My Pet World: Train cat to use scratching posts and stay away from furniture, woodwork
My Pet World

My Pet World: Train cat to use scratching posts and stay away from furniture, woodwork

Dear Cathy,

I have a cat that is clawing the woodwork all over the house. He had even dug out the wood and I had to use filler to fix it. I’m always sanding, repainting and staining. I have used the spray from pet stores and the double-sided tape. How do we stop this? I never catch him in the act, so I can’t stop him.

Is he missing something in his diet? — Joan, Canton, Connecticut

Dear Joan,

Your cat is normal. All cats must scratch their nails to keep them healthy. If your cat is kept inside, he needs a few cat trees of varying sizes and textures, like carpet, sisal or cork, to scratch instead.

Because your cat has established his scratching preferences, you’re going to have to train him to use the new posts. When you do witness him scratching the wood, use a can of coins or a Pet Corrector that makes a hissing sound to interrupt the behavior. Next, spray the places you don’t want your cat to scratch with Bitter Apple. Also, use double-sided tape or put aluminum foil over those same areas. Cats hate these textures and will usually try to avoid them once they know they are there.

I know some of these strategies haven’t worked for you yet, but this is to be used in combination with attracting him to the places where you want him to scratch.

To attract your cat to the new cat trees, spray them with pheromones and leave treats at the bottom of the tree for the cat to discover. Your cat will likely be drawn to the tree where he may eat the treat and stretch his claws. If you see him do this, reward him with another treat or praise.

You might even try rubbing a little catnip onto the cat trees to further pull him in the right direction. It can take time to train a cat to scratch on a different surface, so be patient.

Dear Cathy,

I have a 10-year-old pug. She runs and barks at my son’s girlfriend when she takes her dog out and at my therapist when she leaves. No one else. She almost nips them.

Why would she run at them like that? — Mary, North Las Vegas

Dear Mary,

It’s hard to say why a dog barks at some people and not others. In the case of your son’s girlfriend, it could be she is directing her barking at her dog and not her. As for the therapist, no one can know for sure why, but some dogs do bark at people when they leave, so it’s not entirely unusual.

While you can’t stop a dog from barking, you can stop her from continuing to bark, although it can be a challenge. Try to interrupt the barking by shaking a can of coins or using a Pet Corrector that emits a hissing sound. If she stops, call her to you and ask her to sit. Then give her a treat.

You won’t stop her from barking at people altogether, but you can work to redirect the behavior, so she doesn’t continue to bark or think it’s OK to go after your guests.

Dear Cathy,

I have two adult Yorkies who, believe it or not, still need to be housebroken. When I let them out in my back yard each morning, they will usually defecate. I also let them out in my back yard during the day. In the evening, I take them for a walk after they have had their dinner, and they defecate and urinate. During the day, they use the pee pad but still have accidents off the pee pad.

What can I do besides let them outside more often and give them treats when they finish their business? They’re both rescues, so I don’t know their ages or if they were ever crated. Are they ever too old to be crated? — Linda, Farmingdale, New York

Dear Linda,

When dogs are trained to use pee pads, they sometimes think that means they can pee in the house so long as they find something to pee on. Unless they are very old dogs, you can see if they will tolerate some crate training when you are off running errands. If they are crated for short periods of time, they may be able to hold it better until you get home.

Cathy M. Rosenthal is a longtime animal advocate, author, columnist and pet expert who has more than 25 years in the animal welfare field. Send your pet questions, stories and tips to Please include your name, city and state. You can follow her @cathymrosenthal.

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