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BAD scratcher - don't want to resort to declawing

post #1 of 29
Thread Starter 
I made an introduction thread explaining a bit about myself. So shortened version: I foster kittens, give them some medical treatment, and rehome them. But as of right now, I have one 'kitten' that is getting to be quite big and still has no home.

She's a black tortioshell, she's not particularly absolutely gorgeous or unique looking, and she's a hoooorrible scratcher. She is VERY playful and active, and when zooming around will often latch on to someone's legs and climb up their body, scratching and sometimes even making them bleed. My boyfriend and I always have scratches all over ourselves because of her.

With that said.. we love her. Of course we do. She's been in my care since she was 3-4 weeks old, when she and her 2 brothers came to me emaciated and covered in fleas. After a long fight, she was the only one in her litter to survive.

But I'm at a loss. She's nearing 5 months, and her chances of a home are looking grim. I'm preparing myself to face that I may just have to keep her. But I don't own my own home right now, and she can't continue scratching, tearing everything up, and making people bleed. I'm almost 100% positive I'm going to go ahead and schedule her spay soon... but I don't know what to do about her scratching. Before I ever had a cat, I was and am against declawing. I've seen the horrors of it, and I've always thought.. "It's a cat. Cat's scratch, and if you can't deal with that, get a stuffed animal." But I suppose it isn't always that easy, eh?

Is this harmful scratching a 'phase', much like puppies and their play biting.. or is this something I'm going to have to be prepared to deal with until her old age? I can deal with a phase.. and I could deal with it her entire life too.. but I'm also considering if she is spayed + declawed, that would increase her adoptability and she may actually find a good home.
post #2 of 29
TCS is an anti-declaw site.

that said - are you clipping her claws at all? i find clippers like these the easiest to use.

get her a scratching post, too!
post #3 of 29
Yeah, you can keep her claws trimmed and train her to use a scratching post. My Mittens was like that scratching up my bosses furniture until she went and got a scratching post and trained her.. now she NEVER scratches furniture, only the post. But i do sometimes see her clawing carpet. You dont have to resort to declawing. You said your against it so i kno nobody here has to warn you about declawing.
post #4 of 29
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by laureen227 View Post
TCS is an anti-declaw site.

that said - are you clipping her claws at all? i find clippers like these the easiest to use.

get her a scratching post, too!
I clip all their nails frequently. Some of the kittens that don't scratch hardly at all, I may skip over and let go longer.. but Kira's are trimmed at least once a week. It doesn't help. We have boxes and other make shift scratching posts(wood and then thick cardboard) and play toys all over, as well. I'm a dog trainer, and understand that the principle of positive reinforcement can be used on all animals.. but no training has helped either.

Of course she will stay with me until a home can be found.. but if I can't stop this awful scratching I may have her forever. I know I could live with the scratching, but I would like her to find a forever home. As of now, she's isolated to only one room because of her scratching. I don't want her living in a small bedroom for the rest of her life.
post #5 of 29
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by KiTTYL0VE4 View Post
Yeah, you can keep her claws trimmed and train her to use a scratching post. My Mittens was like that scratching up my bosses furniture until she went and got a scratching post and trained her.. now she NEVER scratches furniture, only the post. But i do sometimes see her clawing carpet. You dont have to resort to declawing. You said your against it so i kno nobody here has to warn you about declawing.
I work in a veterinary clinic. I've seen the procedure done, and I've seen cats that return because even weeks later they still had pain and wouldn't even put weight on their front paws (imagine a begging dog...). As well as being against declawing, I'm against ear cropping, sometimes docking,and debarking. But as always, life isn't always as black and white. There HAVE been good people with legitimate reasons come in to have their cats declawed. Often the legitimate ones are old, and if the cat just barely scratched them, they'd bleed like nuts because their skin is so thin.

Just right now, nothing I've been doing has been helping. Can anyone tell me about cat behavior.. is this something that she will continue as an adult, or a kitten phase?
post #6 of 29
Just remember that dogs and cats don't have the same motivations. A dog will do something to please their leader. A cat is in it for themselves - and that's just their survival mechanism that influences their behavior.

What is the cat really wants when it climbs and scratches? A tall place to look down upon her domain (get a cat condo), and to keep her claws sharp to protect herself.

Remember when you've tried to housebreak puppies? You had to keep an eye on them the entire time and the moment they started to look like they had to go, you got them outside to potty. Training a kitten/cat is not so different than that.

