Are you aware that scratching is one of the top reasons why cats end up in shelters each year? Yes, a cat that will not stop scratching the carpet or furniture can be frustrating and expensive to live with.
Scratching comes naturally for cats, but the problem starts when a cat begins running his claws on ‘illegal’ or inappropriate scratching surfaces. The best way to address the problem is to understand why your cat is doing it in the first place. Only by understanding the underlying reason for your cat’s inappropriate behavior, would you be able to address it in an appropriate manner.
Why Do Cats Scratch?
- Scratching is important for claw health as it can help facilitate shedding of old nail sheaths to reveal new healthy and sharp claws.
- When scratching, cats can stretch their whole body. This is one way to keep a cat’s muscles in tip-top shape. A full-body stretch can also stimulate the release of ‘feel-good’ hormones.
- All the stretching and digging of the claws while scratching on a post or pad can give cats a good workout which is a positive avenue for releasing pent-up energy.
- Scratching is a great way to relieve cat stress, keeping them emotionally healthy and happy.
- Cats have scent glands in their paws. While scratching, the scent glands release a signature scent that cats use to mark their territory and show their dominance or rank in the social hierarchy.
Why do cats need scratching posts?
A scratching post may seem like an ordinary piece of kitty accessory. But this simple piece of furniture can help solve a chunk of the problems that many cat parents have to deal with at one time or another. The right cat post can help provide a ‘legal’ surface for your cat’s natural scratching tendencies. It is also important for cat health and well-being.
What is the right scratching post for my cat?
Finding the right scratching post that your cat will use and enjoy is vital. But this is easier said than done. It is a good idea to spend some time observing your kitty so you will be able to see when and how they like to scratch. Most cats like to scratch from top to bottom while standing on their rear legs. If your kitty has taken a fancy on the legs of your furniture or upholstery, there is a high probability that he will like a vertical scratching post. On the other hand, there are cats that like to run their paws on flat or inclined surfaces. For these cats, a horizontal scratching post and/or a scratching pad will be appealing to them.
To increase the appeal of a new scratching post, place it in areas where your cat is constantly drawn to his ‘illegal scratching surfaces’. It may be near the routinely scratched furniture or on top of his favorite scratching spot on the carpet. If your cat continues to ignore the new post, try rubbing some catnip or hanging a catnip toy on the post. When he comes over to investigate, be quick to offer positive reinforcement. It’s important for your furball to associate the post with pleasure and rewards.
How many scratching posts should a cat have?
The more, the better! Yes, cats need more than one type of scratching surface. Getting multiple types of scratching posts will provide your furball with varying angles and surfaces to scratch on. You should consider having these types of scratching posts for your pet’s scratching pleasures -- a basic post, a cat tree, a kitty condo, as well as an angled scratcher.
Always keep in mind that the more scratching surface options your pet cat has, the less he will turn to running his paws on ‘illegal scratching surfaces’ in your home.
Unfortunate consequences of inappropriate scratching
When pet cats continue to engage in inappropriate scratching behaviors, many cat owners eventually become angry and desperate. Sooner or later, their frustrations can fuel their desire to address the behavior without any regard for the health and welfare of their pets. Here are some unfortunate consequences for inappropriate scratching in cats:
- The cat is punished -- This is not recommended because doing so is counter-productive. It can only instill fear and pain in cats. This can eventually fuel more negative behaviors.
- The cat is abandoned outdoors -- This can expose a cat to various risks and hazards that lurk outdoors.
- The cat is declawed -- This is an extremely painful procedure that involves the amputation of all 10 digits of the front paws up to the first joint. It is inhumane to subject a cat to such pain that never seems to go away with time.
- The cat is turned over to a shelter where they compete with other cats for their basic needs. If the cat is not adopted within a specific time frame, he may be euthanized to give space to more adoptable cats.
Japanese article: スクラッチは猫のストレス解消と爪の健康に⁉