to make them that much more appealing. When you see her using them, give her lots of praise and a treat. The squirt bottle works for a lot of cats, so do try it, but know that it does make some cats redouble their efforts, no matter how much they're squirted. You'll know pretty quickly which camp your cat falls into.
posted by corey flood at 12:09 PM on January 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

I also clip my cats' nails and it works just fine. Mine look like these.
posted by shes_ajar at 12:10 PM on January 7, 2012

Cats also hate aluminum foil.
posted by emkelley at 12:11 PM on January 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

I trained my cat to use her post by bringing it in the house and making a big excited deal about it. I would then call her over and get her to watch while I excitedly scratched on it myself. After a few times of this, she got the idea and would go nuts on her post. You could also find out if she has a most favorite treat and treat her with it when she goes near the post, uses the post, and so on.

People tend to only use positive punishment with cats, but my experience was that positive reinforcement can also shape their behaviors quite well. Try working with your cat like she's a dog - shape the behaviors you do want, and distract away from those you don't.

Also, when my cat was a kitten and still learning, I had an old chair I let her destroy. She wasn't allowed to scratch anything but that and her post, and when I got rid of the chair, she focused on the post.
posted by Squeak Attack at 12:23 PM on January 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

They actually sell special tape for cats. It's doublesided tape that won't ruin your furniture, is clear, comes in sheets, and will prevent cats from scratching specific things. My mom uses it and its miraculous for keeping the cat from scratching his favorite no-no spots.
posted by DoubleLune at 12:37 PM on January 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

I wrote this big long explanation, but the computer ate it.

You have a problem due to breed. No training will help here unless you can devote A LOT of effort into keeping this cat genuinely stimulated.

You can try more play time, feliway, finding a mate for this cat, and look into a claw capping system that glues on - surely someone makes these, right?


Silver tabbies are very very smart and require outdoor time (any change of scenery - play time at a friend's house, car rides, walks in the neighborhood in a pet carry bag) and activity that strongly simulates hunting, also A LOT of attention/affection.

If you search your lifestyle and can not provide the extraordinary level of care required by this breed, there is truly no shame in re-homing. My first silver tabby failed out of two homes before I got him. My current tabby is a handful, and at seven years old is still more active than our other non-silver tabby, who is three years old.

It's the breed, not you. But you're going to have to figure this out one way or another. MeMail if you want more anecdata. A lot of it was simply paying close attention to what the cat might be communicating and coming up with sometimes unusual solutions to keep this type of cat happy. I still ended up delaying a move abroad for a few years until (finally!) my first guy fell in love with a female cat we adopted. Once she came along, he didn't need to fixate on me as much, but before her he was utterly dependent. Some breeds of dogs see a single person as their "leader" or whatever, and I think tabbies are very similar. It's you and only you. This type of cat needs to be your shadow at all times and gets very angry if they are left home alone too much.

Like I said, it's the breed, not you.
posted by jbenben at 12:39 PM on January 7, 2012 [2 favorites]

Please don't declaw her. The declawing procedure actually consists of removing the first bone on the cat's paw and often causes permanent when walking for the animal.

I have two kittens around the age of yours and when they start to play rough I always take them to their cat room (the room with all their toys, bed, food, etc.) so they can wear out there instead of taking it in the furniture. If other things fail, maybe try setting up a part of the house where she can run free without scratching anything expensive.

There are also products that you can spray on the furniture that have a very mild smell to us humans but that cats hate. The one I use is Beaphar keep off, but I'm not sure of its availability in the US.
posted by Trexsock at 12:48 PM on January 7, 2012

I'm nthing tape. I just used regular one sided packing tape on the edges of all my furniture and the cat doesn't claw it. Of course then you have tape on your furniture but you can take it off when you have guests.
posted by interplanetjanet at 12:50 PM on January 7, 2012

Hiss at her, loudly, and/or clap when she starts on the furniture. EVERY TIME.
posted by kestrel251 at 1:01 PM on January 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

Wait. I'm not sure anyone can give truly accurate and meaningful advice without a pic!
posted by jbenben at 1:03 PM on January 7, 2012 [12 favorites]

Sounds like you are taking good steps so far.

