Scratching is a common cat behavior just like meowing or napping. But, why do cats scratch? Turns out, there are a number of reasons that cats like to claw at things. Read below to learn why cats scratch and about the importance of providing them with training and a scratching post at home.
Why Do Cats Scratch Exactly?
Your cat isn’t trying to be naughty when they set their claws into the side of your favorite sofa. This is a very normal behavior for them. And, it serves several important health purposes. Of course, you’ll need to train your cat out of this behavior and give them something else to scratch on. But it’s important to first understand exactly why cats scratch in the first place.
Scratching Makes Claws Sharp
The main reason cats scratch is to sharpen their claws. The texture from fabrics and carpeting provides friction that helps remove dead layers from their nails. This kitty pedicure is essential for keeping their claws healthy and sharp.1
It’s Kitty Yoga
The tension and height provided by a piece of furniture is also a great way for cats to stretch. As they pull down against the fabric, it gives their muscles a nice flexing. This feels good and helps your cat stay agile.2
Leaving A Mark On The World
Scratching is also a way for indoor cats to leave their scent on objects and places around the house. As they scratch a piece of furniture or carpet, their body leaves behind their unique smell. This mark is a way for your cat to announce to the other cats and animals, “Hey, this is my spot.”3
Note: Scratching inanimate objects, like the couch, is a different behavior than scratching humans. If your cat scratches you in an aggressive manner, then you should consult a vet about their behavior right away.4
A Natural Part Of Kitty Cohabitation
Cats scratch stuff. This is a natural fact of life. The good news is that cat parents can help control what their cat scratches with a little bit of training and perseverance.
One of the best ways to do that is to provide your cat with a scratching post. This offers them a designated object to claw at that isn’t your furniture or carpet.5 Learn more about cat scratching posts and which ones are right for your cat below.
What Kind Of Scratching Kitty Do You Have?
All cats scratch, but not all cats scratch the same. Some kitties prefer to scratch on vertical surfaces (the arms of your sofa) and other cats prefer to scratch horizontally (your carpet).6
Take the time to observe your feline friend to learn where and how they do most of their scratching. Then, choose a scratching post that suits their needs.
If your cat scratches vertical surfaces, you can offer them standing scratching posts. Or, if they lie on their back when they scratch, you can also get them a bed made out of a scratchable surface like corrugated cardboard.7 While your cat might prefer one over the other, it’s beneficial to provide both horizontal and vertical scratching posts. This can give your cat the option to stretch multiple ways as well as more variety to combat boredom and further prevent ruined furniture.
Have Lots Of Scratching Posts Available
You’ll want to have a variety of scratching posts situated in various spots around the house. Place them near or around objects that you don’t want your cat to scratch at, like the couch. This may help guide them towards objects that are scratch-friendly.8
The more variety you offer your cat, the more fun they can have. You can get posts made with carpet, sisal, and cardboard. This way, your cat will have the perfect material for all their scratching needs.
Select The Right Scratching Surface
At this point, you may wonder, why do cats scratch different surfaces and textures? This is because certain surfaces offer different friction and nail-polishing benefits.
That’s why scratching posts come covered in a variety of materials. One of the most popular is sisal rope. This natural fiber is tough and able to withstand lots of scratching. Plus, it’s satisfying for your cat to claw at.9
Supervise Your Kitty During Scratching
Place your new scratching post near spots that your cat normally scratches. Watch as they get accustomed to their new post. If they ignore it, you can move it slightly or make it more attractive by putting some food (or treats) on it. Also, put scratching posts near stuff that makes your cat comfortable, like their food or litter box. This might help them get accustomed to the presence of scratching posts.10
Offer Plenty Of Rewards
Don’t hesitate with the catnip. Offer positive encouragement and reward your kitty with their favorite treat when they start to use their new post.11
Also, try to place their favorite toys and foods around the areas you want them to scratch. This may help make the post more attractive to your kitty.12
Safe Ways To Discourage Furniture Scratching
Even with a scratching post in the house, your cat may still feel the need to claw at the furniture. There are ways to train your cat to stop this habit. Try some of these simple options to help educate your kitty on proper indoor behavior.
Double-Sided Sticky Tape
Place some double-sided tape on your furniture. Cats have very sensitive paws, and the sticky tape is particularly annoying to them. As such, cats may steer clear of couches or other furniture with tape.13
Weekly nail trimmings may limit the damage your kitty’s claws can do. Plus, it reduces their need to scratch as a way to trim their own nails. Use lots of treats and kind words when clipping nails to help your cat stay calm.14
There are all-natural sprays, like lemon water or apple cider vinegar, that you can mist on your couch to deter cats from scratching. Cats don’t like the smell of citrus or vinegar, so they’ll most likely avoid them. Be sure to do a test spot on the couch first, to make sure your spritz won’t damage your couch.15
If scratching and clawing continues as a problem, you can also consider using special rubber nail caps that are attached to your cat’s nails. It may not be the most comfortable thing for your kitty’s paws, but it’s not permanent and may help reduce the impact of scratching.16
A Case Against Declawing
The American Veterinary Medical Association discourages declawing as an elective surgery simply because your cat is scratching stuff. This surgery is actually an amputation of your cat’s toes and can be potentially dangerous.17 It can also lead to many complications for declawed cats such as pain, lameness, and limb disuse.18
It is recommended only after all other options are explored and unsuccessful. Speak to your vet about all the options before electing for declawing surgery.
Embrace Your Kitty’s Scratching
No one wants to see their favorite couch torn to shreds by their beloved feline. But, scratching is important for your cat’s health and well-being. It helps them sharpen their claws, stretch their muscles, and stay entertained. So, what can you do?
Instead of discouraging this behavior, you can encourage it, but with guidance. Supply your kitty with safe and appropriate places for them to scratch. Posts and scratch-friendly beds are both great outlets for a cat’s claws.
It’s up to you to help your cat understand what’s okay to scratch and what’s not okay. With a little bit of guidance and plenty of catnip, you can have your kitty trained and scratching to their heart’s content. Only, it won’t be on your sofa anymore.
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