A man holding a cat while covered in scratches

Dogs dig. Cows chew. Kittens? They love to scratch. This scratching behavior is something they will grow up with, as scratching is a part of a feline’s natural behavior. But if your wee little one is shredding you and the furniture, it’s time to figure out ways to curb the excessive scratching.

Your friends at Arlington Animal Hospital are here to give you some helpful suggestions how to train a kitten not to scratch. Yes, it is possible!

Why Do Cats Scratch?

Biting and scratching is a common complaint with new kitten owners. They aren’t trying to attack you, but are actually being playful. This is a behavior that you will see among kittens when they are learning the ropes of the later role during the hunt. This cat behavior is seen in wild cats as well, as a way to interact with their peers while they learn how to become a skilled hunter.

Sometimes, the behavior can be instigated by the owner who doesn’t realize that petting their kitten’s face, mouth, or other areas cats don’t care to be touched. Cats need to have plenty of enrichment and exercise, just like dogs, so this “play with me” scratch or bite could be a call for your attention.

There are times when a cat will bite or scratch out of fear, pain, or behavioral problems, however this is usually seen in older cats, rather than kittens. However, if you sense your kitten is biting because of a health issue or fear, contact us for an examination.

How to Train a Cat Not to Scratch and Bite

Many behaviors we don’t appreciate in our pets often stem from being rewarded for the behavior in some form. Whether you scold or laugh, these reactions can encourage the pet to continue doing the behavior, because, after all, our pets want to make us happy. The other reason why your cat may want to do battle with your hand is that they’ve been taught to roughhouse with you or others in the family. 

Here are some recommendations for curbing the scratchy-bitey.

  1. Focus on toys, not your arms and hands. Give your kitten plenty of toys they can attack, including stuffed animals, catnip mice, and other fun things they can play with.
  2. Keep your kitten’s nails trimmed. To do this, use a guillotine set of clippers for kittens or cats and only cut the very tip of the nail to avoid injury or cutting into the quick (the pink portion of the nail). You can ask us for instruction.
  3. Yell “Ouch”! Whenever your kitty gets too rough, yell “ouch” or “hurts” and get up and move away. 
  4. Ignore the behavior. If your kitten wants to roughhouse, simply give them something to do and walk away for a while. They will learn that biting or scratching isn;t getting the attention they want.
  5. Provide lots of cat trees and scratch posts. As your kitty grows, they need to continue to scratch as a part of their instinct and self-grooming. Scratching releases the old sheath from the nail, as well is an expression of territory. Without these important scratching posts and pads, they will resort to the couch and chair.
  6. Redirect your kitten to another activity. If your cat is becoming a terror, get them involved in something else, such as teaching them commands like “sit”and “come”. 

If your little one is misbehaving and you’d like more information on kitten training, please contact us. Just know that with some patience, positive reinforcement for good behavior, and redirection you will raise a perfectly behaved cat.