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PitRottMommy, Veterinary Nurse
Category: Cat
Satisfied Customers: 9094
Experience:  15 yrs experience in vet med, 8 in emergency med. Founder of a non-profit animal rescue
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What are some methods for training a cat not to scratch

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What are some methods for training a cat not to scratch people?
We had a stray come to use last December and we kept her warm and safe during the cold of Winter.
She plays very aggressively, very prone to scratching whatever is in her zone.
She may be a candidate for declawing all 4 paws if she can't be more tame.
Any suggestions?

Hello, JACustomer. I have been a Veterinary Nurse for over 15 years and would be happy to help you today. I'm reviewing your question right now.

Customer: replied 1 month ago.
Are there ways to eliminate aggressive play scratching in a cat?
This one has scratched every possible area, face, nose, feet, ankles.
Not sure we will keep her, but I'm thinking she won't be anybody's lovable pet if she's scratching at them with front and back legs.
At least she would be limited to biting if completely declawed.

KD, I am so very sorry that you did not receive a followup message from me. I typed a long message with questions for you and apparently it did not come through. One of our moderators is looking into this to see if there might have been a bug on our message. Again, I am very sorry. I did not know that you had not received my correspondence until a short while ago and I want to apologize greatly.

Can you clarify if she plays aggressively with both cats and people, or just people?

Have soft paws been tried thus far to see if this helps?

In what manner is she allowed to play with people and how is her scratching people handled?

How often are her nails trimmed?

Customer: replied 1 month ago.
She was a stray who just walked into our back porch so not much to say about how she plays with other cats.
When she has gotten out and she encounters other cats, they do the thing cats do, hiss, act tough, etc.
Not familiar with soft paws.
When we play with her sometimes she if fine and then suddenly she will swipe at your hand, or if she is close to your head she'll swipe at nose.
Nails have not been trimmed.
She is out of control at the vet, pretty aggressive and not docile.

As you've mentioned before, biting would be her limitation if she was declawed...but this often increases in severity once the cat no longer has claws. It may reach a point where it's not safe to be around her at all, so I would avoid this if at all possible.

Nail trims will at least soften the blow of a swipe.

Soft paws are little nail caps that go over the natural nail and stay on with a drop of glue. Kinda similar to the idea of artificial nails in women. In any case, they're soft and rubbery so they soften the pressure from the nail, keep cats from destroying furniture, etc. If she will sit on someone's lap calmly or allow her feet to be played with while she's asleep you'll likely be able to apply these on your own at home. Some mobile vets will also come to your home (to minimize the stress of the vet) and apply them if she's too feisty for your own restraint efforts.

Customer: replied 30 days ago.
Not too many behavioral or training approaches to modify this behavior?
She is not spayed yet, I was kind of hoping that once that was done she'd be a calmer cat in general.
She's seen a vet twice, once for routine stuff and she scratched the assistant and was pretty disagreeable.
The second time was when she went out a window and fractured her pelvis. We spent six hours listening to her go on offensive with the staff who were trying to help her.
Trimming nails or gluing something on them is an idea but probably going to be a lifelong struggle with this cat when it comes time to do it.

Spaying should certainly help to calm her down, which may occur a few weeks following. Be advised that it won't occur immediately and will likely be gradual over time.

She may be a cat that would do best with having someone trim a few nails each day while she sleeps. Since she's a stray and you mention she's out of control at the vet's office, she's likely lived a feral past where aggressive behavior got her what she wanted (if she didn't want to be restrained she may have acted aggressively and found that she was permitted freedom).

As far as behavioral training with playing too hard, the best approach is going to be taking your hands/limbs out of the equation until she's worn out a bit and less likely to act aggressively. That is, use toys like teasers and laser lights to play with her until she's less energetic. Other options to consider would be toys like the undercover bird/mouse, flingamastring, the Bolt, etc. It's also of some usage for many cats to use a water bottle and spray a stream at their back end if they hook a nail into their people. Other cats learn quickly from having all play time removed if they hurt someone with which they're playing.

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Customer: replied 30 days ago.
OK thanks