Cats’ Need To Scratch

bigstock-Orange-Tabby-Kitten-3686977Scratching is a natural behavior for cats. Many cat owners wonder if it is even possible to have a cat and nice furniture in the same house. When cats cause damage to furniture, some owners can get so frustrated they turn to declawing the cat. Other owners just assume that to declaw the kitten or cat is just “what you do to an indoor cat.”

The effects of declawing are that it changes the feet and takes away one of the cat’s normal defenses and reduces their climbing ability. All cats that are declawed should be indoor cats only.

Declawing may be able to be avoided by understanding the cat’s needs and providing good alternatives for scratching, along with patience, consistency and praise.

Why Do Cats Scratch?

• To remove the dead outer layer of their retractable claws

• To mark their territory by leaving both a visual mark and a scent (they have scent glands on their paws)

• To release pent-up energy or emotional stress

• To exercise, stretch, and flex

Redirect the Scratching

The first step to solving the problem is to realize that this is a normal feline behavior. She is not doing anything bad or trying to cause damage—she simply uses the best scratching post she can find! We do not want to prevent her from using her claws altogether; just redirect them to an appropriate scratching post or pad.

Getting the Right Scratching Post

You may need to experiment with several scratching posts/objects until you find the one that your cat will like. The post’s location is just as important. Observe the physical features of the objects that your cat is scratching.

Vertical or Horizontal   This is a matter of your cat’s personal taste. They may like both, so several different posts should be offered. Posts should be at least 28” long or tall. They want to stretch, so taller posts are better.

Texture   Is it soft or coarse? Cardboard or sisal rope are typically attractive to most, but actual logs with bark may do the trick.

Location   Put posts near where your cat tends to scratch now and/or where you are. Good choices are locations your cat goes by often in its daily routine, e.g., a spot that would be passed going to and from the litter box. Kitchens and bathrooms are places where you can notice and praise your cat for using the post. Don’t put the post in an out-of-the-way place like a spare bedroom or basement.

More Tips

Stability   Scratching puts a lot of pressure on the scratched objects, so be sure it won’t fall over, as this may frighten the cat and deter future use.

Attraction   Apply catnip to make posts attractive and fun.

PRAISE! PRAISE! PRAISE!

Don’t wait   Like most training, the earlier you start, the better. Remember though, kittens younger than 6 months generally do not respond to catnip as well as adults. You may need to try other incentives.

Cats need to know you are happy with their behavior.

Fix Trouble Spots

Try these techniques in areas where your cat has scratched but you want them not to.

• Use double-sided sticky tape

• Use inexpensive pet repellent or citrus sprays , but be sure not to use these if an appropriate post will be placed in the area. These work best if applied to the area daily until the cat is retrained.

• Move something to interfere with area where unacceptable scratching is happening (i.e., door stop, magazines, footstool). These may be moved later when scratching posts are being used consistently.

• Keep furniture covered until your cat has been using the post routinely and no longer attempts to get at the furniture.

• Routinely trim cat’s nails. We can show you how.

Should you replace old posts?

The cat is faithfully using the post—so much so that it’s now shredded and mangled. If you lovingly rewrap the post, or get a new one, there’s a good chance your cat’s not going to like it! They got that post the way they wanted it, with all the visual and scent markings! Don’t get rid of the post. Rather, get an additional post and place it nearby so they’ll have a great new scratching option. Retrain to this new post.

Remember: Scratching isn’t just for maintaining the health of the nails, but is also for marking and emotional expression. Scratching is normal and is part of the “package” of owning a cat!

Call us with any questions.