ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Q: My name is Courtney and I have a question regarding my cat Remus. My grandmother and I got him a few years ago. He has been causing major problems by tearing up our toilet paper. Do you have any suggestions as to how I can break him of this bad habit?
Dr. Nichol: Well, Courtney, you have a cat, a creature whose brain is genetically programmed to scratch stuff in order to split off dead portions of his nails so they’ll be sharper weapons for catching and killing his meals. That’s not all. Research has discovered that kitties spread information by way of pheromone-like substances that are secreted between their toes. Scratching stuff is mandatory.
The easiest place for Remus to engage his natural proclivities would be outside. He would leave his messages on logs between feasts on hapless rodents. He might also lunch on a few birds. We prefer that he not further decimate this part of our ecosystem. By keeping Remus inside, you will also be protecting him from infectious disease, dogs and automobiles.
Toilet paper may be highly valued at your house, but rather than correcting or punishing an innate behavior, I suggest closing the bathroom door and providing a floor-to-ceiling cat tree. Equipped with platforms and hidey-holes, and located against a window, this behavioral “naturalizer” can help Remus function like a real cat within the safety of your home. If the cat tree’s posts are wound with sisal rope, your boy can rip into it like the shredding fiend that he legitimately is. Treat the surfaces with a pheromone attractant called Feliscratch and Remus will be drawn like a magnet to his spiffy new scratching post. Avoid confusing the kid. Do not apply Feliscratch to your toilet paper, your legs, your face, your friends … I think you get the idea.
Cats do best with choices. Leave a couple of “cat scratchers” on the floor in different rooms for Remus to lay into on a whim. By adding a fireplace log to your home décor, Remus will appreciate the authenticity of the real thing. He’ll think he’s died and gone to heaven.