Cats are sweet, soft, fluffy little things that are also impossibly pointy in a variety of ways. It's perfectly normal for a cat to want to scratch, and even occasionally bite; however, these behaviors can become destructive and create issues in your household. So... how to stop destructive behavior in cats? With a few simple tricks, you can easily educate your fluffy young friend in proper household feline etiquette, and keep your home - and your hands - safe from claws, teeth, stealth attacks!
First Things First...
To begin, it is very useful to know the types of behaviors and their causes. According to petMD, these undesirable traits can be broken down into primary and secondary. Primary destructive behavior can consist of scratching things like the carpet and furniture; gnawing on things like houseplants; and sucking on blankets, clothing, pillows or other soft items. Reasons can vary for primary behaviors, including a lack of mental or physical stimulation, self-comforting, incorrect or not enough material for scratching, or a simple lack of supervision.
Secondary behavioral problems can include obsessive-compulsive issues like inordinate nail chewing or pacing, regular consumption of non-food objects, or excessive or repetitive meowing without reason. Unfortunately, there is no one cause for secondary complaints. If your cat is displaying any secondary-type symptoms, it is very important to speak with your veterinarian to see if there are any underlying medical issues.
If your kitty has the all-clear from his vet, you can start figuring out how to stop your cat's destructive behavior.
Scratching is a common behavioral complaint. In fact, it's a common behavior in general. Cats scratch things for a variety of reasons – from grooming, to marking territory, to simply trying to get your attention. As mentioned above, this can simply be a matter of not having enough appropriate items to satisfy their needs. If that's the case, make note of what your cat seems to gravitate towards. Like people, kitties have personal preferences. Some will like wood, while others will turn to carpeting. Some will stretch out and scratch over head, while others will demolish the floor below. If you can identify your cat's preferences, you can then supply a steady stream of scratchable posts, trees, and toys.
So you've provided enough material, but your cat still likes to destroy your furniture. Now what? Cats are smart, but sometimes subtlety eludes them. In the case that your kitty doesn't know what is and is not appropriate to scratch, there are a number of sprays on the market that will both attract and repel.
Repellents typically contain natural essential oils, like lemon and eucalyptus. The wonderful thing about this method is that it both deters scratching and makes your home smell lovely. While you use the repellent on the things you don't want your cat to scratch, you'll be using the attractant on the items you do want him to use, like a cat tree or cardboard toy. These sprays are usually made up of catnip or pheromones.
If all else fails, you can try simpler methods. For example, blocking access to the items or spaces where you cat likes to scratch generally does the trick. Another simple method is precariously situating loud but harmless items – like a bottle filled with coins or beans – atop their favorite scratch victims.
Chewing or Sucking
Chewing and sucking behaviors are often the results of need fulfillment. If your kitty frequently sucks on blankets or coats, this may be a way of mimicking the action of nursing, thus creating a sense of comfort. As adorable as this is, it can cause some issues. Depending on how aggressively your full-grown kitten attaches to its surrogate, it may result in your valuable items being destroyed. But that's the least of the problems, as consumption of fabric can cause potentially fatal gastrointestinal blockages.
This also applies to cats that like to chew. Furthermore, even if he typically prefers to gnaw on softer material, it is not unlikely that he will suddenly take an interest in more dangerous items, like that enticing electrical cord sticking out of your wall! Houseplants also seem to be a favorite of chewers. This can be especially problematic if you keep lilies, mistletoe or English ivy in your home, as these are just a few plants that can be poisonous to cats.
If your cat likes to suck, the best method for stopping this behavior is to remove the temptation altogether. Clear the room of blankets, throws, or whatever else your cat likes to nurse on. Then, offer him a slightly more acceptable substitute, such as a terry cloth toy or towel. If this doesn't work, distraction may also be useful. Give your cat a gentle tap to get him out of his reverie. Next, offer him a toy to bat around, or start dragging around his favorite teaser.
Since chewers chew for their own particular reasons, it's important to pay attention to what their preferences are. If houseplants seem to be the thing, the easiest thing to do is simply to remove them or put them in a place that your cat can't reach. If that's not an option, try to provide an acceptable alternative. Cat grass, increasing fiber intake, or simply adding more leafy material in his diet will usually do the trick. Of course, check with your vet before changing their eating habits.
With most other items, you can curb chewing behaviors by using a deterrent spray similar to the ones used for scratching – though make extra certain that they are meant for internal consumption. There are also many alternatives to his off-limits chew toys. For example, a small rubber dog toy coated in fish oil might grab his interest; while a non-toxic baby teething ring tossed across the room will both kick in that prey drive, and provide your kitty with something to bite on.
When it comes to learning how to stop destructive behavior in cats, all the information, tips, and tricks can seem overwhelming. The truth is, no one thing will work for all cats. The two things that do seem to work for most cats, though, are time and patience. Spend a little extra time playing and working with your cat, and be patient with him. Habits are hard to break, but your cat will learn – he's a smart little fellow, after all!
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