The type of scratching post makes a difference:
- vertical vs horizontal (best to have both, but certainly get whatever kind fits your cat's scratching preference)
- height/size (for vertical posts, they need to be tall enough for cat's height plus its front legs raised up - so, fairly tall)
- surface covering (cardboard, sisal rope, carpet -- some cats only like one kind; ours is indifferent to carpet but looooves sisal rope)
- stability (as someone said above, the cat needs to be able to pull back hard on it)

The cardboard scratchers often come with catnip you can sprinkle into the crevices, making them more rewarding to scratch.

Seconding trimming her claws routinely - it's a good idea to get any cat used to this as a kitten. You can find online tutorials, and you can do just a few claws per sitting if she struggles, and do a brief sitting every day.

Also seconding some kind of cover (tape, plastic, tinfoil) for her favorite furniture scratching spots to make them less rewarding to scratch.
posted by LobsterMitten at 1:07 PM on January 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

Water bottles are fine if you're home but they're not great if you work full-time, since there aren't consistent results. You could try one of those compressed air cans with motion sensors- I know a couple that was successful using one of these to train a cat away from the Christmas tree. They kept a water bottle nearby, but that only could work when they were nearby. However, the compressed air thing is pretty expensive.

I successfully trained a cat with claws not to claw my furniture with the sheets of double-sided tape that they have at pet stores, sold for this exact purpose. It took a couple of months and it was not cheap (the sheets had to be replaced here and there), but the couch was also not cheap. I bet you can find that double-sided tape cheaper online. For the price of a roll of aluminum foil, some fabric-friendly tape, and your sense of style, you could tape the sides of your couch with sheets of foil or plastic wrap and see if that helps.

But I nth that you must not declaw the cats. It is a truly cruel practice. You are now a cat owner, and cats come with claws. You must either stop the cat from destroying the furniture or live with destroyed furniture. That's how this works.
posted by aabbbiee at 1:08 PM on January 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

My girlfriend got her cat one of these, and the little rascal absolutely loves it. The choice of what objects to scratch or not scratch really comes down to what feels good to the cat. My girlfriend's cat wouldn't touch one of those turbo scratchers and likewise ignored completely another cardboard-based scratcher. The one that I linked to above has a tough, fibrous rope-like material on it and lets the cat really latch on. She'll (the cat, not the girlfriend) run across the room, jump, and hang from the post for a few seconds before leaping off to go run somewhere else. She loves it. Highly recommended.
posted by Osrinith at 1:16 PM on January 7, 2012

I used Celia Haddon's advice - most successful was putting aluminium foil where I didn't want the cat to scratch. I also used a clicker to reinforce scratching where it was ok to do so.
posted by paduasoy at 1:40 PM on January 7, 2012

YMMV with aluminum foil - one of my cats absolutely loved it. I would put aluminum foil on surfaces where I didn't want her to go and she'd curl up and take a nap there.
posted by something something at 1:46 PM on January 7, 2012 [2 favorites]

I have used bubble wrap, the smallish bubble kind with the tacky backing, to cover areas where kitties were interested in scratching. I then parked a tall scratching post next to the furniture. As others have said, redirection is the key. I also clip my cats' nails weekly.
posted by a humble nudibranch at 2:14 PM on January 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

My house is full of leather furniture and we were about to buy 2 Bengal kittens - a very active, bores easily breed. I wanted both the furniture and the cats so the solution for us was to provide the kitties with a scratching alternative that was more appealing than our sofas. A cat scratching post seemed like not enough so we went to Ikea and bought 3 or 4 great big sisal/hessian type rugs (enough for every room, especially where the leather furniture lived. Bonus was that our house has a beach theme and it works well with the decor, we would likely have bought them anyway).

So they loved it and have never once touched the furniture to claw it. They ocassionally run over it but not deliberate scratching, they always use the rugs. I also think being a breed that's easily bored, having two cats meant they were less likely to take boredom out on furniture, more out on their playmate. Just a consideration.
posted by Jubey at 2:40 PM on January 7, 2012 [2 favorites]

I hesitated to answer because you did not follow the rules in posting a pic. However.

What are you doing now? Are you giving her attention, even negative attention, when she scratches on the sofa? Do not yell, swat at her, or anything like that; she'll do it in order to get your attention, not because she just likes scratching the sofa. I would not be surprised if you have "trained" her to do this already.