Get yourself a tall scratch post (one tall enough where they can stretch out their entire body). Anytime you see your kitten start to scratch, redirect her to that scratch post, place her paws on the post and rub them up and down. Get on your knees with her and scratch with her (she'll think its fun). Then reward her with a treat. Do not let her go unsupervised (as you would the puppy) while she is in "training" or she will regress. You would be surprised how fast they pick up on this. I've retrained adult cats within 3 days.

If she responds positively to catnip, rub catnip on the scratcher. She might be too young yet for this, and its something you could use later on.

Please try this and post here if it is failing. I'll come up with more ideas for you.
post #7 of 29
Thread Starter 
Thank you so much for the advice and help. Unfortunately, never leaving her unsupervised is just not an option, unless I crate her while I'm away(which I have done in the past, but prefer not to). I work a lot to afford all that I do for the animals, and I'm a full time student.

The most troubling part of it is that she's actually not THAT awful about tearing up the furniture. She had left a tiny bit of damage before, but due to some discipline, we haven't noticed any more damage. The problem is her scratching PEOPLE. No one likes being brutalized by their own cat. I have scratches all the way up my arms, on my neck, and a pretty deep one on my feet where she latched onto last night when she was being overly rambunctious and started falling off the bed and grabbed the nearest object: my foot. What I'm MOST worried about is that due to her brutalizing people the way she does, she'll never be highly adoptable. I have had a few people come look at her, but when she draws blood, they aren't as willing to take her.

Unfortunately, many of those cat condos are outrageously priced. We've instead provided make shift objects to play with.


Kira is very much loved, and though I've said over and over "If she doesn't stop, I will have to resort to declawing her," reasoning that it wouldn't be so bad because it would make her more adoptable.. but I really don't think I could ever do that. I've adopted to people that plan to have their cats declawed(because a declawed is better than a cat that is killed in a shelter), but I really don't think that I'd ever do it.. I've never been a fan of the easy way out with dogs. No reason it shouldn't be any different with cats. But mostly, I want what is best for her.. and want her to be able to find a home.
post #8 of 29
Quote:
Originally Posted by tessa_s212 View Post
The problem is her scratching PEOPLE. No one likes being brutalized by their own cat. I have scratches all the way up my arms, on my neck, and a pretty deep one on my feet where she latched onto last night when she was being overly rambunctious and started falling off the bed and grabbed the nearest object: my foot. What I'm MOST worried about is that due to her brutalizing people the way she does, she'll never be highly adoptable. I have had a few people come look at her, but when she draws blood, they aren't as willing to take her.
Sorry, misunderstood your post. Take a look at this behavior thread:

http://www.thecatsite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=20837
post #9 of 29
Thread Starter 
Thanks so much!

I've concluded 100% that I'm NOT declawing her, to relieve you all. I never really would have.. I always came back to, well.. there's more I could try, and I can deal with the scratching if I have to stand up for what I am against.

We've already been doing much of what is advised. When she bites or scratches during play, she is given a warning tap on the nose. If she 'attacks' again, she is isolated and placed in the neighboring quiet room for a short time in the crate. When we let her out, she behaves for a time, but often resorts to scratching again. (We do remain consistent, but it gets tiring when she's not learning and she's spending more time in the crate than playing.)

But it simply isn't always just play WITH us.. she may be playing with one of the other fosters, or just running around the room like mad, and we happen to be in her way, and in turn we get scratched. I didn't find any advice on the aggression thread for that. How do you teach a cat not to use her claws when doing something just like running on us? She could bounce off my head for all I care, I just don't want her to draw blood and scratch us in the process. And in these times, I can't discipline her because she's already half way across the room and OBLIVIOUS to the fact that she hurt me. I couldn't rightly punish her then.

Lol. Dogs are soo much easier. :p As far as cat training goes.. it took my boyfriends cat over a hear to stop being aggressive to me. Give dogs food, and they love you. Cats.. well, I admire those that can train cats.
post #10 of 29
Have you looked at the softpaws? I haven't tried them, but I know a number of TCS members have. You could do a search in the forums to find threads about them.
post #11 of 29
Quote:
Originally Posted by tessa_s212 View Post
Unfortunately, many of those cat condos are outrageously priced. We've instead provided make shift objects to play with.
You can find some decently priced on Ebay, and sometimes with free shipping too.
post #12 of 29
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by missymotus View Post
You can find some decently priced on Ebay, and sometimes with free shipping too.
Unfortunately, I still have no credit card to purchase things online. I understand you can find much better deals online most of the time.. but that option isn't available to me.

