Creating kinder, gentler experiences for pets


Need Help? 

Call 1-800-372-3706
to speak to a Veterinary Behavior Technician

Paws for Help!


Help is at your fingertips by library, email and phone!


Helpful Links 

Helpful Links 

Preventing Destruction


 Cat Behavior Library  

Cat Destructive Clawing


One purpose of feline clawing is to sharpen claws. This is where the cat actually removes old claw fragments due to new claw growth. It is more like the shedding of a snake's skin than the sharpening of a kitchen knife.
Feline clawing is also a visual mark of territory since another cat can see a clawed mark even if the smell has gone. It is also an olfactory mark of territory because of scent producing glands in the paws.
Another reason for clawing is to exercise or stretch while clawing. If problem clawing seems associated with exercise, begin daily play sessions. Including string chasing, and provide an area to climb before the destructive clawing can take place.

How To Respond To Destructive Clawing In The Home

Make the old scratch location less desirable:

  • Spray with scent repellent from the pet store
  • Temporarily apply plastic wrap or aluminum foil to the clawed area.
  • Use a water sprayer or shake can when cat is observed in the act.
  • Throw a small pillow or magazine to frighten and make the area unpredictable.
  • Don't punish personally since it may cause anxiety, and decrease your bonding.
Place a plastic runner with small spikes on the bottom upside down on the floor where the cat stands during destructive clawing. 

Make the new preferred location more desirable:
Place multiple posts of different sizes and types. Place a scratching post close by where there is no runner, and next to the previously scratched location. Make sure the material is as close as possible to that of the chair. (e.g. wood vs. carpet vs. other fabric) If practical, temporarily remove the chair (or cover it in plastic) so only the post is available at that location.

Make the scratching post as desirable as possible:

  • If the cat likes catnip, apply a liberal amount on the top and sides of the post.
  • If the cat likes a particular person, rub a sweaty shirt on the post.
  • Move the cat's claws over the post surface and praise it.
  • Put the cat on the post, and praise it when in contact. (Otherwise ignore.)
  • Put a favorite toy on top to encourage climbing with claws.
  • Watch the cat when awakening as this is the most common clawing time.
  • If it approaches the wrong location, move it to the desired post and praise and pet.
  • Cats tend to like a vertically oriented weave since it cleans the claws best.
  • Consider multiple posts with different scratching materials (rope, bark, wood, etc.)

Other Techniques:
Try isolating the cat temporarily in a non-carpeted room with the carpeted post. Observe to see if the post is used. If so, begin allowing free access to the entire house for gradually increasing periods of time. If accidents happen, go back to smaller access and increase as correct clawing occurs.

The longer the problem has gone on, the more difficult to correct, so a quick response is needed. It is perfectly fine to clip the cats nails every few weeks. It may not reduce the clawing, but it will reduce the damage done.

There is a product called, "Soft Claws" is a bead glued onto the claws. One consideration is that this product needs to be replaced periodically. The product typically falls off with the old nail shell.

Here are some tips to look for when selecting a scratching post:
Choose a post 3 feet or higher for stretching

  • Choose a stable post so it won't fall over on the cat.
  • Choose a material that is as similar as possible to the current target
  • Choose a material that the cat can dig its claws into to remove the outer dead shell
  • Cats tend to like a vertically oriented weave since it cleans the claws best.
  • Choose at least one post with a resting spot on top
  • Consider a tall or floor to ceiling post that the cat can climb on for exercise

Remember, if all else fails you still have other options:
Consider finding a new home for the cat where it is safe to be outdoors
Consider the declaw operation.
Consider making the cat an "outdoor" cat.

MyABN      Library      Contact ABN       Privacy Policy 

Copyright 2001-Present - All Rights Reserved - Rolan Tripp, DVM and Susan Tripp, MS  | Animal Behavior Network & Affiliates