Whatever you do must seem like a natural, unpleasant consequence. The sofa hissed at her! The sofa squirted her with water! Etc. She has to associate the sofa with something she strongly dislikes, not you.

My scratching problems decreased exponentially once we got another cat. They're less bored, and they sleep more because they get more exercise together than they would have gotten by themselves.
posted by desjardins at 2:52 PM on January 7, 2012 [3 favorites]

My cat wouldn't have anything to do with her scratching post until I got some liquid cat nip and sprayed the post down with that stuff. Now she cannot get enough. A few spritzes every couple of weeks and we have no more furniture scratching.

If only liquid cat nip repairs the furniture she had already scratched... sigh.
posted by danielle the bee at 2:53 PM on January 7, 2012 [4 favorites]

Use wayyyy more double-sided tape and aluminum foil than you think that you will need. And spray the cat whenever they start to scratch.

I used Feliway (this spray stuff) on my furniture and while I can't be certain that it has helped (due to be vigilant about tape/foil), it certainly hasn't done any harm.

More things to play with, different types of scratching posts (for example, my cat LOVES carpet posts, but is indifferent to sisal and only mildly entertained by cardboard), and some spray bottle action is always a good start.
posted by sperose at 2:55 PM on January 7, 2012

I'm also nthing clipping her nails and making a BIG deal out of how AWESOME the cat trees are. My boyfriend was going insane over our kitties wrecking our old hand-me-down furniture from the 70s. He feared we would never be able to have nice furniture because they would destroy it.

He started clipping their claws with our nail clippers (we have a cat claw trimmer, too, but it's bulky for him to use) and, well, even if they tried to scratch they couldn't do any damage because their nails are flat.

When we got our cat tree, we made a huge deal about how it was the coolest thing in the whole house and it was all for the kitties. I sat in front of it and scratched it and we put the cats on it and petted and praised them like no tomorrow. We give them greenies when they're good and scratch the post. They love their tree and don't even think twice about scratching the couch anymore.

Our male cat is spoiled by it - when he's been naughty or when he wants some praise he'll go straight over to it, scratch it a few times, then look at us waiting for his treat or a scritch.

If only we could keep them off the fucking counters, now.
posted by kpetrich at 4:02 PM on January 7, 2012 [2 favorites]

Our cats won't touch anything but the cardboard scratchers and any kind of vertical wood situation, you might just have one of those cats on your hands. It's no big deal, they're cheap and can be bought in bulk, and there are some pretty stylish shaped scratching devices that can hold the inserts.

Just a word of warning though: if you're that precious about your furniture, be aware you can't do anything about cat pee after the first minute. Yeah sure, there's Nature's Miracle - but if you're gone all day, once that soaks in, you're screwed. My advice: get some decent, thick, blankets (preferably wool that can be drycleaned) to cover any crevice in a sofa seat.
posted by saturnine at 5:57 PM on January 7, 2012

When I first adopted (as kittens) my three two-year-old feral rescue siblings they pretty quickly figured out that the couch was TONS of fun to scratch. YMMV, and lots of people have made good suggestions already, but here are the steps I took to nix that habit:

1.) Procure scratching posts. Sounds like you've done this already, but it's often necessary to experiment with type & placement before finding something your kitties will like better than furniture (this household now includes 3-4 vertical scratchers, including a cat tree, and usually around 3 horizontal cardboard scratchers placed near where the kitties like to play/sleep).

2.) Spray or wipe down any furniture the cat has scratched with enzyme cleaner, e.g., Nature's Miracle or similar. You don't need a ton of it, and I've never had it damage any fabrics I've applied it to; just spray and let it air-dry. Cats scratch both to create a visual territory mark *and* to deposit scent using their paws. Humans can't smell this pheromone but cats can, and if they manage to get it on something they'll keep going back to "refresh" it.

3.) Once the enzyme stuff is dry, mist the area with Feliway pheromone spray. Most people employ Feliway for situations involving urine marking or inter-cat aggression, but I've found it to work amazingly well for deterring scratching on things I don't want scratched. Supposedly the Feliway simulates "happy/relaxed" pheromones like those deposited when kitties rub their head and cheeks on things, which (when applied to surfaces) can transmit the "it's cool! everything's okay!" signal to feline passerbys, who then simply figure there's no need to scratch there.

