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Scratching Furniture/Declawing

First, please note that declawing your cat so he won't scratch your furniture is cruel and inhumane. It is the equivalent of cutting off your finger up to the first knuckle. There can be serious physical and psychological effects. Instead, you should train your cat to use a scratching post. Other alternatives include a quick, painless trimming of his claws (which you can do at home using special clippers) or covering the claws with soft sheaths (which you can purchase relatively inexpensively). Scratching is one of your cat's most ingrained instincts. Keep a scratching post near where the cat usually sleeps or, if he has already picked out a corner of your sofa, keep it next to that chosen spot. You may need to train your cat to use his scratching post. Do not pick him up and put his paws on the scratching post (that will only make him want to avoid it). Make the scratching post appealing to him: rub catnip on it or mist it with catnip spray; drape a heavy string (a long leather shoelace works great) over it and wiggle it to catch his interest; put treats on the very top. Important: Invest in a scratching post that is 24" or 30" tall, with a sturdy base - your cat may be using the arm of the sofa because he can stretch higher than his scratching post will allow. Most of the ones you will find at the store are only 18" high so you may need to visit a pet supply store. I recently found THE best scratching post for our cats! It's made out of rough sisal (NOT the rope, a weave!). It's tall (29 inches), doesn't fall over, doesn't wobble, and doesn't slide across the floor. And, of course, the best part: all the cats love it. It's called the TopCat Sisal Scratching Post. A few cats don't like scratching on a vertical post, but will scratch willingly on a flat scratching pad. If your cat prefers a flat surface, you can either buy one of the cardboard scratching boxes (typically available from mail order or pet stores), or buy a scrap of plywood and a carpet remnant, large enough to fold around onto the back of the plywood. Cut the corners on an angle, fold the carpet remnant over the wood, and tack the carpet on using carpet tacks or heavy-duty staples. Sometimes changing to a scratching post that is covered with sisal rope or a different texture will kindle his interest in the post, as well. An additional idea, one that worked well when there were more vacant rooms in the house, is to follow the instructions above for a flat-surface scratching pad, then mount it on the wall at a convenient height for the cat, in a hallway or in the laundry room. Other solutions: If he's scratching wood furniture, rub strong-smelling furniture polish into it. For sofa and chair sides, cover the edges of the sofa with heavy plastic (available at your local fabric store - typically used to cover footstools or protect tablecloths - you can buy twist-pins while you're there to hold the place neatly in place) or aluminum foil (use velcro or double-stick tape to hold in place). Or spray a cloth thoroughly with one of the sprays formulated for keeping a cat off the furniture, and pin it to the sofa, chair, or your speakers (don't spray directly onto the furniture). Or, put strips of self-adhesive velcro (loop side out) on the favored scratching spots. If all else fails, everytime you see him actively clawing the furniture, spray him lightly from a bottle of water (do this only when he is actually scratching, not when he is approaching or leaving the furniture).

Adding a New Cat

The solution I have found to work best is to give the new cat, especially if he is an adult, his own room for a couple of days, one that isn't another cat's favored room, of course. (The younger your cats are, the less time will be needed by the way; older cats, like people, become very set in their ways and don't welcome change.) Keep the door closed, and visit the newcomer frequently, talking with him and petting him. Remember he'll need a litter box; preferably, feed him in the room for at least the first day as well. Then, open the door for longer and longer periods, so he can come out and explore. When you see one of your existing cats go into the room, follow him inside - then sit on the floor, one cat on each side, and pet and talk to each at the same time. The idea is to demonstrate to both of them that they are each mutually loved and appreciated. It is very important in a multi-cat household that you give each cat the same amount of affection - they will have enough to deal with amongst themselves when establishing who's top-cat, without you compounding the situation by showing favoritism.

Chewing on Electrical Cords

Coating the cord with a pasty mixture of cayenne pepper, hot pepper sauce, nail-biting nail polish, or orange/lemon peel seems to work in most cases. A better solution might be to put the cords into a cardboard tube, which has the added advantage of keeping them all in one organized bundle. You can purchase mailing tubes, or simply save the cardboard tubes from your wrapping paper. If it's ugly, cover with Contac paper.

Discipline Your Cat

The first and most important thing to remember is that she's a cat, not a very short, 4-legged person. It also helps to realize that she will likely think of you as a very large cat, admittedly with some peculiar non-cat foibles (such as an appalling lack of talent at mice-catching). Try to look at things from her viewpoint--she really does have a reason for what she's doing. Second, never, ever hit your cat. I have found that an attempt to be reasonable, as odd as that may sound, works best. (Example: Stanley was in the habit of taking other cat's tidbits out from under their nose; he'd been doing it for years. As I was sitting on the kitchen floor one day, giving out handouts, I observed him doing this - I pushed my hand up into his face, pushing him back slightly, and said, "Stanley, we DON'T steal from each other." He hasn't done it since; in fact, he looks up at me to ask permission to eat another cat's leftovers when they walk away.) Using the same reprimand word works best - though I tend to talk in full sentences to my cats (they are, after all, much more intelligent than anybody else's cats), most people find that simply saying "NO!" in a firm, no-nonsense voice for all infractions works well. If he won't listen, keep a squirt bottle of plain water handy (be sure to keep the bottle away from your children, so they don't use it as a toy against your cat). Or toss your keys toward him - not at him - so the noise will startle him. At least one of my cats can't tell where a whistle comes from, and she looks over her shoulder somewhat nervously when she hears one - so if she's being "bad," I whistle and she almost always stops what she is doing.

Cat and the Curtains

Cats like to climb. You may end up doing both of you a favor if you simply put vertical blinds (not horizontal blinds) at the window, since the cat can then push them aside to get to the window sill. Alternatively, you could try installing tension rods that will fall down (frightening, not hurting) the cat when they climb. I have one cat who is extremely persistent at climbing the aluminum screening - I've not had much luck at not getting her to begin the ascent, but she's been lifted off, told NO!, and dropped to the floor enough times that I can now say, "LIBBY! GET OFF!" and she will back down almost immediately. For safety sake, make sure that the pull-cord is not a loop; cut it so there are two strings so neither your cat nor your child will inadvertently get it caught around their neck.
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