Cats can be distracted and redirected towards better behavior too


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Cats can be distracted and redirected towards better behavior too

Updated Dec 21, 2021

Dear Cathy,

I have a four-year-old American short-hair female cat. I got her at eight weeks old from a friend. The problem is, she scratches my upholstered furniture and rugs. She only does it when I am in the room. I have tried sprays, tape, and correcting with a spritz of water. I have various scratching posts, which she is not interested in, even when I put catnip on them. Putting towels over things helps a bit, but she usually finds a way around them. Any other ideas?

– Carol, via email

Dear Carol,

Scratching and clawing are natural instincts for a cat or kitten, and with indoor cats, our furniture and rugs become their items of choice for sharpening their claws and leaving their scent behind. The fact that she only does it when you’re in the room makes it a little easier for you to correct.

Get some foam or pom-pom cat balls or crumple paper or aluminum foil into balls and have them ready to toss across the room when you enter. Her first reaction should be to chase the ball and not scratch in response to your arrival in the room. She still may eventually scratch, but now you can correct her quicker with a verbal “eh-eh” or a Pet Corrector, which emits a compressed air sound, to discourage her from scratching in inappropriate areas. It’s important to not just correct her but show her alternative places to scratch. Put treats, food pieces, cat nip, or cat grass she can eat, near or on scratching posts and cat trees to attract her to her furniture.

Be consistent with your distraction/attraction techniques, and over time, she will learn what is expected of her. 

Cathy M. Rosenthal is a longtime animal advocate, children’s author, syndicated pet columnist, and pet expert with more than 30 years in the animal welfare field. Send your pet questions, stories and tips to Please include your name, city, and state. You can follow her @cathymrosenthal

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Cathy Rosenthal (aka The Pet Pundit), CHES, CFE
Animal Welfare Communications Specialist

Cathy brings more than 35 years' experience in the animal welfare field. She is a sought-after speaker, Certified Humane Education Specialist, a syndicated pet advice columnist, an author, a publisher, and of course - a loving pet parent.

Read more about Cathy here or check out her Non-Profit's page to see more ways she can help you and your organization.

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