(I have no idea of the actual scientific veracity of the above but it does at least seem plausible, and I was beyond impressed by how quickly and effectively the feliway-on-the-couch thing worked. That said, it's important to start with the enzyme cleaner to eliminate any traces of paw-pheromone, which is more linked to a territorial/protective mindset than a happy/relaxed one.)

4.) If your cat is a catnip-responder (pretty easy to determine), sprinkle or rub catnip on her scratching posts/pads, and make sure NOT to get any on the couch.
posted by aecorwin at 6:27 PM on January 7, 2012

Call the breeder. She will know a lot about cats, about this kind of cat, and even about this cat's parents -- who may have scratching preferences you can learn about.

You may have a clause in your contract with the breeder that prevents you from declawing the cat. Further, the breeder will probably be happy to take the cat back if it doesn't work out. If it's between the furniture and the cat, you might have to get new furniture. I know it's expensive, but you'll know you did the right thing.

There are a lot of different things you can give the cat to claw: the corrugated cardboard stuff, while it looks cheesy, is actually quite popular with many cats (the stuff fortified with sand is, I've heard, not so popular). You could try attaching _reversed_ carpet to something and seeing if she'll scratch that. You could bring in a log with bark, or a sisal welcome mat (unpainted, no chemicals), or any of a number of (string-free) things to try.

Finally: this worked with my own kittens. Sort of. I made "Scratch, Max (or Dave), scratch!" a trick they'd do for a treat. It took _forever_ to communicate what they were supposed to do, but once it clicked, they'd scratch their post every single time I walked by (then look at me expectantly). It helped that this was up above the floor on the middle level of a cat tree/tower, so I could see them, and they liked hanging out up there.

The key thing above is _rewarding_ the good behaviour. It's awesome and will give you a lot of joy to be able to communicate this way.

Cats are smart, they just work a little differently from dogs.

You might enjoy the "Clicker Training for Cats" book; it sounds like your little kitty would enjoy it.

And, yes, please post a photo!
posted by amtho at 6:48 PM on January 7, 2012

One more thing: the ASPCA's pet behavior resources may not have a lot of new information for you, but they may be worth a look.

If nothing else, you might look at other pet behaviorist resources -- maybe there's one in your area.
posted by amtho at 6:53 PM on January 7, 2012

They actually sell special tape for cats. It's doublesided tape that won't ruin your furniture

This works pretty well, but shell out for the good stuff. I bought some tape like this from Target and it left a horrible sticky residue on everything. I eventually ruined a nice leather loveseat trying to remove it.
posted by coolguymichael at 7:50 PM on January 7, 2012

I have to nth the suggestions to find the right scratching posts for your kitty.

Mine likes tall rope covered ones. It's about waist high, and has 3 segments which can be replaced as they wear out.

My sister's cat likes cardboard and raw planks of wood (like a 2x4 pine board) flat on the floor.

That said, I've never had a cat scratch furniture. As a kitten, my cat did like to dig in the large plant pot on the floor. Double sided tape around the rim convinced her to leave it alone forever more. I only needed the tape a few weeks.

Also as a kitten, we trained her to let us clip her claws. Our procedure used to take 2 people (one to hold, one to clip, now one can easily handle it by pinning her with legs and an elbow): sitting down, flip the cat on her back so she's resting in the dent between your legs, with her head by your knees. It's important to keep her pinned and NEVER let her go until she is calm and you are finished. Then, just gently squeeze her paw pad until you can get at her claws. She will tolerate this just fine once used to it, although she will squirm a lot. My cat always finishes this process by going right to her scratching post.

Since you are new to owning a cat, I'd like to add that many cats can be trained in similar ways to dogs (although not all will bother with doing tricks). It depends on how smart the cat is, and how motivated you are. Treats, positive reinforcement, and consistent rules are key. My cat and my sister's cat both respond well to their names, although it's not quite all the time like you might expect a dog to do. Another example, we allow my cat to drink water from the sink. But ONLY the bathroom sink. It's the only counter she's allowed on. She doesn't have any problem understanding this, to the point where I had to show her it was ok to be on the counter by climbing up myself when we moved. She's not big into climbing into high places like some cats are, though, so this one might not work with every cat.

