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Don’t Chew that Shoe!

As much as we love the patter of our pets footsteps around the house, there’s no denying that they sometimes don’t make for the tidiest of housemates.

Many behaviours that we would label as ‘destructive’ – chewing, scratching, and digging, for example – aren’t often welcomed inside a house, many of us preferring they were kept to more appropriate times and places, if at all. However, these are natural behaviours for our pets, with many breeds hardwired to want to exhibit them. Rather than trying to restrict them, there are simple things we can do to instead redirect their behaviours to somewhere or something more suitable.

Dogs love a good chew – be it to help with teething or jaw-strengthening, out of boredom, frustration, an abundance of energy, or one of many other reasons. It’s a natural behaviour for dogs, and there’s a number of steps we can take to save our shoes from a shredded fate. Providing high quality chew toys, such as a Kong (filled with, for example, peanut butter) is one way to tempt them away from the table leg. Keeping good oral hygiene will remove the need to chew as relief from dental discomfort. Ensuring they’re given plenty of opportunities for both physical exercise and mental stimulation will mean that time at home is used for napping, rather than gnawing.

Cats have many reasons for scratching, including conditioning their nails, stretching their spine and marking their territory through the scent glands in their paws. If your curtains or lounge suite have become the latest target for this behaviour, the best approach is simply to provide something better. A high-quality, suitably tall scratching post is the obvious choice, but many cats will enjoy a thick cut of cardboard as a suitable – and low-budget – alternative. Some studies now show that raising the post to allow the cat to stretch out fully, or placing it at a 45-degree angle, may help to make it more appealing. At first, it’s recommended to place the new scratching surface right next to wherever they’re currently clawing, rather than hidden or in a hard-to-get-to spot.

Holes appearing across your backyard? Digging is a natural behaviour for hundreds of animals – squirrels, foxes, badgers, and of course dogs too. Digging can be done for fun, out of boredom, to hide food and resources, or for any number of reasons. Some breeds of dog have been bred to be extremely efficient at digging, so finding ways to minimise the behaviour can be an uphill battle. Ensuring they’ve got plenty of other avenues to burn energy will help, but providing specific surfaces for digging – such as a sandpit, or a regular trip to the beach – will give them ways to fill that need, without ruining the flower bed!

As for finding fur all over the furniture… well, that’s just part of being a pet owner. Embrace it!

Interested in learning more about dogs and cats, and the work of Edinburgh Dog and Cat Home? Email education@edch.org.uk to arrange a free visit from our education team!

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