My cat is taking out its frustration on the carpet. How do I stop it?
October 30, 2013 8:42 PM   Subscribe

This didn't used to be a problem, but my cat vigorously attacks the carpeting. I have cardboard scratching boards all over, which she has been happy to use in the past, especially where she likes to scratch. She doesn't care, she scratches right next to them, even after I spray her with water and yell 'no!', and pet her when she does actually use the boards.

It didn't used to be a problem, back when I stayed at home more, and let the cat share my bed. My cat happily used the scratching boards to keep her claws up. But now, I've realized I need to get out more to be happy; and hang out a lot with my girlfriend, who is allergic to the cat. So now I'm not home as often, and don't let the cat into the bedroom.

My cat hates this, particularly the bedroom exclusion. She started shredding the carpet outside my bedroom when I slept there, and didn't care that I sprayed her with water and yelled 'no', though she'll sometimes claw the carpet where I can hear it but can't get to her. As far as I can tell, she only shreds the carpet like this when I'm around to hear.

So now, when I do sleep at my home, I sleep on the couch in my living room, because I still want to keep the bedroom dander free, and don't want any more carpet damage.

This isn't a good long term solution. I want to be able to sleep soundly on my actual bed without having nightmares about my landlord charging me thousands of dollars to replace the carpeting. And I'd like for my cat to be happier. What can I do?
posted by Hither to Pets & Animals (15 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
We have this same problem with our cat. I've noticed that his carpet scratching gets far worse whenever he feels neglected or bored. When cats feel lonely or neglected, they act out by clawing, jumping around, knocking stuff over, et cetera.

The more we play with him, the less he acts up and does things he knows he is not supposed to do (like clawing at the carpet, jumping on counters he is not allowed on, et cetera). Try to make a conscious effort to engage with her more in general- just pet her more, play with her more, and get her moving more often so she feels less cooped up. Maybe that will help.

As for the door, our cat started doing this to the carpet by the bedroom door, too. For a while I tried to close him out at night because I have fairly severe cat allergies, and he is horrible about dancing around trying to wake us up late at night and early in the morning. Of course, he hated being shut out, and he responded by laying by the door, whining, and clawing the hell out of the carpet.

A solution that worked for us was to buy a vinyl chair mat like this one (we found a much cheaper one at an office supply store). We put this in our doorway after taking a box cutter to cut it down so it would fit properly. Here's how we set it up.

This was pretty effective and it kept him from clawing the carpet by the door, and fairly well solved that problem.

But overall, you may just have to engage with her more. It takes up more time and can be frustrating, but I can almost guarantee you that it will help.
posted by Old Man McKay at 8:59 PM on October 30, 2013 [3 favorites]

This isn't a great short term solution, but get a second cat? I can't see her, but I bet she's just fuckin bored of being alonesome.
posted by oceanjesse at 9:00 PM on October 30, 2013 [2 favorites]

i store firewood inside my home which my margie-cat uses to sharpen her claws. you could try stacking up seven or eight sticks of firewood, and if that doesn't work, keep providing other scratchable materials until you come across something that does work. there is no way for any of us to get inside the mind of a remote cat.
posted by bruce at 9:01 PM on October 30, 2013

Sounds bored or lonely. You may want to give a nice tall sisal scratching post a try along with some engaging toys. Whatever you do, avoid carpet scratching posts.
posted by HMSSM at 9:04 PM on October 30, 2013 [2 favorites]

One of my cats only likes to claw on floor carpet so I got some large area rugs to cover her favorite areas. This way she can claw as she like. It also provides the added fun of giving her a place to hide her toys under the rugs. She loves pushing them under and digging them out later.
posted by irisclara at 9:33 PM on October 30, 2013

Maybe another cat to keep your cat company? Get a younger one who will be more malleable to your cat's will.

I am a board-certified Crazy Cat Lady who has had many opportunities to observe what adding cats does to cat dynamics. It can be quite positive if you get the right cat match.

For example, when I first got a cat she was a few months old. She was a holy terror until I got another young cat to keep her company.

As they got older I had two problems. One, Second Cat plays harder than First Cat, and sometimes beats her up. Two, my roommate has a Diva Cat, who is older than my cats and doesn't mesh great with other adult cats. She doesn't fight with my cats but she's left out of playtime and clearly gets lonely and cranky.

