Cat Scratching

Published on by Clyde Mendes



Taking care of your pets is not an easy task. Different kinds of pets show different kinds of tendencies and at times it is very difficult to understand them. If you have a cat, the problem becomes more difficult as she is not as expressive as a dog. A cat seems more lost in her more than anything else around. If you have brought home a new cat, you must be worried about her scratching behavior. By now, she must have shred your curtain, frayed your sofa and must have left you at your wits end to deal with it.

Well, better relax. If your cat is busy with scratching, it is not very unnatural. It is in fact her daily habit and you must get used to it. It is a territorial instinct by which she places her mark and establishes her home turf. So you must stop over worrying. Do not think that you cat only marks her domains by this scratching habit, in fact through this activity she is trying to make her self familiar with herself by leaving her visible claws mark and odor that comes out of her paws. So after scratching, it would be very easy for her to recognize and relate to the place once again.

Scratching also keeps your cat in shape. This act will keep her get active enough for her day to day activities. If you ever pay attention to her ways, you will know that this act actually helps her pulling and stretching the muscles of your cat's front quarters. By now you must have realized that you can not stop your cat from this tendency. However one thing that you can do is to re-channel her to the place where she does not spoil your valuable items. Here are few tips which you can apply in making your cat understand the right place and right ways to scratch :-

  • First of all, bring a scratching post for your pussy cat. Make her understand that this is the scratching zone for her by taking her front paws there and making her do scratching motions at the post. If you want her to successfully use this scratching post, make sure it is tall enough for her to fully expand her body, and most importantly, stable enough so that she doesn't topple over when she scratches.
  • If your cat is stubborn enough to not to give up her old scratching zones through your direct appeals, you will have shoo her away through indirect methods to let her distract from this place. You can use lemon-scented sprays or a potpourri of lemon and orange peels to make these zones unfavorable for her. You must know that cats have a repugnance to citrus odors.
  • Regularly trim your cat nails but make sure that you never de-claw them. If you de-claw her nails is like injuring her. This can lead to physical, emotional and behavioral disturbance in her life. Always remember her claws are a vital part of her anatomy, essential to balance, mobility and survival.

Why Cats Scratch Things? tend to pick a small number of conspicuous objects in their environments to scratch such as trees, fence posts, the corner of the couch, etc., and return to them repeatedly.   This is why the tree next door looks so scratched up and why your cat may find it difficult to leave your couch alone. The scratched surface leaves a highly visible mark that can be easily seen by other cats. In addition, cats have scent glands in their paws so that when they make scratching movements they leave odor cues that the cats can smell. The fact that cats leave scent marks by making scratching movements may be the reason that cats will continue to try to scratch objects even after they have been declawed. Declawed cats may still be leaving scent marks on objects they scratch.

We don’t know exactly what cats are communicating with their scratching. Both males and females do it, it is done inside and outside the home and even by cats living with no other cats around. It could be a territorial warning or just a marker that announces "Peaches lives here and is alive and well!" Cats don’t scratch up your furniture to spite you or just to be destructive, but for specific reasons, one of which is communicating. Cats also scratch to stretch, during play, and possibly as a greeting or to relieve frustration when prevented from doing other things they want to do.

Cats use scent from other parts of their bodies to communicate as well. They have scent glands at the corners of their mouths, in the thin hair between their eyes and ears and at the base of their tails. They leave scent marks on people and objects when they rub their heads and tails on things. Just what they are communicating with the rubbing isn’t known, but they seem to do it most to people or other cats they are attached to or when they are feeling friendly. Cats can also scent-mark by spraying urine on objects. Cats spray from a standing position, not from the squatting posture they use during elimination. Spraying often occurs during territorial disputes and when the cat is highly aroused or frustrated and is usually not related to litterbox problems.

When scratching is done indoors on walls, furniture or carpeted areas it can result in considerable damage, owner frustration and sometimes the loss of the home for the cat. It is easier to prevent problem scratching rather than trying to change your cat’s preference for the arm of your sofa after it has become an established habit. Thus, the goal is to establish acceptable scratching habits by getting your cat to prefer a scratching post rather than the arm of your sofa.

Some pointers for establishing good scratching habits in kittens and newly acquired adult cats:

  1. Put out several scratching posts in 2 or 3 areas most used by the cat, such as near the sleeping place, and the places the cat most likes to rest and to play.
  2. You can make your own scratching objects rather than purchasing them, but be sure the scratching surface is fabric that is easy for the cat to shred.
  3. Don’t put the cat’s paws on the post and force it to
  4. Do encourage scratching on the post by playing with dangle-toys on or near the post, scenting the post with catnip, using praise and food rewards when the cat scratches the post or even scratching the post yourself to stimulate the cat to scratch.

For older cats who have an established scratching problem:

  1. Make the damaged scratching area unavailable or cover it with thick plastic so that it feels different and less appealing.
  2. Put the scratching post next to the damaged area and be sure it is covered with a material that is acceptable to the cat. Some cats prefer to rake loose-weaved fabric, while others like to "pick" at knubby textures.
  3. Because cats like to scratch in prominent areas of their home, you may need to leave the post in the area where the cat prefers to scratch. Your cat may not scratch a post located in the back corner of the basement.

Most cats can be taught or retrained to scratch a post and not damage other things. If these ideas do not resolve the problem, talk to your veterinarian about a referral to an animal behaviorist. Declawing your cat should be the last resort if all else fails.

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