The good news is that your cat views you as the best source of entertainment in the world, and when you are home, his world is perfect! The bad news is that your cat views you as the best source of entertainment in the world, and when you are not there, the dozen or so opportunities to hunt throughout the day go away, and he easily gets bored. In other words, your Marty the zebra from Madagascar, and your cat is Alex the lion. Let’s treat him like Alex the lion!
First, train that kitty to sit. We are lion training, right? I know, sounds weird. I'm not wasting your time. Promise. Just bear with me. They are actually easier to train to sit than dogs. True story. Here is how:
- When your cat is hungry, get some food or treats out. Having them hungry is key. Canned food on a spoon works and keeps your fingers out of the action.
- Coax him into position - put the treat right up to their face, touching his nose, then raise it up and over the nose, so they sit downward as they are looking up. If all 4 paws are on the ground, give enough treat so they can eat it all in 2 seconds. If all 4 paws are not on the ground, just keep trying it - they will want to sit naturally.
- Remove the treat, and give it again within 2 seconds if he is still seated.
- Do that 5 x in a row. 2 seconds of eating the treat, then 2 seconds with the treat being held away towards your chest. Your are giving them a reward for sitting down continuously.
- If they reach out with a paw (not all 4 paws on the ground), remove the treat until all 4 paws are on the ground again. If they are pawing above them you might have the food positioned to high.
- Move away to a different spot, and repeat the whole thing 4 times. For some cats, you have now taught them to sit within 10 minutes. Especially if you do it for a few days in a row.
Why did we do that? I wanted to prove to you how flexible their behaviour can be when we start talking cat language. When we cleverly adjust what we are doing to coincide what their internal needs are, you are speaking cat. If they have any sort of behavioural issue taking place, learning cat language can save you so much time. And now your cat can do a cool trick to boot.
So let’s learn it as it applies to the issue of your carpet. When a cat is scratching, biting or chewing (probably all in your case), they are performing normal behaviours. I know you know that already because everything on google will tell you that. Why that particular piece of carpet? He could be leaving a visual mark there. This is survival instinct for a cat. He could be engaging in practice hunting and play behaviour. Maybe he needs to condition his claws in a safe area - which also survival instinct for a cat. He stretches his shoulder and back, which feels good. He is still a young thing, and oral behaviour and young things go together. It can be emotionally satisfying. So a cat scratching or chewing is like me drinking beer. It’s going to happen. Putting myself on a patio, with the sun filtering through some leaves, and an IPA. Ahhh….I like it emotionally. It’s recharging the batteries, which is survival instinct.
So, the point is, changing the will or ability to scratch or use their mouths isn't what we want to do, which you already have correctly identified in request to find him some toys. It’s satisfy them in a way that makes sense for them so they stop scratching or destroying places you don’t want them to! You need to both stimulate them in a way they are expecting and provide them with alternatives to relieve boredom.
For many people, our homes are like Alex and Marty's Central Park Zoo. That is, it is designed in horizontal terms, and anything vertical is usually artwork or work surfaces.
Alex and Marty wanted more, and so do our cats. Because their world is just as much vertical, and if we don't give them that option, its harder for them to meed their everyday needs. When I went to the Furkids, a large no-kill cat rescue in Atlanta, it was vertical design heaven, and I didn't see much in the way of chewed up or shredded parts of their establishment simply because of the way their environment was set up (http://www.iwillhelpyourcat.com/videos/#/fiv-cats/)
So the first thing to do is put something vertical at the location where the destroyed carpet is. Like a well designed scratching post. They want to stretch when they scratch and engage in natural behaviour…a tall vertical one could work. But maybe your cat would do ok with a horizontal one as well. Does it wobble? They may not like it. Guess what doesn't wobble? Your carpet floor.
Now, won’t sticking something enriching to him right next to the spot he already destroyed just make things worse? Double sided sticky tape on the carpet. Make that specific area less appealing. And you are not going to leave it there forever. You are just going to engage your cat in a conversation about what he prefers in an area he already feels comfortable in. If your cat is a catnip responder (not all of them react to it), you can rub some on the post as well.
Get your cat to sit in that area as well, from your training above. One by one, you are replacing normal but undesirable behaviours with alternative good emotions. So you have set the stage for success by eliminating frustration for both you and your cat. You can introduce treat-balls, food puzzle, Kongs, and kitty greens to your home as well. When you have set the stage for success, you have a better chance of these working.
P.S. - What about shaker cans and spray bottles. Yeah, you could do that. People do and sometimes it works. It’s kind of like sitting on the patio, sunlight coming in, IPA in hand, and then someone screams in your ear then throws a glass of water in your face. Effective? Yes. I wouldn't go back there again. But ideally, our cats should behave better because of us, and not in spite of us.
Thanks for your question,