For many people, claw marks are an affectionate tell-tale sign of a feline-ruled household.
But if you’re struggling with inappropriate scratching, expert behaviourist Lucy Hoile is here to help.
Read on to find out why cats scratch and how to stop them from using your furniture as a playground for their claws.
Scratching is a natural, ingrained behaviour for all felines and is used in several different ways.
Sharpening their claws
The main purpose of scratching is to help cats maintain their claws. Many cat parents think that scratching dulls down the claws, but it actually has the opposite effect. By scratching, your cat is removing the outer layer of the claw to reveal a sharper one underneath.
It’s essential for your cat to keep their claws nice and sharp because:
Marking their territory
Cats scratch as a subtle way of marking their territory. The scent glands in their pads are a much cleaner alternative to urine marking.
Felines may decide to use scratching to mark near back doors and windows as these are important access areas to their territory.
Stretching their muscles
Many of us love a good stretch – and cats are no exception! Some cats will wake up and have a big stretch at the top of their tree post. Scratching helps them to stretch properly and really make use of their muscles.
Scratching can be a deliberate behaviour to get your attention and can be easily reinforced. It’s the fastest way for your feline to get your focus – and don’t they know it.
That’s why they’ll target that brand-new sofa or your favourite chair. They’ll scratch it and wait to see your reaction. Even getting told off is enough of an incentive for them as it’s still a form of attention.
Showing their frustration
A closed door can frustrate cats as it cuts off part of their territory, especially if they can hear family members on the other side. So they’ll superficially scratch at the door to get you to open up.
Opening the door then reinforces to your cat that this behaviour works for getting them access to blocked-off areas.
Cats may also scratch more if they’re stressed. Speak to a behaviourist who can help you to reduce your feline’s stress levels.
Felines may be drawn to sofas and beds because they:
There’s a few options to deter your cat from your furniture:
The worst thing to do with door scratching is to ignore your cat for long periods and then just give in and open up. This is just training them to scratch for longer.
Try leaving doors open to rooms you use, so that your cat has freedom of social areas in the house.
There’s several reasons a cat may be sinking their claws into your carpet:
Your carpet pile usually needs to be thick and help with claw maintenance to be enticing for your cat.
Digging enough at the carpet can make parts of the fabric come loose, which gives your cat something fun to play with. So appropriate alternatives should always be available. This will stop the behaviour before it becomes a habit.
Try placing cardboard cat scratchers on areas of the carpet your cat favours and see how they get on.
Wallpapers made from a thick textured material can be tempting for cats to use as claw maintenance or to dig at for attention.
And once they’ve worked at it enough to create dangling strips, the paper becomes a fun object to play with.
Try encouraging your cat to use a tree or cardboard scratcher. If this doesn’t work, you may need to change your wallpaper to something less textured or paint the wall instead.
Every cat needs a cat tree in their house to help them feel safe and confident.
It’s a vital part of their territory that’s heavily scented from scratching and sleeping. It also gives your cat a high space to escape and observe their surroundings if they’re feeling nervous.
The cat tree should:
It’s fine for your cats to share a cat tree but ideally, there should be at least one tree per cat, plus an extra one. This makes sure there’s plenty of opportunity for scratching among all your felines.
Find the right material
Give them a mixture of scratching angles
Choose the right location
Make it fun and rewarding
A cat tree that has become rickety and dangerous needs replacing – but this should be done carefully:
Try and watch out for earlier signs that your cat’s tower needs replacing. This will give you enough time to settle in and safely transition your cat to a new tower before the old one becomes a risk.
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