Cat Behavior E-mail

Scratching Furniture

Why Do Cats Scratch?
Scratching is a natural activity for all cats. By scratching on a rough surface your cat is filing his nails, so to speak, which he needs to do to keep his claws sharp and healthy. Scratching also helps him mark territory. Cats have special glands on their paws that give off scent marks for other cats to smell. A visual scratch mark is a big statement from one cat to another, but the message is made even louder by scent markings. Scratching also lets kitty release pent-up energy or emotional stress. Some cats even feel the need to scratch when they’re happy to see you.

What you can do?
The urge to scratch can’t be trained out of your cat – it ‘s natural and healthy. The issue is to find an acceptable scratching surface so that kitty doesn’t destroy the furniture or carpeting in the process. You don’t want to prevent him from using his claws altogether – you just need to redirect that behavior to an object that will serve as a proper scratching post. After a suitable substitute scratching post is found, then you can start working to make kitty understand that the furniture is not to be scratched. If he’s using his new scratching post but is still not willing to give up his favorite furniture or carpet scratching areas, then there are commercially available products that can safely persuade kitty to leave those surfaces alone. There are sprays that are designed to make the sofa’s scent distasteful to kitty; if that doesn’t work, you can try draping the furniture with netting or some other loosely woven fabric – as a rule, cats don’t like to snag their claws, and will likely stop wanting to try. If it’s the carpeting that’s the problem, use the same idea: put down an icky surface (like double-stick tape, for example) that will be distasteful for kitty to touch.

The Right Scratching Post

Some people just go out and get Kitty a scratching post. They spend a little or a lot of money, and – surprise! - the cat still prefers the sofa. If you’re serious about asking him to change his scratching habits, you might need to experiment with a few different types of scratching post placed in a few different locations before you find the one that your cat likes best. Pay attention to his scratching habits: when does he do it? Does he scratch horizontally or vertically? In which locations and for what reasons? Understanding and accommodating his scratching preferences will help Kitty make the rapid transition from household destruction to happily learning to use his scratching post. These are things to look for in a good scratching post:

Stability – If he enjoys a vertical scratching post (i.e. the furniture instead of the carpet), he likes to stretch up tall and put his full weight into the scratching effort. Make sure the new post is tall enough, but also heavy and stable enough to take the abuse without wobbling or falling over. The same holds true for horizontal scratching posts; make sure whatever scratching post you choose is big, but also as immovable and sturdy as the wall-to-wall carpeting.

Texture - The scratching post should be covered with something rough and nubbly, but different cats have different textural preferences. Sisal, rope or carpeting usually works, although some cats prefer textured cardboard or a sturdy “upholstered” fabric surface. You might need to experiment to discover kitty’s ideal preference.

Location - even if you find the ideal scratching post for your cat, it might be useless it if you don’t keep it in the right spot. When and where does kitty prefer to scratch? Is it when he gets up from a nice nap on the bed, or maybe when he greets you at the front door? If there isn’t a suitable scratching post nearby, then he’ll go for the unsuitable one. So, don't hide the post in the laundry room if he never spends quality time in there – put it where he’ll use it. If you live in a bigger house, your cat might want to have more than one.