Redirecting Attention Seeking Carpet Scratching?

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Redirecting Attention Seeking Carpet Scratching?

Post by sunshinebilly »


I need some advice on redirecting my cats attention seeking behaviour please? My cat is a rescue who I’ve had for 3 years now, and he’s decided I’m his person. He is only 3yrs old so he still loves to play, problem is he only wants to play with me or my family. He doesn’t like to play by himself, the only exceptions are his treat ball and if I add catnip to a fluffy feather toy he has but only if I’m in the same room. We’ve moved house this year and there’s a lot more carpet than we used to have, so he has taken to scratching the carpet wherever I am when he wants something or isn’t able to get to something/something isn’t right e.g there’s a cushion where he wants to sit. A lot of the time he’s asking for play time, and if you give him what he wants the scratching stops. However, I need to redirect how he’s asking for things. I can’t have him keep scratching the carpet but I’m not sure how to redirect him.
(Note: he has places to scratch, food/water available)
Any advice very much appreciated, thank you!
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Re: Redirecting Attention Seeking Carpet Scratching?

Post by Mollycat »

Hi and welcome to the forum. I don't really have much to offer here but nobody else has commented yet so ...

Not something I'd normally recommend but have you considered a playmate for him?

How are you reacting to his carpet scratching - do you shout, tell him off, start to play, ignore ...?

If he was just using the carpet to do his claws I would say a scratch mat as some prefer those to a vertical post but it sounds like that's not the issue and he wants you. Good on you for looking into a real understanding and solution to the underlying issue and not just papering over the cracks in his behaviour.

Do you notice signs he's going to start before he actually starts? If you do and can step and in redirect his attention before he starts that would work better. otherwise the behaviour gets reinforced by you reacting to it, if that makes sense. The only place my girl used to scratch was the headboard of my bed to wake me up, I could never stop her doing it because it achieved what she wanted (waking me up) and I couldn't catch her before she started because obviously I was asleep. About once every couple of years she goes to scratch the sofa and before she starts I say No Molly we don't do that, then ignore her, and usually she then asks for something - food, a cuddle or a game - and gets it.
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Re: Redirecting Attention Seeking Carpet Scratching?

Post by lilynmitz »

I understand your pain completely. Most of my cats over the years have had a go at the carpets to varying degrees, but Toby takes it to a whole new level and we've had to resign ourselves to fluffy carpets. He does it when he's excited, when he wants attention, when he's hungry, when he can’t open a door, and, most bizarrely, whenever we put something new on the floor (eg a bag of shopping, a bit of newspaper on the floor when drying wet shoes, anything really). In the latter case it's partly excitement and partly scent marking (cats have scent pads in their paws). Ignoring him when he does it makes no difference, because frankly he is a complete nutcase, and normal rules don't apply. It might work with some cats, with a LOT of persistence and consistency, but given that Toby does it even when we're not here (we find the fluffy patches round things on the floor when we get home), it's unlikely to work with this little horror.

We have learnt a few things that help though:

1. Keep a plant squirter to hand, and when he's actually scratching, give him a verbal warning in a very stern voice (so he learns to associate what's about to happen with your tone of voice), and if that doesn't work, give him a quick squirt. Very quickly all you'll need to do is actually shake the plant squirter, and they stop. But this does mean that you'll have to have plant squirters readily to hand. Sometimes just the stern voice is enough to stop him now though.

2. On the same psychology, I also have a loud squeaky toy by my desk in the spare room, and when he starts scratching to get my attention I give it a few squeaks and that usually stops him in the moment.

3. Put double sided sticky tape (eg "Sticky Paws") in the areas that he favours scratching. It may just redirect him to somewhere else, but it will at least spread the load and will stop some spots (usually by doors or in corners) from becoming threadbare. You may find you can take them off eventually and he won't return to that spot as the habit has been broken and/or he associates the spot with the sticky experience. ... 452&sr=8-8

4. Put a scratching post in the spots he favours most. You may end up with loads of them (we have four) but it does seem to have done the trick for those parts of the house, and he has finally learnt to use the scratchers in those spots.... although sometimes he just scratches the carpet around the post ... :? so we put a carpet offcut under the scratching post, which he can wreck to his heart's content

5. You can get citrus based sprays (from pet shops) that may stop him from using particular spots, although we tend not to use them as I would need to top it up so frequently I'm not sure whether it would eventually stain the carpet

6. We have one of these to get the fluff off the carpet and return the knap - it's an absolute godsend. We just go round prior to vacuuming and give the carpet a quick brush down with this in the direction of the knap, and it makes a huge difference ... 436&sr=8-6

But the main thing, which I think you've realised, is to listen to him and try to respond. He's not doing it for the fun of wrecking the carpet, he's trying to tell you something. A contented cat is much less likely to be destructive so we work to fulfill Toby's needs, which is actually very rewarding as it makes us interact with him and play with him more. And let's face it, it's much more fun than working or surfing the internet.

Your puss wants your attention for a reason, be it affection, shared play time (most cats much prefer to play with us than to play on their own), hunger, wanting to be let out, etc. While some dislike cats for being aloof, we should feel blessed when we have one that is a communicator, and that wants to interact with us. With Toby, despite his destructive method of communication, he is a really funny character and very sweet natured. It's like having a demented two year old in the house sometimes, but despite his hyperactivity he constantly makes us laugh. He's not a lap cat but loves attention and interaction, so instead of focussing on his faults, we adapt to his personality and try to accommodate it. It's been a slow learning curve for both parties, but he is learning that there are other ways of getting through to us, and we are learning to understand what he's trying to tell us before he destroys the house!

I hope this helps.
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