Are softpaws the rubber tips you put on their nails? I've always wondered how they work.. cats retract their claws..
post #13 of 29
It is a thin enough cover to allow them to retract their nails naturally.

Leslie
post #14 of 29
she's 5 months old? I wouldnt give up yet.

Kitty was a terror at that age too. we rescued her at 4 months old. i went to work with bleeding scratches almost daily for months. it was awful, but she was my baby.

at about 8 months old she just stopped. maybe a little earlier. she had hated being picked up, but i wanted to help her understand its a nice thing, not something to be afraid of. she is 1.5 yr old now, and never ever hurts me i hope you have a happy ending too.

p.s. my mom still has a scar on her stomach from about a year ago from Kitty while cat sitting. and she doesnt even like cats. but she still babies them
post #15 of 29
Quote:
Originally Posted by tessa_s212 View Post
Unfortunately, I still have no credit card to purchase things online. I understand you can find much better deals online most of the time.. but that option isn't available to me.

Are softpaws the rubber tips you put on their nails? I've always wondered how they work.. cats retract their claws..
try finding on http://www.craigslist.org. Keep seaching in there often. The prices are LOW LOW, and they are in your area, so you go and pick it up, paying cash.
post #16 of 29
In addition to what everyone else has said. She's still young and she will calm down somewhat.

I used to have a problem with my cat running over my feet while chasing something else and giving me deep scratches that way. That was probably worst when she was roughly 4-7 months or so. She's 3 years now and I've not gotten scratched in that way for almost 2 years.
post #17 of 29
As someone else suggested, sounds like a perfect case for Soft Paws.

Good luck!
post #18 of 29
Quote:
Originally Posted by tessa_s212 View Post
Unfortunately, I still have no credit card to purchase things online. I understand you can find much better deals online most of the time.. but that option isn't available to me.

Are softpaws the rubber tips you put on their nails? I've always wondered how they work.. cats retract their claws..
doesn't seem to be a problem for them... see pic below [Java]

also, my 1st really tall tree i got on eBay - $71, $50 of that was the shipping. if you have a bank account, you can set up a PayPal account for online shopping. most eBay sellers accept PayPal, as does Armarkat [which offers free shipping on most of their trees!] - worth checking out... also, if you have one of those Visa 'debit' cards that look like a credit card, they can be used online as a credit card - i know, 'cause i use mine that way all the time.


post #19 of 29
Some online merchants you don't need a credit card. Place your order and indicate that you want to pay by check or money order. You then print out the invoice and mail it in with the check/MO.

You can get a Greendot prepaid MC.
post #20 of 29
I agree about getting a cat scratching tree or something.

As soon as I brought Kittys home right after getting her, she jumped on it the second it came in the door! She only scratches on it (and the mattres side)

Holly, well she prefers the carpet unfortunately. but, its there is she wants it.

It doesnt have to be huge or expensive, but do get one
post #21 of 29
Just to chime in.........

Whenever somebody is saying they want to declaw their cat, and the cat tree is too expensive, I like to point out that the cat tree in no way will cost as much as the declaw procedure But thanks for not declawing!

You could consider, if you or your boyfriend, or father are handy, making your own. My dad made me a giant one for almost no cost, you just need some wood and some carpet.

OR why not get a horizontal corragated cardboard one? They work great and you can lean them up against the wall if you like ot make them vertical, they generally only cost 7-10 dollars, and cats love them, thye just destroy them a lot quicker.

Finally, it is probably just a kitten phase, not to say it'll be over soon, but def. not a long term thing, usually they outgrow the climbing people stage between ages 1-5 goodluck!
post #22 of 29
When we found Sunny at 4mos old (he was apparently dumped by someone) he used to scratch the living daylights out of DBF and I on a daily basis We didn't have to be doing anything to him, just minding our own business and out from nowhere, TADA, Sunny comes out to draw blood.

After trying several things, we finally just started saying "OUCH" loudly. Sunny doesn't like loud noises especially and we did that just as soon as he touched us with his claws out. He just turned 7 months and he has not scratched us or put his claws out on us since he was about 5 1/2 mos. old. He puts his paws on us, only now, it's just to let us know he loves us

Sunny also had the problem of scratching the doors and walls. We found scratchers that hang on the door knobs at PetSmart. They were inexpensive but he has stopped scratching our rental house up too

