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Thursday, May 25, 2006

reader questions: destructo-cat

I got a reader question today, and I thought I'd take the time to answer it here instead of in the comments as usual, since it's got some bearing on some other stuff I plan to go into fairly soon.

Snay asked:

"I've got a cat who is steadily scratching away the framing from the bathroom door. I don't really care to stop her (becuase I rent and my security deposit is only like $100), but I'd like to know if there's any "quick fix" to at least make it look a little better ... ?"

Well, there isn't a magic wand, but the fastest, simplest thing you can do is to buy some sandpaper (or, if you're like me, root around in somebody else's toolbox until you find some stray sandpaper), and sand down the rough spot. Make sure to sand a little bit around it so it's not immediately obvious that half of the thickness of the frame is gone in one area. If your doorframe is unfinished or raw wood, you can stop there.

Incidentally, if it is unfinished, that may be why the cat is scratching it -- our cat will only scratch unfinished wood; a piece of scrap lumber makes her just as happy as the most expensive cat toy we can buy, and our couches have been untouched since the day we bought them.

If your doorframe is finished in a wood stain and you'd like it to not look totally weird, you'll need to buy a small can of stain in the closest color you can find to the existing stain. It shouldn't be too hard -- most rental places use very standard stains and finishes. Buy a teeny little can of stain and keep it on hand for other things you or your cat might destroy. After you've stained it, I'd recommend slapping some clear polyurethane on top. Make sure, again, to match whatever finish is on the rest of the wood (it comes in satin, semi-gloss, and high-gloss).

Of course, I'm going to tell you to use water-based products. I can't stress it enough. It's so much safer, especially in this situation, with a pet at nose-level. Both stain and polyurethane come in water-based versions. If you're using Minwax, which is what they sell at Home Depot, it's the blue cans, not the yellow cans.

If your frame is painted, sand it down and decide whether you want to go to the effort of getting your paint color matched in order to get the right color of paint to touch up (hint: I can virtually guarantee your answer will be no -- matching paint for little touch-ups is Not Worth It with capital letters). At least it won't be quite so rough anymore.

I'm going to go into a lot further detail about stains and finishes in another post very soon, when I talk about finishing furniture. Stay tuned.


Malnurtured Snay said...


Awesome! Thanks. It's painted white (er, except where she's ripped it away), but my big concern isn't the paint but rather softening it up so no one cuts themselves walking into the bathroom. Thanks for the detailed response! I feel very special :)

(I suppose I should buy a scratching post, too).


Malnurtured Snay said...

(Oh, and, y'know, so the maintenance guys don't throw a hissy fit the next time they inspect my apartment).

Jamaila said...

I wouldn't worry too much about spending a lot of money on a scratching post; we bought our cat one when we first got her, and she hasn't touched it once in three years. Ingrate. If your cat likes to scratch wood, you could even see if you could grab a piece of wood and slap some paint on it and set it firmly upright (attached to a larger piece of wood, maybe) somewhere where your cat likes to go.

You could always take the Catopia route! :)

Summer said...

The best scratching post I ever bought was really tall and covered with sisal carpet. My cats took to it instantly. It lets them really stretch and dig in. Most of the carpet ones in the store suck, but I got this over the web and it was designed by a vet... made from solid wood so it doesn't tip over, which is key. You have to find what they like to scratch, a piece of wood might be a good buy.

Oh, and I know you already paid your security deposit, but don't be surprised it they charge you more for the frame when you move out... they'll do that if the deposit doesn't cover the damage.

Malnurtured Snay said...

I had a scratching post covered in carpet -- I threw it out when they tore the carpet apart :)

Summer --

I think I'll be okay. They didn't charge me for the damage to my previous apartment, and even let me carry over my deposit to this one. I'd imagine a certain amount of damage to an apartment is expected, and only if it really exceeds what might occur from "living" (I've been here almost three years) would I expect an extra bill.