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The Vine: April 16, 2014

Submitted by on April 16, 2014 – 12:33 PM15 Comments


I have a new roommate who brought a cat with him and she is now the apple of my eye, the stars, the moon, the assumed owner of our apartment.

Kitty is an impeccably behaved sweetheart.

The apartment is all hardwood floors, save the kitchen and bathroom. It appears that some spots in each room are a bit scratched up, probably from moving furniture. The problem is that the cat has taken to scratching these spots up further. She's really going to town on the one in the living room. My roommate put her small scratching post over that area but she was not fooled. (Kitty doesn't scratch anything else, by the way — not the furniture, not me, nuthin'. Toldja she's a good cat.)

I've put clear tape over the scratched-up spot in the living room in order to deter her; we'll see if that works. In the meantime, is there something more effective that I can do? Perhaps the ol' spray-bottle-of-water trick? An olfactory discouragement? Shall we resort to an indoor electric fence? Steer us in the right direction, please.

Kitty and the Scratchers

Dear Kit,

Clear tape is a good idea, particularly if it's sticky side out. You could cut up a cardboard box, cover it with sticky-side-out tape, and use that to cover the spot; better yet, rearrange some furniture temporarily so the cat can't get to that spot at all. Putting the scratching post on top of it isn't so much "not fooling" her as it is not really setting it up as an alternative. She's still going to associate that spot with scratching, in other words.

Other options include tin foil, which many cats hate; spritzing the spot with bitter apple (more for chewing, but some people report success with that); getting a Feliway plug-in and pairing that with a rearranged room and relocated alternatives for scratching; and covering the area with one of those horizontal upcycled-cardboard scratch "boards." Mabel loves hers, though I must disclose that she loves it IN ADDITION TO loving tuning up the arms of the sofa, not instead of. Sigh.

You can also sit nearby for a day or two with a water pistol and fire on her whenever she's scratching at the area, but replacing an old habit with a new/better one has better long-term results (and doesn't damage the floor with water). Readers, feel free to chime in on what's worked for you in the past.

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  • Amy says:

    This sounds to me like a good application for an electric scat mat. It gives the cat a static shock (not strong, you can set the intensity). We used one with my cat for a grand total of one day with the batteries on. After literally getting 2 shocks, she got the idea. Now putting the mat down (but turned off) is more than enough to get her to avoid a spot we don't want her.

  • Kim says:

    Does Mabel look you right in the eye, Sars, as she confettis the couch? Just curious, since I KNOW YOU KNOW WHAT 'NO' MEANS FRANKIE AHEM.

  • JenV says:

    Double-sided sticky-tape is good for stuff like this, they don't like the sticky feel on their paws.

    Does kitty have any horizontal scratching surfaces in addition to the vertical scratching post? Some cats just like different "angles of attack" for scratching, so to speak, because one of the reasons they do it is to stretch their muscles, and different angles stretch different muscles. If she's scratching the floor perhaps she really likes the stretch she gets from the horizontal surface.

    Those cheap cardboard scratchers are a good option to try out – you could put one in each room and anytime you catch her scratching the floor, just gently pick her up and move her to the scratcher. Hopefully after a few times she'll get that the scratchers are the appropriate place to do it.

  • Sarah D. Bunting says:

    @Kim: Ohhhhh yeah. It's the old "claw claw claws stop; make eye contact; continue clawing" and I'm pretty sure she learned it from the late, sometimes-not-so-great Little Joe. Brat.

  • Erin says:

    You can try these as well:

    I successfully used these in keeping my cats from scratching a plant and scratching under the bed as well as to keep them from jumping on kitchen counters. It's great because it's motion activated, so they get close to the spot and get a little burst of air and a scare but it doesn't hurt them. Plus, they don't associate the bad behavior with you (and your water sprayer). The only issue here would be if the spot is not in an area where you could set up the canister without setting it off yourself.

  • RC says:

    Or maybe a "mischief mischief pause, stare, I dare you to spray me, I know the bottle is just out of your reach and if you go for it you'll never get to it in time and I'll be gone, so I will continue mischief until I force you to get up"?

    Does she scratch the post when it's on the spot, or scratch around it? If it's the former, perhaps you could slowly move the post away from that spot so her attention moves elsewhere in the room? Other than that I'd go with Sars's suggestions.

  • Jobiska says:

    My biggest concern would be if the tape actually interacted with the finish (well, what remains of it) on the floor. Lingering adhesive is one thing (that Goo Gone or Undu can take away), but an actual change in the finish is something else.

    We used Sticky Paws tape (it comes in rolls looking very like packing tape, or in strips) on our couch and it did help keep them off but we got lazy and the couch got scratched up. But the one good thing is the adhesive never changed consistency and we were able to peel off the old tape months and months later with no change to the fabric.

    Therefore, I speculate (but don't know from experience) that it might be easier to remove from the floor than regular office-supply double sided tape–and it's lots wider, so easier to apply quickly for more coverage.

  • Jen S 1.0 says:

    Yeah, our Peanut still tries to pull the ol' *scritchscritchscritch*
    "ARE YOU SCRATCHING THE NEW SOFA???" *stomps out* *scampering sound* *Peanut emerges from kitchen all "I am HURT and SHOCKED at your insinuation" routine.

  • Kathy S says:

    Our kitty was doing the same thing not to our floors, but to our rugs. We found, purely by accident, that while he doesn't like those cardboard alternatives (even when coated in catnip), a simple coir door mat works. He has now been redirected to the doormat (which conveniently covers the completely frayed edges of the carpet), and I haven't noticed any "shedding" of the coir.

  • Bubbles says:

    No alternatives that haven't been mentioned. A note on the cardboard scratchers, though, you will have flakes of cardboard everywhere, if you don't keep up with the vacuuming. Hilariously, our long-haired kitty loves sleeping on the damn thing after he's done his scratching, so he's always covered in bits of cardboard dandruff.

  • Nikki says:

    If you're worried about tape on the floor and don't want to invest in a mat, tinfoil works pretty well.

  • Kate says:

    I once redirected a cat who liked to scratch door frames by making a sisal covered post. A quick google of "horizontal sisal scratcher" turned up a lot of good results, and if you're the handy type you could probably make one yourself. I'll put in another vote for trying the cardboard pads; a lot of cats really love them, and if not they're at least cheap.

  • Krista says:

    I find that cats like raw wood. Since it's scratched, I'd try varnishing over it. Mine never bother with wood that's painted or sealed somehow. Must be something about the smell.

  • Drew says:

    Agree on the sticky tape. My recently passed kitty made a mess out of the side of my leather desk chair years ago until I bought a product called Sticky Paws, which looks like tape but is sticky on both sides and peels in strips that are long enough and wide enough to cover the areas that she would scratch on the chair. She hated the sensation of getting her claws stuck in it and gave up on it pretty quickly. The stuff's not expensive and peels off without leaving any kind of sticky gunk on the furniture, or in your case, floor in question.

  • Cyntada says:

    Bit late to the party here, but if OP still needs a hand, one of those prickly brushy natural fiber doormats might tempt kitty to scratch more than the floor. I received a couple of those along with something heavy I bought (they had been protecting the guy's floor from the heavy item) Dumped these aside to deal with later, and before that could happen the cat informed me they were now HERS. She sleeps on them, scratches on them, rubs her cheek on them, total Cat Love. If yours ignores such a mat, you can always fling it on the porch for muddy boots.

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