Please make sure that you spend as much time as you can with her. Play with her and just love her. She's young and she can/will learn not to scratch.
post #23 of 29
Thread Starter 
I'm looking into getting her some extra things. We'll get her an inexpensive scratching post for christmas, and look into the softpaws. The only problem is that buying things for her is not a sure way to get her to stop, declawing is. And I don't own my own home... if it comes down to it, it is either declaw her, find her a home that will probably declaw her anyway(and I'm not likely to find her a home because I've been trying), or surrender to a no kill shelter, in which people that adopt her could still declaw her. Boyfriend's grandmother(who we live with) is already pressuring for her to be declawed. I'm not liking this situation at all.
post #24 of 29
When I bought Lola some Soft Paws for the last few months we rented, I bought them at Petsmart. When I factored in shipping, the cost of buying at Petco/Petsmart was the same as online. The only difference was the choices of colors--clear only locally, or every color of the rainbow online. Since I wanted them right away, I bought them locally.

My adult cats actually did most of the training for Lola's appropriate scratching habits, and they were declawed by previous owners. She still occasionally gets me, but mostly by accident. She was a lot worse after we found her and she started getting healthy (about 5 months old). Now she's almost 9 months old and getting a lot better. I bought about every kind of scratcher out there to determine her preferences (which happen to be carpet - vertical and horizontal). We had some already, but we needed more of them to make sure she didn't damage the apartment. Wal-Mart has a good cheap post ($11) and they also have some corrugated cardboard ones ($5-$10). And I got a cool berber and sisal one at Target (~$20) that is curled like a ribbon. World Wise also sells Scratch Not tape for deterring scratching. Soft Paws really helped for us when we were first training her. After we moved I stopped using them. We have hardwood floors with just a couple area rugs now, so we don't have to worry about her destroying carpeting.
post #25 of 29
Quote:
Originally Posted by tessa_s212 View Post
I'm looking into getting her some extra things. We'll get her an inexpensive scratching post for christmas, and look into the softpaws. The only problem is that buying things for her is not a sure way to get her to stop, declawing is. And I don't own my own home... if it comes down to it, it is either declaw her, find her a home that will probably declaw her anyway(and I'm not likely to find her a home because I've been trying), or surrender to a no kill shelter, in which people that adopt her could still declaw her. Boyfriend's grandmother(who we live with) is already pressuring for her to be declawed. I'm not liking this situation at all.
You have a kitten! Buy the soft paws. Take them back if they don't work. You are out no $$ that way. Don't declaw. All cats need a cat tree IMO, they are so fun for cats.
post #26 of 29
Quote:
Originally Posted by tessa_s212 View Post
I'm looking into getting her some extra things. We'll get her an inexpensive scratching post for christmas, and look into the softpaws. The only problem is that buying things for her is not a sure way to get her to stop, declawing is. And I don't own my own home... if it comes down to it, it is either declaw her, find her a home that will probably declaw her anyway(and I'm not likely to find her a home because I've been trying), or surrender to a no kill shelter, in which people that adopt her could still declaw her. Boyfriend's grandmother(who we live with) is already pressuring for her to be declawed. I'm not liking this situation at all.
You said before that the biggest problem was her scratching people and running over feet while playing etc. and that is all stuff that she'll grow out of.

As for scratching posts, cats need to scratch, just like they need to poo and eat. It's built into them and their bodies need the stretch they get from scratching (which is one reason front declawed cats have higher odds of getting arthritis and problems like that when they get older).

So please get her a scratching post asap. You might also have to get her a few types before you figure out what type of scratching post she prefers. But really not having a scratching post and complaining that the cat scratches things is like not having a litter box and complaining that the cat poos in the bath (or wherever). Healthy cats can't "not scratch anything at all" and if they have no 'good' way of scratching they'll end up scratching stuff you don't want them to scratch.

Scratching people is a completely different thing and that can be managed by managing the play aggression and energy of the cat and both of those will get better as the cat gets older.

Anyway could you have a talk with your bf grandmother (the one that's pressuring to have the cat declawed) and see if she'll understand just how bad declawing cats can be? It IS illegal in multiple countries and it can cause cats to stop using litter boxes properly, also there are a lot of bad side effects that can happen both immediately after the operation and years down the line.

In the meantime something like soft paws should buy you time while your cat grows up a bit and out of her most manic young cat phase and while you get the scratching posts sorted and figure out which types she likes etc.

The really nice thing about soft paws is that they don't harm the cat and they're a fantastic alternative to the permanent mutilation that declawing aka the amputation of the first finger bone of the 10 digits in a cats front paws is.

