Stick Training for Rupert

I'm not always sexy, but when I am ... I am.

I’m not always sexy, but when I am … I am.

Rupert has started putting his pins into the furniture, even though we have several appropriate scratchy things in the room, and the reason this happened is part of a two-fold problem.

  1. He has no idea what the appropriate scratchy things are for.
  2. During playtime, the flying caterpillar toy has gotten hung up on the chair arm, inadvertently causing Rupert to put his feet on the furniture in a clawing fashion in order to get the toy. (Totally my fault.)

Feral cats are not attracted to fabric on their own. They scratch fences and tree roots and trunks. They like wood. Big cats do this and so do small cats. Wood feels and is the natural thing to scratch. We human idiots put fabric and carpet on cat scratchers, and thus, inadvertently got our cats attracted to textures that shouldn’t attract them in the first place. Once they get fixated on a texture, it’s difficult to break them of the habit. You can do avoidance therapy using repellent sprays and sticky tape, but I try to establish furniture and carpet avoidance from the start sans the negative by giving them something that feels more natural to them: Wood, cardboard, and even sisal. My favorite thing though is the stick.

Anyway, since Rupert didn’t know what the stick was, even though Moon had shown him on several occasions, he wasn’t even going near it, so we had to put some anti-skid rubber on the legs so that it wouldn’t slide on the hard floor; then I moved it to right in front of his litterbox so that he would have to pass it several times a day. The move also placed it directly in front of the chair arm he was starting to abuse. That said, just putting it in their way doesn’t get them using it. They have to get their feet on it, more importantly the scent pads of their feet. They need to feel it. Mark it. That’s how scratching works.

Moon was easy. I used treats. He had to stand on his hind legs and put his front feet on it in order to get a treat. We made this a ritual twice a day until he was using the stick regularly. Once he discovered how good it felt, he was attracted to it, and now uses it all the time. He loved on it so much that he whittled the first one into an hourglass shape.

Rupert is very standoffish still, so the treat thing won’t work, but we thought his favorite toy might. Sunday, during our flying caterpillar play session, I hooked it over the stick and made it look like the caterpillar was climbing up the stick. He took the bait immediately, and the look on his face when he sunk his claws into the nice soft wood was priceless. He ignored the caterpillar and kept on scratching.

We will continue to do this every day for at least a month, or until I can see that he is using it all the time and not just during play, but this is a great start.

scratchThese are the sticks I use. They last forever and they are way better at grooming the claws than anything else. We use cardboard too, but they are just more fun than practical. We keep using them though because it’s nice for the cats to have different textures, and they seem to like shredding them, though my husband did construct angled wooden bases to hold the cardboard inserts so that they are sturdier and mimic the angle of tree roots.

You can spray the stick with catnip spray too. The cedar smells nice, but the addition of the catnip spray makes it smell wonderful.

Note: you will have to vacuum up wood shavings periodically, but that is a small price to pay to save your furniture.


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