Cat scratching is a natural behaviour but needs to be discouraged if we are to live in harmony with our feline friends.
Cats love a good carpet to scratch. Stair banisters and other wooden and textured objects are a big attraction too. Finding things that we work so hard to keep looking nice being scratched and shredded is deeply annoying.
What can we do to prevent coming home to discover this type of damage?
Step One: Manage Expectations
Cats will always scratch! There is no way of stopping them altogether. They scratch out of instinct so rather than tearing your hair out in an attempt to stop the behaviour altogether, find ways to facilitate your cat’s scratching that benefit both kitty and your soft furnishings.
Scratching is important for your cat’s well-being, so it should be praised and promoted – in ways that suit you.
It’s imperative to provide a personal area where your cat can indulge in his or her desire to scratch. If you don’t your kitties will turn their attention to anything that is tough enough to lacerate – and it’s likely to be something you value!
Step Two: Understand Why Cats Scratch
It is natural for cats to get their claws into things. They generally do it to:
- Mark their territory
- Condition their claws
- Have a good stretch.
If you think the habit is excessive it may be a sign of insecurity or anxiety. You may consider getting advice from your vet.
When a cat scratches, it is to shed the outer layer or ‘husk’ of the claw, and encourage fresh growth. In so doing the animal has an opportunity of stretching out, arching its back and flexing its feet. The majority of cats enjoy a good scratch after eating or sleeping.
Upheaval and change can trigger stress in a cat. Even simple things like increased cleaning, new furniture, or domestic DIY can lead to your cat misbehaving. It’s important to understand that your cat’s scratching is likely to be instinctive and an emotional response to some environmental trigger or other. Your cat is not deliberately attempting to sabotage your home.
Step Three: Introduce a Scratch Post
Discovering a scratching post your cat enjoys is vital but can be difficult. If you can, identify when and how they like to scratch.
Most cats like to scratch in an upright position, standing on their hind legs. This is indicated by your cat repeatedly scratching the legs of furniture and upholstery. In these cases a vertical scratching post is probably the answer.
It is advisable to place the post in an area where they can routinely scratch as they go about their daily business and out of your way. For cats that show a reluctance to engage with a post then there are manufacturers like Ancol who offer scratch posts that include catnip, as an encouragement. To help correlate use of the scratching post with good behaviour, you could also offer treats when they start to use their scratching post.
Some cats love climbing on work surfaces, windowsills, beds and tables, anything that is raised up really. Some also like to hide under furniture and inside cupboards. There are many intricate scratch posts that incorporate tunnels and multi-levelled platforms.
These cane become well-used activity centres for your pets, which is beneficial for because it enables exercise. This activity also helps keep your cat agile both physically and mentally.
Step Five: Reducing the Scratching Habit
Among other simple measures that can deter bothersome scratching at home are:
- Regular nail trimming
- Mental stimulation
- Catnip toys
- Treating furniture, carpets and other prohibited area with deterrents like orange peels, bitter apple spray, and even vinegar
- Praising your cat for using a scratch post
- A squirt of water to send the message that some areas are not acceptable places to be scratching.
- Being consistent with your body language and tone
- Praising your cat when it uses the scratching post correctly.
Step Six: Extreme Measures
If scratching just can’t be deterred with simple methods and conditioning, it may be time to consider more extreme measures.
Cats, don’t like the unusual, like unexpected noises or sticky surfaces, so you may want to think about:
- Covering your furniture with something that is not going to cause damage but is unpleasant for your cat
- Applying double-sided tape around furniture legs
- Wrapping prohibited items in tin foil
- Attaching balloons to the areas you want to protect
- Dangling tins filled with small stones or coins from furniture so the rattle puts the cat off.
There is a wide range of products to tackle cat scratching, including a variety of durable scratch mats and posts, along with some textured sisal cat climbers and hide-outs.
The cat climbers are a brilliant idea, particularly for multi-cat households as they are made up of a number of scratch posts within an exciting multi-faceted structure that includes ladders, sleeping quarters and some hanging playthings.
If you have any of your own advice and stories to share, please do so, on our Facebook page! We would love to hear them 🙂