One of the really interesting things that separates cats from dogs is their front paws. Cats can turn their front paws inwards (same motion as when we hold a cup) which is something dogs just can't do. Also cats have a huge range of mobility in all their front 'fingers' and for example a pouncing cat will pre shape their front paws to fit the shape of a mouse for when they land. They use their paws to grab things, throw things into the air, fish stuff out and climb.

Yes claws can be 'inconvenient' for human owners but I see it as our duty as cat owners to manage that in a way that benefits the cat. This means providing enough scratching posts, training and patience. Soft paws can help as well, especially to buy time. Although some people keep their cats with soft paws permanently and that's fine too, in a lot of cases that's not needed and they keep the cat in soft paws for a few months while they figure out scratching posts etc. and the cat grows up.

It is hard though if you're living with someone that has the 'power' (owns the house etc.) and doesn't see anything at all wrong with the cat digit amputation surgery. I think the best way there is to get soft paws to buy time and then work on training the cat and then while that's going on try and get the pro-declaw person to understand why declawing should never be an option.
post #27 of 29
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by carolinalima View Post
try finding on http://www.craigslist.org. Keep seaching in there often. The prices are LOW LOW, and they are in your area, so you go and pick it up, paying cash.
Due to all my animal rescue efforts, I'm on craigslist.com just about every day. In my area, I've never seen a cat scratching post advertised, unfortunately. Lots of animals needing new homes, some dog products, but never yet seen a cat scratching post. I'll make a post saying I'm looking to buying one, though, and see if I get any replies.

I've just bought a scratching post from walmart.com. 30" and has both carpet and a harder material. Softpaws will have to wait because I've spent over my limit this month now.

I'm just worried if it comes down to it... no matter what I do, she'll eventually be declawed. If I don't do it, others/new owners are probably even more likely to do it than I.

lmunsie, I'm rare, and I understand how you view that excuse, but for me it actually would be cheaper because I work at a veterinary clinic and get everything at cost. Kira just better be appreciative that I love her and not going the cheap route.
post #28 of 29
I rescued two feral kittens when they were ~5 weeks old...I'll relate what I did to train them not to play scratch / bite me. Your cat may be somewhat older, but these methods should still work for you.

When they would begin to rough play/bite/scratch me as young kittens, I would "hiss" at them, scruff and gently shake them, then redirect them to their sibling (who wanted to play rough anyway). I did this consistenlty and by 8 weeks old, whenever they wanted to roughhouse, they went for their sibling, not me. I have never been bitten or scratched in play since. At this point, I can still "hiss" at them when they are doing something wrong and they'll stop. "puffing" air in their faces also works as a deterrant.

The hissing / scruffing works because that is how their real "momma" would correct them...since I had them from a very young age (and you've had your kitten since she was very young) they see me as "momma" and so I correct them as she would. The scruffing / hissing does not hurt them (I don't pick them up completely off the ground when scruffing now) and it has not affected them in any negative way, as they are still very affectionate towards me and show no fear.

In your situation, I would hiss / scruff when she becomes agressive and physically remove her from you...i.e. hiss, scruff, pick cat up and put her away from you on the floor...ignore her. Or, you can keep a medium sized stuffed animal or toy around...do the hiss, scruff, then redirect her to the toy...showing her that this was the appropriate item to play rough with.

I hope this helps!
Art
post #29 of 29
Thread Starter 
I just picked up my 36" multi material scratching post from Walmart last night. I tried teaching the kittens to scratch it. They were clueless. Neither are horrible scratchers and we hardly ever see them scratching/shredding things like you'd see most cats do. So I never catch them in the act of scratching/shredding to redirect them to the scratching post. I've even gotten down and tried to demonstrate to them how to do it. They tried play fighting with me, but wanted nothing to do with the post.

ETA: When I picked it up, she asked me how many cats. So I had to explain that huge thing was for mostly one kitten that was awful scratcher. She told me to just get it declawed, so I went off on a tangent saying all that was bad about declawing(kindly of course). Don't think she expected to hear that. Lol. Her eyes got big, and she just shut up and didn't mention anything more about it.

They may have to wait a while longer, but I'm looking into soft paws. My only problem, I don't want to buy them for them to only grow out of them and have to buy new ones again.

Art, thank you for your advise, however I will have to pass it up. I am a dog trainer and understand much about the learning theory and all that entails. I would never ever alpha roll/scruff shake a dog, and I will not do it to my cat. The problem is not that she is exactly aggressive, but that she just has not yet related that the accidental scratching is unacceptable. She doesn't know why she's being punished, and that is what I can't get across to her. So it is just something, I think, we'll have to wait for her to grow out of. Purposeful scratching will still have consequences, however.
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