Again, I have found the solution is more cats. The fourth cat is a rotating Foster Cat. Usually less than a year or two old, since their personalities are more malleable and they mesh better with adult cats who are set in their ways. Foster Cat has lots of energy and tires Second Cat out. Also, provided they're young Foster Cat almost always gets along with Diva Cat, so they also get a lot of playtime and she gets more attention and activity during the day. This leads to less cranky behavior and peeing on the carpet.

That's just my personal experience. I know other people who have found success through more cats. Seriously: sometimes you need more cats (especially when you only have one).
posted by Anonymous at 9:50 PM on October 30, 2013

If your cat is a catnip fan add it to the places where you want her to scratch. Mine always gets her catnip doled out onto her cardboard scratching board and that's the only place she scratches because she associates it with getting pleasantly high.

Now to get her to stop drinking out of the toilet!
posted by brookeb at 9:56 PM on October 30, 2013

Is your girlfriend supremely allergic? If it's more mild, can you make your apartment better for her so she can be with you (and the cat)? If you have some kind of balcony or porch area, can you screen it in and leave it open for your cat to hang out "outside" and let the dander and other allergens get dispersed? Can you buy an air filter? Do you keep the cat out of your bedroom because the cat would otherwise sleep in the bed with you, or is it just to keep cat fur off the bedding? Can you cover your bed up during the day with a washable quilt that you take off when you sleep, and wash weekly to get the fur off? You can try having a cat bed off of your bed but elevated to head height (like on a side table) on your side of the bed, and then the girlfriend would be on the other side.

Your cat doesn't know that you're taking better care of yourself and getting what happiness you can, all she knows is her companion is totally ditching her all the time and it sucks. So you have to improve the quality of the time that you do spend with her. Concentrate on tuckering her out when you're around, so she sleeps more when you're gone. Consider harness training and taking her for walks (well, cats wander more than walk...) to really get her interested and tired out.

Does she have places she can go that are elevated? If you make it so she really wants to be up off the floor (a mantle, shelves, tops of big sturdy bookcases...) then she won't be on the carpet to scratch it. Make sure she has views out of windows.
posted by Mizu at 11:33 PM on October 30, 2013

My cat hates this, particularly the bedroom exclusion. She started shredding the carpet outside my bedroom when I slept there, and didn't care that I sprayed her with water and yelled 'no', though she'll sometimes claw the carpet where I can hear it but can't get to her. As far as I can tell, she only shreds the carpet like this when I'm around to hear.

She's been exiled from the most awesome sleeping place ever and hates it. Who wouldn't? You just need to retrain her. Get a nice cat bed and put it either beside the door or somewhere secluded or high up (think hiding place). Then sleep in your room. DO NOT open the door to discipline her. She's been scratching the carpet because it works to get your attention. For her, negative attention is better than no attention. You have to be strong and go to bed and close the door and don't open it again until morning. After 3-5 days she should get the drift. Also if you can go to bed while she's napping so she doesn't see you go in your room, this could help.

Finally, tire her out. A feather on a string is the most popular toy at my house.

Watch "My Cat from Hell" for other great cat ideas.

But seriously dude get that feather on a string.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 2:13 AM on October 31, 2013 [1 favorite]

Nthing another cat, if your budget can swing it! (It's really not that much more expensive. You can buy good-quality dry food in bulk, big packages of wet food to divide up, and so forth.) I have a furry-britches rescued as a wee kitten, he grew up with an older adopted friend who patiently let him attack, bopped him as needed, cuddled when tired. The older adoptee died, and furry-britches was left alone. He really mourned his friend, it was obvious he was crushed; watching him painstakingly sniff every millimeter of his friend's favorite spots was heartbreaking, and lasted more than a month. Then he went into what I can only describe as a depression. After a few months, he started acting out, which was very out of character for him, yet he wasn't ill. I was playing with him as much as I could, chatting with him, yet it wasn't enough... he looked dejected when I got home from work every evening.