Some cats respond well to spray bottles, but not all. Mine didn't care. Try lots of suggestions and learn what works for your cat. Try telling her No, loud and firm (or a warning hiss), then moving her to a place that is ok to scratch, showing her by doing it yourself. If she's only doing it when you're not in view, you may have a problem - your kitty may be too smart for her own good.

Also agree with talking to the breeder. My friends breed cats, and I've seen firsthand that their kittens grow up to share strange behaviors with the parents. So whatever her parents prefer is likely to work very well for her too.

If nothing else works, ditch the furniture (or just get used to it doubling as a scratching post). Declawing is just sad and unneeded. Good luck!
posted by Zebulias at 7:56 PM on January 7, 2012

Sorry to post yet again --

About trimming the claws: this can be tricky if you and the cat aren't used to it. Start gradually, handling the paws, holding the paws, pushing the pads gently to expose the nails, holding that a little longer at a time, playing with the clipper -- work on this once or twice a day, a new step every day or two, so that it's a gradual easy progression and you both (especially the cat) don't get freaked out by a weird new why-am-I-being-restrained-and-what-are-you-doing-to-me event.

Gradual, gentle, no surprises, even fun - it can be easy if you're patient (and the cat's not been traumatized before). Just think of it from the cat's point of view - it's scary being held while stuff is being "done to" you, especially if nobody can explain what's going on.
posted by amtho at 8:11 PM on January 7, 2012

Hi! Popping back in here because...

- There is still no pic!

- I was hoping someone else would speak about this breed

- Silver Tabbies are near and dear to my heart, I grew up with my first

- Someone above mentioned Bengals, and I had a relevant experience with a Bengal recently you really need to hear about - at least in my experience, these breeds are scary similar, despite their breeding histories!


If you read the whole thread I linked to about the Bengal we rescued, you might recognize your kitty in there. Left out of my descriptions where how she and my "wild kitty" (a silver mix) got on like a house on fire, despite both being females. They got on because they had the same personality. My understanding from the owners of this Bengal was that she escaped all the damn time. This surprised me not, as our "wild kitty" so far has not met a window she can't break out of - I mean lifting the window, maneuvering slat glass windows to escape, you name it.

Now this is not your same problem exactly, but the instinct is the same. Your cat is scratching furniture out of frustration and instinct.

Lots of cats have been bred into domesticity - they're OK being "lap cats" and/or can spend all day happy on a windowsill just looking out. Other cats have to get OUT. They want to hunt and toys won't cut it. They want to be understood and be accommodated on all requests, which quickly become demands when we humans miss their cues.

I have lots of leather furniture. I gave two matching chairs to the cats to destroy (they loved using them for "steeple chase" and I can get them re-upholstered.) I also have lots of wood furniture that they are forbidden to touch. The cats know if they go for my couch or wood furniture they are dead to me - or simply dead. Ha! No really, we have an agreement. I give a little, they give a little.

My "wild kitty" gets car rides, play dates outside the home, and when I lived someplace amenable to this arrangement, she could come and go as she pleased. She frequently brought home prey (still does) and eschewed toys as being beneath her intellect. She used to walk me to the corner grocery and wait for me in the bushes outside so she could walk me home. My first Tabby was indoor/outdoor, and I was pretty young, so a lot of these behavioral issues were not in play. My second Silver Tabby (pure bred) was in Manhattan - and that's the one that needed to be taken out in the pet carrier for walks around the neighborhood and only finally settled down after he mated up. My current Tabby ("wild kitty") is a mix, she used to throw herself against the front door when I left her to go on business trips at my business partner's house, and is even more my shadow than the first two (a record hard to beat!) and breaks out now if we try to make her an indoor only cat. All the negative behaviors are curbed or non-existent by accommodating her instinctual drives in one way or another.


You have a significant challenge in this cat. It's in the DNA.

There have been MANY great ideas about the furniture - take them.

Just be sure to provide significant outside-the-box stimulus to keep this particular cat happy.


Again, there is no shame in re-homing this particular cat if you don't have the time/energy to devote. I've had dogs, too. None have taken as much care as my Tabbies. None.

