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Im in New Zealand. The cat (probably female), has been with us for 5 years, but my parents are sick of her killing our trees with her claws. We think she was abandoned by her previous owners and lived alone for some time. She took over after our own last cat died. She went from being untouchable to loving and sneaking indoors occasionally.

But she simply won't learn, no matter what we do to protect our backyard trees, to stop causing their demise. She can't be dewormed without a major effort or held for more than 30 seconds. But we know she desires to be more of pet, only she was just not raised right. I was often overseas, but came back because of covid. I really love her, but I have no money to move out right now and even if I did, I don't see how I could take her with me.

But I hate the idea of leaving her to just anyone the SPCA lets adopt her. Especially with her behavior, I'm worried shell be abandoned or put down as she is at least 7 years old. Im also worried about the experience of being forcibly removed would be traumatic for her. I'd love some practical advice on this one.

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    does the cat have scratching posts she can use to keep her claws sharp so she do not have to use the trees? protecting trees from damage from cats is about the simplest thing one can do all you need is a piece of carpet and some rope/wire to fasten the carpet on the stem of the tree,it does not even need to be a carpet you can use cardboard and or sticks around the stem of the trees too,to be honest your family need a better excuse to move the cat. – trond hansen Aug 18 at 8:51
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    I'm actually having trouble envisioning this. Most cats seem to prefer to scratch on very stable objects, so big trees--which are easily able to handle a few scratches (our family housecat only leaves a few barely visible surface marks, not getting past the outer bark at all). Are the only trees around very young saplings? Are you sure there isn't something else causing damage to the trees, like insect damage or another cat/dog marking with urine? – user3067860 Aug 18 at 13:37
  • Not at all affiliated with them, but something like Critter Ridder works great (don't know if it's available in NZ, though...). It's not harmful to the animals, but it is made with oils infused with hot pepper, black pepper, etc - it's unpleasant to them and keeps them away but does not harm them. Because of the oil content it tends to not wash away very easily so lasts a while. – J... Aug 19 at 16:10
  • I can't imagine a cat killing a normal tree. It must be a very aggressive cat or very thin barked trees. – Troy Turley Aug 19 at 17:53
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Wouldn't it be a better solution to protect the trees from the cat than to remove the cat from the family?

First of all, it's impossible to teach a cat not to scratch on anything. The claws of cats grow in layers and must be shortened and sharpened. By scratching on hard, rough surfaces, preferably tree bark, cats shed the old outer layer of their claws, which makes them a tiny bit shorter and exposes the fresh, sharp layer underneath. This is an ingrained instinct and cannot be discouraged by punishment and it's the reason why every cat owner should also own a cat tree or scratching post.

Scratching posts are usually simple cardboard tubes that are wrapped in thin sisal or hemp rope. Try to find such a rope at home or in a hardware shop and wrap it around a few trees where your cat usually scratches. If there are too many trees to wrap them all, you can protect the remaining ones with chicken wire, pieces of old carpets or doormats or a similar fence.

The rope should be tight enough not to fall off the tree, but not so tight that the tree is constricted. I would rewrap the rope at least once a year (you can use the same rope again if it's still intact enough) to adjust it to the size of the tree trunk.

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    I upvoted this because it is good advice but the bit about cats claws growing and needing shortening is not accurate. Cat claws grow in layers, and they shed the order layers bringing fresh sharp layers to the surface. It's this shedding, rather than shortening, that they need to scratch in order to induce. – Jack Aidley Aug 18 at 13:40
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    As an added bonus, measures to prevent the cat from damaging the tree will also help prevent other wildlife from damaging the tree. – Zibbobz Aug 18 at 14:44
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    I've also made cat scratching posts from sisal carpet scraps, which I found to be cheaper than sisal rope (and easier to work with), especially for anything more than a small area. – Nuclear Hoagie Aug 18 at 15:23
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    @Acccumulation Thanks for the typo. Cats can be trained, but they are very independent and often chose to ignore boundaries. You can browse existing "cat training" questions by using the search function. – Elmy Aug 18 at 20:12
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    My vet recommended catnip spray, to be used on the scratching posts where you want the cats to scratch. I used it. It worked for one of my cats, but not the other one who seems to be immune to catnip... – Greenstone Walker Aug 19 at 2:57
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The cat will scratch somewhere. That's how their claws work.

Possible mitigation measures (in any combination):

  1. Offer the cat few better objects for scratching. Scratching pads, posts, raw boards of different wood, etc. ... it is important to fix them well enough so the cat doesn't move them much when scratching. Cats are not interested in scratching objects that move freely.

  2. Band the tree bases with something glossy (thick polyethylene and/or duct tape may work) until the cat chooses some other object.

  3. There are commercially available cat repellents and attractants in spray or liquid form. Ask local veterinarians and use repellent on the trees and attractant on the intended scratching objects.

  4. Protect the tree bases permanently with something impenetrable for cat claws that has acceptable aestetics.

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You can't stop a cat from scratching but you can change its habits

One possibility, aside from making scratching posts which you should anyway, is to smear non-toxic grease (such as vaseline) on the trees. Cats hate getting their paws greasy and she'll soon learn. Once she gets in the habit of only using the scratching posts you can stop using the grease.

Note also that kitchen foil is good. Wrap that around the base and most cats won't want to touch it.


EDIT

I agree with the comment by @Elmy. It is important to avoid using anything that is toxic to cats. This is not always the same as what is toxic to humans.

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    Just to err on the side of caution: most essential oils are poisonous for cats and can be absorbed through the skin of the paws. Cooking oil and vaseline is safe, but please don't use any scented oils or essential oils where a cat might touch them. – Elmy Aug 19 at 12:35

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