Destructive Chewing and Scratching

Chewing on household items or scratching on the sofas, carpets or fly screens are completely normal feline behaviours but nobody wants to have their furnishings destroyed by over-active claws and teeth!

Chewing

Cats will commonly chew on items to soothe their gums during teething, to exercise their natural instinct to use their back teeth, to alleviate boredom - or just for the pure enjoyment of it. A cat with gum disease, nutritional deficiencies or a digestive issue may also gnaw or drool on items, indicating something is amiss. It is important to visit your veterinarian for an thorough examination so that any underlying medical issues can be ruled out first.

Items that cats chew often include strings, wires and cords, plants, household fabrics, leather furniture, ribbons and tinsel which may cause hazards such as choking, intestinal obstruction, toxicity or electrocution.

The simplest solution is to put these items out of reach but this is not always practically possible.

  • You can use furniture and carpets to block off access to wires and certain corners of the house.
    Try applying rows of double-sided sticky tape to the floor near cables and cords. Cats are reluctant to walk on the tape.
  • Cover cords with hollow tubing (available from many computer supply stores).
  • Spray the cords with an undesirable taste such as bitter apply spray. For a home-made alternative try combining 2 cups of lemon juice with 1 cup of white vinegar in a spray bottle. Shake well and apply it to furniture legs and other household items that your cat likes to chew.
  • Use unappealing scents such as lemon, cayenne, rosemary or citronella to deter them.
  • Provide ample exercise and enrichment such as chewable soft toys and treats to distract your cat. Hang wall or door mounted toys that your cat can swat around or a tunnel made from cardboard boxes.
  • Offer cat grass (catnip) as many cats who like to chew also like to graze.
  • Remove houseplants which may be toxic to your cat. Check this list of toxic plants to find out which ones are harmful to your cat.

Scratching

There are a number of reasons why cats do this but the main reasons are sharpening the claws, marking territory, security and alleviating boredom. Rather than getting angry or reprimanding your cat, providing an alternative place to scratch  and have access to mental stimulation can help.

Boredom can be resolved by providing a regular daily routine of play and exercise for your cat.

  • Scratching posts are a great way to distract cats away from furnishings and to provide activity and mental stimulation.
  • Place a few toys, cardboard boxes and catnip treats in the area.
  • Provide food rewards for your cat when they use the scratching post.
  • When you catch them scratching on furnishings or curtains, gently lift them off and place them near the post to encourage scratching there.
  • Cat igloos, high viewing platforms and shelves create a safe and secure hideaway are a fantastic way to help your cat feel secure.

For more information on training your cat to use a scratching post, visit:

https://www.vetwest.com.au/pet-library/satisfying-your-cats-need-to-scratch

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