Maine Coons have a natural instinct to scratch things. No matter what object they find, there will surely come a time when you’ll find them scratching it. This behaviour can become stressful, since it doesn’t reflect very well if most of the furniture in your house has been scratched.
Unlike dogs, cats are indifferent to reward and punishment. Therefore teaching them how not to scratch your furniture can be difficult. However, there are several steps you can take to prevent this behavior:
In order to really prevent a Maine Coon from scratching your belongings, it is essential to understand why they do it in the first place. Since they are not living in the wild, they have no real way of exercising and/or playing. Scratching things serves to them a good exercise for their hands, legs and back in addition to giving them a place where they can sharpen their claws.
Cats are territorial animals; they have an urge to mark their territory. Scratching a surface serves as an indication that a particular territory is theirs. In their minds, they are demarcating the walls between their space and the space of other pets. Some cats may also express their emotions in this way; if they’re missing a loved one or a fellow pet, they may scratch surfaces as a method of rebellion. Therefore, in order to stop a cat from scratching things, one must be patient and understanding with them. Punishing them by not giving them food or striking them may anger them and risk further damage to your belongings. So, they are better treated as like a crying child who’s in need of a pacifier.
While it may seem like the most immediate solution to your pet’s problem, declawing, to a cat, is a painful and stressful procedure. As even a tiny breakage of a nail is painful to us human beings, imagine someone trying to pluck them out completely and leaving the skin under the nails unprotected. Since a cat’s claws are as essential to their proper functioning and well-being as your nails are essential to yours, declawing your cat may have some serious side effects. They may find trouble walking and/or finding balance, and you may notice some overall changes in its behaviour, emotionally and psychologically.
Cats have biologically evolved to have claws; it is in their nature to have to use them constantly for a variety of purposes. It is plain and simple inhumane to have them declawed just because their claws are used for something that you dislike. Their claws are used to unearth a place for them to pee or to poop. If you declaw them, they are very likely to avoid digging a hole because of the pain it may cause, and to do their job anywhere that they find comfortable.
Since cats are not very inclined to be learning, the idea of punishing them for bad behavior and rewarding them for good behaviour doesn’t yield very good reults. Unlike dogs, who have an idea of a social hierarchy and are very insistant on behaving just as their ‘pack leader’ wants them to behave, cats have somewhat of an ego when it comes to learning. With their increasingly sharp memory, they are meant to associate bad feelings with the person who has inflicted some sort of punishment on them.
So instead of punishment working in your favor, it will in fact hinder any progress you have made in terms of building a relationship with your cat. Since cats do not see any of their behaviour as destructive or evil, they do not recognize their mistakes.’ They simply go on to do just as their nature dictates them to do so. Just like human-beings, cats also take a tremendous amount of stress. Punishing them or trying to coerce them into doing certain things would only serve to increase the hostility of the cat towards members of your family. They will likely hide under the couch or stay away from sight just to avoid interaction.
The most commonly used technique to help protect your valuable furniture is to invest in scratch posts. Since these scratch posts are made of material which is essentially really good for scratching and exercising, you will notice that your cat will avoid scratching your belongings. The amount of exercise your cat needs for the day will easily be fulfilled if you have a good scratch post. When out to buy a scratch post, make sure it has a heavy base which will not fall under pressure from your pet’s scratching and make sure that it is tall enough to not be toppled over easily. It is also nice to notice the angle your cat likes to do its scratching activity and to buy a scratch post accordingly.
Invest in as many scratch posts as you can so that your cat has ample space in which in can do the activity and which will help push in the background the rest of your easily wounded furniture. Try to place them in multiple locations and make sure that they are in close proximity to the original items that your cat likes to scratch. Once it has adjusted to this good alternative, it will avoid scratching your belongings.
It is nice to have your most valuable furniture to not be of easy access to your cat. There are some measures you can take to do that. Though it will make your furniture look ugly and undesirable, you can use a large cloth or plastic as a cover.
If and when guests are coming to your place and you don’t want your furniture to look ugly, you can simply remove the covering for the time being and distract your cat’s attention so that it doesn’t reach out for it just as long as you have to uncover it.
While your cat’s seemingly naughty behaviour will cause you a great amount of stress and anxiety, these tips and procedures I have compiled will help you help your cat channel its boundless energy in places where it is more suitable and safe. Avoid nasty and painful procedures and think about measures you can take which will make both, you and your cat happier.
Here’s a handy little video for anybody looking to give their Maine Coon some training.