My second guy was locked in a closet regularly for being a "bad cat" before he was rescued to me. I'm not kidding when I tell you this is a hard breed.

Right now you are looking at a serious lifestyle adjustment or re-homing.


You're not a bad person! This just might not be the right cat for you right now.

I want to re-iterate you are not a bad pet owner! A lifetime of experience tells me this breed is just super demanding. Super rewarding, too! But super demanding.


Good luck! You'll make the right choices, it's all good!
posted by jbenben at 9:35 PM on January 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

It is amazing how cats consistently choose the best furniture in the house to scratch.

Keep the door to the living room closed. If there's no door, get a tall baby gate (might not work for a younger cat but it did for my older ones). I had to make my living room a Cat Free Zone, which is fine because I don't use it all that much. Kitties still had plenty of room to move around/cuddle with me in other areas of the house.

Redouble the number of scratching choices in the other areas in the house.

When you're in the living room with the door closed, be prepared for an assault on the door/baby gate. In fact, she may do that when you're not around. If you're renting, that could be a real problem. A motion detector with sound and optional air spray may help.
posted by Currer Belfry at 6:26 AM on January 8, 2012

Our cat got REALLY INTERESTED in the cat tree when we sprayed it with catnip mist. Also, when our puppy moved in, she became so occupied expending mental and physical energy on him that she stopped shredding our couch completely. I think she was bored. YMMV.
posted by Lieber Frau at 7:17 AM on January 8, 2012

I’m dearly in love with my kitty and I do not want to re-home her. I also don’t want to have her declawed (which is why I came to the hive mind for ideas).

So far, the squirt bottle is amazing! I’ve squirted her 3 or 4 times, now when she starts it and I simply say “No.” she stops! I’m going to see how it goes today and if I need to, I will put double sided tape on the furniture.

Thank you for all of the wonderful suggestions!!

Sorry about the lack of picture…I didn’t realize that was a rule. :)
posted by Amalie-Suzette at 8:48 AM on January 8, 2012

Well, she certainly looks well taken care of :) And intelligent. Good luck!
posted by amtho at 3:33 PM on January 8, 2012

HA! I would NEVER give away that cat! Thanks for the pic!!!

I know what you are dealing with now. It's all in her eyes:)

She's a lover, and really really wants to be by your side. Along with fun excursions, good toys, and the squirt bottle + tape, etc., try...

- If she has a bed (likely she sleeps with you, tho, try leaving a t-shirt you've worn in it for her to snuggle up to when you're not home.

- Try speaking to her as if she understands you and ask for her compliance on issues like scratching and jumping on counters.

This is a cat who only wants to please you. It's all there in her demeanor. You're so lucky! You get the best of why Silver Tabbies are so rewarding (super loyal, super smart) without the tendency to be challenging when they don't get their way.

Lots of affection and good boundary setting will take you all the way. Don't underestimate her, she's probably more plugged into you than you realize and will take your cues like a champ.

Two more thing...

- If a squirter isn't handy, you can make a "gun" sign with your hand and make a "Squi, Squi, Squi" noise and she'll react just the same as if you squirted her. This has been working for years with my seven year old.

- That said, don't underestimate the power of positive reinforcement with this one. She's a lover and wants to know she's made you happy. Praise her when she doesn't claw things. She's smart and she'll get "it."

Thanks again for the pic!

(also, I wasn't advocating that you re-home her exactly, more like I wanted to stress how quirky and full-on this breed can be. I wanted you well prepped to get the most out of this relationship and vice versa. I promise you will never ever be able to have another type of cat after this, as Silver Tabbies will ruin you for all other breeds. Enjoy each other!)
posted by jbenben at 10:03 PM on January 8, 2012

As said before, aluminum foil is a godsend for anti-kitty measures - no cat I've met can stand the sound or feel of it.

Keep her stimulated as much as you can - if you like to build things, it's easy to make a gigantic cat tower out of tube cement forms wrapped in carpet (use 2x4s cut to size inside for bracing and put some sort of end cap platform on top).

Try getting a laser pointer, and a variety of toys. Ours love anything that crinkles, especially if it has catnip inside.
posted by bookdragoness at 6:24 AM on January 9, 2012

« Older need trekking poles   |   To API or not to API Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.