LETTERS TO LUCINDA #14: Cat Behavior Solutions

Hello, wonderful two-legged readers. Lucinda the literate cat here, with a new “Letters to Lucinda” offering you cat behavior solutions for your common cat problems.

I looked through the mail bag and found questions on a subject we’ve talked about before, but it’s such a common problem that we are still receiving requests for answers. The issue: claw sharpening. Let’s look at our questions:

The first one is a message from a cat, Toby, who can’t understand his two-legged’s ideas about claw sharpening. Toby says:

I live in an old farmhouse, and am now an indoor cat. It has been my job to clear the place of rodents, mostly mice, but I’ve caught a couple of rats as well.

Small orange cat with mouseI’ve been praised for doing a good job, but sadly, my two-legged doesn’t seem to understand that I must keep my weapons in top condition at all times in order to have continued success.

Instead of praise, she scolds me or chases me away from my nice spot where I can get my claws very sharp so they will do their job. Why, when she wants me to catch the rodents, doesn’t she let me ready my tools for the job?

Lucinda: Of course you are confused. Two-leggeds want you to war on mice but don’t understand what has to be done to keep our tools at the ready.

Perhaps you should let a few of those mice live, so that your two-legged will appreciate your skills. If you could talk, you could tell her to catch her own mice, and then she’d see how far her claws got her!

No, I jokes.  Of course that won’t work. You must insist that your two-legged allow you to hone your tools. After all, it is her job to provide you with appropriate sharpening spots.  She should provide at least one good scratching post.

She also needs to realize that scratching on things is healthy for you. Consider all the reasons those claws need to stay sharp: They are useful for balance and traction. The allow you to defend yourself, climb to a safe place if necessary, defend yourself, and capture food that’s on the run.

How would she feel if she opened the refrigerator and all her food tried to run away? How would she recapture anything, with her inferior tools?

For us cats, each day we ready our claws to be in peak condition. One thing the scratching does is to help strip off old claw sheaths that are outgrown and useless.

Your two-legged is not thinking about your necessary claw care. She is looking at the rug or sofa you scratched and seeing disruptions to the surface. She does not like these kitty autographs, because she did not intend for the surface of those items to be changed.

Therefore, she is not happy with you. Perhaps she needs to provide more scratching spots that are acceptable for you to use. If you were an outside cat, you’d have no problem — you could scratch a tree or a fence. But you live inside now, so your behavior must be modified to keep your two-legged happy.

Perhaps she could bring a large piece of a tree trunk inside for you to use.

3 cats with tree scratching post
If the cat can’t go out, bring the tree in

Hopefully, she will read this post, and perhaps learn of the importance of claw-sharpening. Sometimes two-leggeds are very one-sided when it comes to observing our activities. They have their own ideas and think they can force us to follow their rules. Have they forgotten they are dealing with a cat?

I wish I could convince them that educating themselves as to your needs is essential. Good luck to you, Toby — I hope you and your two-legged can reach an agreement.

Our second letter comes from a Mrs. Davis who is one of those who needs educating.

Lucinda, my cat is destroying my rugs and my furniture! She scratches on everything. What can I do to make her stop?

Lucinda: I understand that you don’t want your rugs and furniture ruined, but I think you need to be taught why your cat is forever sharpening those claws. Did you know that scratching is NOT optional for your cat?

Not only does scratching help your cat to keep her tools in top shape, but it has other physical and psychological purposes. For example, have you noticed that she scratches when she wakes from a nap? Because she reaches up to scratch, she is stretching her body and limbering her muscles.

Certain feelings may create the urge to scratch: She might be nervous, scared, uncertain, excited, or overstimulated. Perhaps she is bored, or just feeling playful. Sometimes she scratches just because it is fun.

In her book, “Outsmarting Cats,” Wendy Christensen lists some things that scratching Tiger cat hanging onto scratching postaccomplishes:

  • It helps her shed those old outgrown claw sheaths
  • She can hone and condition the freshly-exposed new claws
  • She’s getting a yoga workout, because she is stretching her body, and as she pulls her claws down a surface, she is stretching, exercising, and toning all her muscles
  • She’s claiming ownership of that object, marking it as part of her territory
  • She’s being sure her defensive and offensive weapons are at the ready

Wendy also tells us what she is NOT doing:

  • Sharpening her claws to ambush or wound her two-legged
  • Being destructive out of spite, malice, or revenge
  • Commenting on your bad taste
  • Protesting your frequent absences
  • Punishing you for some issue, real or imagined

It is hard for me to believe that a two-legged will even think in such terms. Some of them believe cats act out of revenge or spitefulness, or are just preparing to ambush them. We cats are not like that.

We live each day as it comes, and the things we do are part of a normal cat itinerary. You could learn some things from your cats about motives.

Often you punish us unfairly when you shouldn’t punish us at all. Any wrongdoing is in your mind,Two cat paws scratching cardboard and is the result of a lack of understanding.

Please realize that your cat’s scratching has nothing to do with you. The cat is merely doing what is necessary for his own health and well-being.

Do not yell at her or create a big fuss. Nor should you grab her and remove her from the spot. Do not punish her in any way, or chase her away. If she knows it’s you, spraying her with water is not good.

The reason is the cat will believe those negative messages are from you, and will not connect them with the action you want stopped. You become the villain. Instead, divert her with a toy or a treat that you toss her way. Get up and leave the room, calling her.

By observing what she is scratching, you know what she likes, and where and when she prefers to

Cat scratching at sofa corner with shield
Here is a way to protect sofa corners

scratch. Then supply good scratching spots, including a sturdy post that won’t tip over. It should have a surface your cat can grip, and should be located in a spot where she likes to scratch.

I’m serious about the tree: If there is any way you can include part of a tree in your decor, you might have found a good solution.

Just  remember that your cat needs to scratch for several reasons, so work out a solution that will satisfy both you and the cat.

This concludes our column for this week. I relied heavily on Wendy Christensen’s excellent book this time because she had such good suggestions. If you would like your own copy of Wendy’s very helpful “Outsmarting Cats,” click on the image or the blue highlighted link below, and you will be taken to Amazon where you can get your very own copy.

CCL (Cantankerous Cat Lady) says to tell you that, as an Amazon associate, she will receive a small commission for your purchase. It will not affect your price.

Outsmarting Cats

How To Get The Felines In Your Life To Do What You Want

by Lyons Press

Author: Wendy Christensen

Price: $9.34



2 thoughts on “LETTERS TO LUCINDA #14: Cat Behavior Solutions”

    • That might help. Aren’t your cats outside cats, though? They can probably find lots of things outside to scratch on. You’d need to put that scratching post right next to the door, so they’d get the idea. Sprinkling a little catnip on it helps.


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