My cat keeps going after the couch with her claws. We keep them clipped and try to redirect her attention to her scratching post, to no avail. Is there any way to keep her from destroying it?
It's very frustrating when cats scratch our things, but it's a necessary behavior that relieves stress and may even prevent arthritis. Let's combine your great start of trimmed nails and an appropriate outlet with a few ideas to make your couch less tempting. Even if you cat's discipline strays, remember not to punish or yell. That will only cause more stress, which leads to more scratching.
Find a furniture-safe citrus spray for your couch; while humans tend to think scents like lime and grapefruit are bright and refreshing, cats almost universally despise citrus. Consider shielding your couch with a cover — for example, a shower curtain — that hides the temptation from kitty but can be easily removed for use. Double-sided tape can be added to make it even less appealing.
If the at-risk furniture is wooden, try a wood or rope post. If the cat is tempted by fabric, something softer like carpet or cardboard is a better bet for a scratching place. Cats most want to scratch after using the litter box and after eating, so have scratching zones near those locations, and bait them with catnip.
A great tool to add to your arsenal is a product called Soft Paws or Soft Claws — rubber tips that glue onto your cats' trimmed nails. A pack is usually under $20 and can last several months, making claws round, not sharp, and preventing damage. Choose normal "cat claw white," or get creative with fun colors like "Ravens Purple" or "Orioles Orange."
This week's expert is Amie Glasgow, a behavior and training coordinator at the Maryland SPCA (mdspca.org). Submit your questions to email@example.com.