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Some folks are under the impression that if you're going to have a pet cat that lives indoors, he's going to need to be declawed. Not so! Declawing can be responsible for more problems than it solves. Some cats have absolutely no trouble with it, but many others don't have the same luck.

The most effective training technique I've found for teaching cats where to and where not to scratch is so simple it's almost embarrassing. Almost. Firstly, a good cat owner realizes that cats have claws for a reason, and that they need somewhere to scratch. So an appropriate outlet for this particular cat-clawing energy must be provided. A carpeted scratching post isn't as great an idea as the people in the pet stores would have you believe. Cats are not interior decorators. It is difficult for them to discern between the carpet it's okay to scratch up and the carpet that covers your floor. A big piece of corrugated cardboard tacked to the wall looks hideous, but it does a great job. Cats love to scratch that stuff. A big tree limb is also a good idea, and it's as cost-effective as the cardboard. You'll just have to get used to the ugliness!

There. Now Fluffy has a place or two where he is allowed to scratch. The trick now is to keep him away from your sofa and recliner and dining room table. Super-sticky double-sided tape does the trick for most cats. You just put it on things you want your cat to leave alone and let him discover the unpleasant stickiness on his own. Don't say anything to him, for the love of all that is good and holy! Your tantrums will only teach him that a) you are extremely weird and maybe a little scary, and b) certain behaviors are only rewarding when you aren't there. In essence, you can teach your cat to be "sneaky". (At least, it will look like sneakiness to you.)

Leave the tape on the furniture for a long time. You'll have to change it now and then because icky stuff floating around in the air will get all over it, it will look like hell, and it will lose its stickiness. Eventually, your cat will realize that he's got a good place to scratch, and that the other places he chooses are crappy. Therefore, he won't even want to scratch the furniture after a while, and you can take the tape off. Training a cat (and really, a dog, or a kid, or a spouse...) is most effective when you can get your subject to believe that whatever you're trying to teach them is something they've come up with on their own. This way, behaviors become self-reinforcing. Exhibiting them is rewarding in and of itself. Then, you don't have to keep re-teaching.

Many people use different oils/scents to deter a cat from a certain area of the house. We stuck a citrus scented air freshener inside the Christmas tree and the cat stopped climbing into it. This will not just keep the cat from scratching the furniture though, it will probably keep it from coming anywhere near the furniture as well. So if you like cuddling with fluffy on the sofa, then I would not recommend spraying it with orange perfume.

There is a whole list of scents that cats detest. So if you don't like the smell of oranges there may be an alternative that you do like.

Cats also will not walk on aluminum foil. This is helpful in keeping them from using potted plants as an extra litter box. Just place foil on top of the soil in the plant. After a while the cat will assume that it's still there and stay out of that plant (and other potted plants as well depending on the intelligence level of the cat).

Miss Creant certainly has the right idea about carpet posts; cats don't discriminate well. And tree limbs are ugly. A better idea is a wood post made of a very soft wood, such as cedar. Such posts are available commercially and on the Internet. Cats can get their claws into the grain, and it also makes a nice sound, which they seem to like.

The best way to train them is to use scratching the post as a way to get a treat. Scratch the post, with your fingernails, say "Scratch" and offer a treat that will cause the cat to put its feet up on the post to get to the treat. When it extends its claws, say "Scratch," and give the cat the treat. It may take a few days, but eventually the cat will get the idea.

For any other scratching behavior, make a hissing sound and then go to the post and do some more training. Even cats that don't like any other kind of post or who use the carpet, this kind of post and technique works.

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