Destruction of property, furniture, and other household objects is a problem for cat and dog owners alike. While dogs mainly chew up items or gnaw on wooden furniture, cats often direct their destructive tendencies towards upholstered furniture, carpet, and wooden door frames or furniture. But in both cases, the result is damage to items that you value, and the good news is there are ways to make it stop.
One of the main difficulties you’ll encounter when addressing this type of destructive pet behavior is that both chewing and scratching are a natural part of how our animals explore their environment and handle basic self-care. For instance, cats need to sharpen their claws, and they do this by scratching. Dogs, on the other hand, use chewing to learn about the objects they encounter, as well as to keep their teeth and gums clean and healthy.
All of this means that you can’t, nor should you want to, stop your pets from chewing or scratching entirely. What you can do, though, is direct their behavior in an appropriate direction and towards objects you choose for the purpose. Of course, your pet may not immediately accept your alternative, especially if they already have a particular favorite object to chew or spot to scratch. And dogs in particular chew destructively for a variety of reasons, so you’ll have to take that into account when determining the best approach to curbing your pet’s chewing as well.
If your dog does not have any complicating behavioral issues like separation anxiety, your best option is to make sure that he has plenty of appropriate items to chew on. Experiment with different types of chew toys, or even bring your dog to the pet store with you to let him pick out his own. And be sure not to give your dog household items like old shoes to chew on to help avoid confusion about what he is allowed to chew on and what he isn’t.
It’s also a good idea to keep items your dog has tended to chew in the past and that you don’t want him to destroy out of reach, at least until he’s clear in his understanding of which items are his toys and which are yours. Dogs do tend to chew up things when they’re bored, so another part of eliminating unwanted destructive chewing is to ensure your dog is getting enough exercise and stimulation, which also includes attention from you.
If your dog continues to seek out and destroy your personal property after you’ve taken these steps, you may want to consult your vet or a dog behavior professional. They can tell you if there’s something deeper that’s causing your pet to act out, that you’ll need to modify with more directed training and behavior adjustment techniques.
To stop cats from scratching your furniture, carpet, or wood door frames, your best option is to purchase an alternative scratching post or structure to use as a substitute. These come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and textures, and you’ll want to pick one that most closely resembles the item your cat most likes to scratch. In order to encourage your cat to use this new scratching post rather than continuing to scratch your furniture, you can apply a bit of catnip spray to make it more appealing.
For cats, you’ll probably also have to apply some type of deterrent to the place where your pet was scratching before. There are some non-toxic, herbal sprays available for this purpose, or you can use double-sided tape, which is not something your cat will ever want to stick his paws on twice. Just make sure you leave the deterrent on long enough that your cat completely abandons his old spots and fully adopts your substitute scratching option.
It may take longer than you would like to get your pet to stop chewing or scratching your personal property. But if you stick with your strategy and stay consistent, you can effectively redirect the behavior over time and reclaim your house, while still keeping your pet healthy and satisfied.
Dr. Paul has a strong interest in avian and exotic animal medicine and surgery, as well as small animal internal medicine and surgery.
He has provided services for numerous breeders, kennels, aviaries, and mini zoos.