What to do about your cat's scratching

Cats scratch with their front claws. Scratching loosens and removes the outer husk of their claws, revealing a sharp new surface underneath.

Scratching is also an effective way for your cat to mark their territory and exercises the muscles of the forelimbs and spine, keeping them in top hunting condition. Some cats even scratch by lying down and pull their bodyweight along the floor.

What do cats like to scratch?

Cats scratch in the home if they have limited or no access to outdoors, or if they simply prefer to spend more time indoors.

Popular indoor scratching surfaces include soft woods like pine, fabrics, textured wallpaper and carpet. Popular locations include door mats, doorframes, stairs and furniture.

Why is my cat scratching?

Whether your cat’s scratching is for claw maintenance, territory marking or both depends on the dynamics of the household or neighbourhood, the amount of scratching and the pattern of locations, plus other factors.

If you notice your cat scratching excessively throughout your home, particularly around doorways and windows, this may indicate your cat is feeling insecure. Products such as ‘Feliway’ or ‘Feliway Friends’ can be used to calm your cat down – the latter is specifically designed for inter-cat conflict. If you’re worried your cat is over-anxious, contact your vet for advice.

How do I stop my cat damaging my furniture?

Make sure you provide your cat with scratching posts and other scratching facilities indoors to avoid damage to carpet, wallpaper or furniture. Trimming your cat’s claws short is not an ethical answer to deter scratching and neither is punishing them. Both may make your cat feel even more insecure.

If your cat is damaging a particular surface or object, try providing an alternative that offers them a similar experience. For example, if your cat is scratching the corner of your sofa, then the alternative scratching area should be sturdy and vertical with similar texture and height. If your cat grips a step on your staircase, provide them with vertical and horizontal scratching surfaces.

Place sheets of laminated card or low tack double-sided adhesive tape over damaged areas of furniture to discourage your cat from scratching them – cats don’t like to scratch these surfaces. Laminated card will also protect your furniture from further damage.

Place a scratching post near to the damaged furniture, this will appear more attractive than the slippery surface of the card or tape. When you’re certain your cat has taken to their new scratching post, remove the laminated card.

The same technique can be used if your cat scratches the lower step of your staircase. and scratch horizontally whilst lying down. Make sure you warn everyone in your house if you place laminated card on stairs, as this can be a slippery and cause accidents.

What cat scratching post should I buy?

Commercially available cat scratching posts range from a basic single post to floor-to-ceiling activity centres or cat trees. Cat trees provide your cat with opportunities for play, exercise and rest, as well as hiding places and a variety of surfaces to scratch. Invest in a sturdy one – cats will seldom use something too flimsy.

Avoid buying a scratching post specifically designed for kittens. These posts don’t stay tall enough or sturdy enough for very long, as your kitten grows.

In households of two or more cats, you’ll need at least one scratching post per cat plus an additional one – all positioned in different locations.

How do I encourage my cat to use a scratching area?

Some posts are already laced with catnip, designed to encourage your cat to use them. You can also offer predatory toys like a wand toy or feather for your cat to chase around base. This will encourage your cat’s claws to make contact with surface and this is often enough to ensure they continue to use the post.

Sprinkling some tasty dry food on the post will often be enough to encourage your cat to use it. There’s also a synthetic pheromone product called ‘Feliscratch’ which can be used. This is specifically designed to attract your cat to scratch the scratching post.

If space is an issue, you can attach scratching panels to the walls – these can be commercial or home-made from sisal, bark or corrugated cardboard. Position them to allow your cat to scratch at full stretch.

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