Q: We have a 6-month-old kitten and we are keeping him as an indoor cat. We do not want to declaw him if at all possible. However, we got him two scratching posts, and he refuses to use them. Instead, he uses the back of our couch and our carpeted stairs to sharpen his claws. We put catnip on the scratching posts, and we take him and rub his paws on them up and down so he gets the idea, but he just does not seem to understand. How can we get him to use the scratching posts?
A:Cats do not accept our word or assurances for anything, so you showing him the posts and trying to persuade him to use them are only wasting your time and annoying the cat.
Everything a cat does has to be through its own choice or decision. So your job is for the cat to discover that the scratching posts are the best place in the world to use his claws on. To do that, the posts need to compete with the couch and the stairs as a great scratching area.
First of all, the scratching posts need to be very large and strong enough for the cat to lean on without tilting them over. Most scratching posts are just too small and not secure enough for the cat. Those big carpeted cat trees or jungle gyms that have shelves and perches on them are great. From the cat’s point of view, they are much more comfortable than our furniture, and the pet chooses to work its claws on their carpeting. You need to make the back of the couch and the stairs less comfortable for the cat to use. Strips of double-sided tape will work well on the couch, and putting a plastic carpet runner over the stairs for a week or so will force the cat to look for another place to use. The alternative jungle gym should be nearby.
As soon as the cat is using the cat tree regularly, you can remove the tape and carpet runner because you’ve tricked the cat into making your idea its idea, and it will continue to use the cat tree as long as it is in good condition.
Q: We have been reading about the dog treats from China that have poisoned dogs, and we would like to know if there are any treats that are 100 percent safe. We have no idea what to buy anymore.
A: As far as treats go, the only ones you really know are not susceptible to human error are just cut-up fruits and vegetables — and dogs love them. The only ones that are bad for dogs are grapes and onions.
We give our dogs those little baby carrots and cut up apples, and they adore them. We keep them in a plastic container in the fridge, and as soon as we take it out and shake it, the dogs come running.
The dogs don’t care at all that the snack is a piece of carrot and not some manufactured thing that is designed to look like a piece of bacon.
They are just happy to get something to eat that they did not have five minutes before — and you can give your dog as many carrots and apples as it wants and not worry that it will get fat or suffer from human error in some factory somewhere.