So I got a friend for him, a zoomy little kitten. Y'know how you're supposed to gradually introduce them, right... well there was zoomy kitten crying her lungs out because she missed her mum, fluffy-butt with ears perked going, "hey, new cat", and miss kitten adopted her new parental figure while he adopted her as his new BFF within 48 hours. Neither of them acts out any more, unless I've been away for more than my allotted 10-11 hours/day. Then they stalk the front door until I get back, and say, "HEY, HUMAN, WTF DUDE, you have gone past your limit by 2 HOURS AND SEVEN MINUTES. Not cool. Imma dash through your legs and voice my discontent in the echoey hallway where everyone in the building can hear me. Pssh."

As a bonus, the little one tires out the big one, and the big one tackles the little one when she's getting too hyper. (She's two years old now and still a speed demon.) Furry-britches never looks sad any more. Tired and "omg play with the meowy cat, please human, I cannot take any more", yes! But not sad.

It's really easy to take care of two cats who get along well. If you know the personality of your cat, which it sounds like you do, it shouldn't be too hard to figure out how to find a personality that will mesh well. Younger cats are more open, and from what I've heard, it's better for females to be with males, rather than female-female, whereas male-male can also work. (My first pair was male-male, and now they're male-female. I've never had two females.)
posted by fraula at 3:21 AM on October 31, 2013 [1 favorite]

Your kitty has legitimate reasons to be unhappy. She needs companionship and mental stimulation as much as any animal. If your girlfriend is allergic, getting another cat might seem like a bad idea. If you could possibly do that, though, it could be wonderful for your kitty.

However, there are other things you can do, too.

Put an _awesome_, soft, warm bed for your cat in another part of the house. Make sure the bed is super-big (maybe use a big dog bed with cushy sides), so you can put this thing in one end for extra warmth, but the cat can move away from it if she wants.

You also need to make kitty's life more interesting. Do you have a big window anywhere? Make sure the cat has somewhere comfortable to sit/lie where she can just enjoy the view, and consider whether you can improve the view -- add a bird feeder, maybe.

Look for interactive/puzzle-type food and treat dispensers. Learn some games you can play together so that the cat knows you like her.

Also, if you have a neighbor, maybe a young neighbor (or an older one), who would like to play with your cat, definitely cultivate that relationship -- it could be good for the cat and for the neighbor :)
posted by amtho at 4:05 AM on October 31, 2013

Try Soft Paws to prevent carpet damage while you implement the suggestions above.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 6:50 AM on October 31, 2013

We got a second cat to keep our first cat company, and they hate each other. So that's not necessarily a solution. You really can't tell until you try it for a few weeks, and by then you've got two cats whether it works well or not.

It kind of sounds to me like she likes scratching carpeting better than cardboard. Maybe she likes something that she can really pull on. Get some scrap carpeting and staple it to a board, or wrap a stick with sisal rope (the natural fiber stuff), or just go buy some commercial posts with different textures. Put them in the places she's scratching and see if you can redirect her to those.

This is what we did when one of the cats started scratching on all the doors. I made a few scratching post things that would hang off the doorknob, right over the part of the door she was always scratching. She scratched the new hanging posts for a while, then got bored with those and went back to her usual post. Never bothered the doors again.
posted by echo target at 9:31 AM on October 31, 2013

Get different scratching posts and products. If your cat really like stretching out horizontally to scratch, a flat scratching surface might do the trick. Otherwise, try some vertical sisal scratching posts. Our cat used to claw at the curtains in our bedroom and the carpet in a few rooms until I got three new scratching posts, which I positioned around where she scratches the carpet or curtains. Now, she scratches the posts instead of the carpet and curtains. Some sources recommend getting a scratching post where your cat can stretch to their full length to scratch, so you'll have to find taller posts than the little posts that are normally offered.
posted by filthy light thief at 12:23 PM on October 31, 2013

I learned once that cats' natural cycle goes "hunt, eat, groom, sleep"

which makes sense. is she on a feeding schedule? the suggestion I got was to play (my cats love/hate "da bird" more than anything else in the whole world, to the point where it needs to live on the top of an inaccessible windowsill or it gets eaten while I'm not home.) for 15 minutes, something hunt-y, then to feed them, hang out with them while they groom, then nip off to bed while they're starting to wind down with the grooming, because they're naturally in sleep mode then and may just stay where they are.

YMMV, one of my cats is insane and this didn't work greatly for me but it seems like a sensible suggestion and might work for you!
posted by euphoria066 at 2:45 PM on October 31, 2013

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