Help… my cat is ruining my sofa, bed, wicker laundry basket (insert prized furniture possession here)! This is a call I receive almost weekly. Why oh why are our furry feline friends so intent on destroying our belongings? Is it out of spite? Malice? Or something else?
Why do cats scratch?
Scratching is a normal feline behaviour and they do it for a number of reasons:
- Maintenance of claws –old claw coverings are shed when cats scratch. It also sharpens and shortens the claws.
- Stretching – ever notice that a cat will often scratch after it has woken up? It is our equivalent of a satisfying morning stretch!
- Muscle maintenance – scratching is a way of keeping their hunting leg muscles in tip top shape.
- Marking – scratching provides both a visual signal (the scratches themselves) and a pheromonal signal to other cats. Cats have lots of scent glands between their toes and scratching is a way of saying ‘come read my message over here!’ Scratching behaviour can sometimes increase in times of stress and be seen in ‘socially important’ areas to the cat.
Picking a scratching post
Many commercially available scratching posts are totally unsuitable for cats. When trying to stop your feline scratching your furniture, you need to make sure you have provided them somewhere appropriate to carry out this innate behaviour.
Things to look for:
- Sufficient size – the scratching post should be 1.5 x the length of the cat when standing on their hind legs and stretching up.
- Sufficiently sturdy – Many scratching posts are flimsy and will wobble when leant on by the cat, which will scare them! Make sure the scratching post can easily take 100% of your cat’s weight.
- Consider a horizontal post – some cats prefer horizontal scratching posts – if your cat is scratching your rug think of getting one of these!
- Look for a vertical weave – cats like to scratch in vertical motions. Lots of commercially available scratching posts are horizontal (e.g. rope wrapped around a post) – meaning cats can’t get a good grip and will be less likely to use it.
- Consider the type of material your cat is enjoying scratching and try to provide this in another setting. Corrugated cardboard, wood, carpet and wicker can all make great scratching posts.
You can entice your cat to use the new scratching post by using cat nip, dangling wand toys over them and by rewarding them (food and positive interaction) when they scratch the correct area.During this retraining time, they should not be allowed access to the problem area.
If you have followed my top tips for picking a scratching post and are still having issues with a scratching moggy, contact me for more help. Scratching can be a symptom of an anxiety disorder, so it is important not to ignore it!