Cats need to scratch. It's a fact of life that we need to accept when we live with a feline. We do not have to accept it, though, when Kitty leaves her claw marks on all the furniture. But what if she adamantly refuses to use her scratching post? Let's take a look at the reasons she needs to scratch and how we can help redirect her attention to the right places for scratching.
First things first, why do cats need to scratch?
Scratching is not only normal behavior in cats. It's healthy behavior. So punishing our cats for her "bad" scratching habits or trying to get rid of the behavior altogether should never be an option. Scratching is good for our precious felines because:
- It allows them to stretch their muscles and tendons, from her neck and down to her shoulders and toes.
- It keeps their claws healthy. Just as our nails need to be clipped when they grow too long, so do cats' nails - the worn-out nail husk, to be specific - need to be periodically shed. Scratching helps them do this.
- Like her relatives in the wild, scratching is their way of leaving their scent to mark their territory. Scent glands are found on a cat's paws, and cats leave their odors when they scratch a surface. It does not matter if we only have one feline royalty gracing our home, scratching to leave her scent on her territory is innate behavior.
- It gives them relief from stress and makes them feel relaxed. A good stretch, healthy nails, and having a sense of security in their territory will definitely have that effect on a cat!
So how do we teach our friendly feline to scratch her post and only her post?
As smart as they are, and despite their sometimes hoity-toity attitude, our cats can be easily trained to keep their claws off everything else but their scratching post.
- Not all scratching posts are the same. And it might take some trial and error before we find the right scratching post for our cat - that is, one that she'll approve of and actually use. This could turn out to be a costly endeavor. But it's the price we have to pay, literally speaking, to keep our precious kitty off the furniture.
- We can save some time, effort, and money if we try to understand what makes a surface scratch-worthy from our cat's point of view. To put a feline twist on the popular turn of phrase, this means walking (and scratching) in her paws. Why does she like to scratch the couch? What is it about the antique table's legs that makes them so irresistible to Kitty? What makes a good scratching post?
- It has to be tall enough to give Kitty's body a full stretch, from the neck and all the way down to the toes of her hind legs.
- It has to be sturdy enough that it won't wobble when Kitty puts her whole weight on it when she scratches. She has to feel confident that the post will not topple over when she's doing her thing.
- The material should be tough, rough, allow vertical shredding (which cats love), allow their claws to get a good grip but which should not get caught and pull on their claws. It also should not be the same material as the carpet or couch that we want her to stop scratching.
- Suitable materials include sisal fabric and cardboard. Because Kitty also enjoys horizontal scratching, she should also be given a flat or angled scratching post.
- Cat condos and perches will not only serve as wonderful scratching posts for our felines but also as a domain that's all their own and which they will enjoy exploring.
Treats can be one of the best ways to encourage both dogs and cats to correct their behavior. You don't have to coerce or beg them to be better when they love the treats you offer. Plus, you don't need to feel guilty when you choose low-calorie treats that won't impact their diet.
- PlaceKitty's Royal Scratching Posts (yes, we'll need to get her more than one) around the house - one at each of her favorite hang-out spots, near where she sleeps/naps, and in front of her favorite furniture. Each scratching post should also be displayed prominently so our cat will have a stronger desire to claim it.
- A neat trick to help Kitty discover the pleasures of her scratching post is to play with her using a wand toy. We get her attention by waving the wand around, and then we drape the end over the post and let her try to catch it with her paws. Her paws should scratch the post when we move the wand away. We can also spread catnip and spray honeysuckle on the scratching posts to lure Kitty to them.
- The next and final step is to make her not want to scratch the furniture anymore. We can do this by spraying cat deterrent spray on the couch and other surfaces that she loves to claw at. We should make sure the spray's ingredients are cat-friendly, of course. We can make our own by mixing a few drops of rosemary oil and a few drops of dishwashing liquid to water in a spray bottle.
We can also cover the areas they're not supposed to scratch with material that cats don't like to scratch, such as aluminum foil, plastic table/carpet runner, or double-sided tape. If a bigger surface area, or the entire couch, needs to be covered, we can drape a sheet over it and tuck it in tightly so Kitty won't be able to get her claws underneath.
Claw marks all over our house will definitely drive us up the wall. Fortunately, Kitty can be trained to exercise her scratching behavior on cat furniture that is specifically made for this purpose. Having her scratching posts, a perch, and even a condo scattered around the house might make it seem like Kitty has taken over our space - and this would not be far from the truth at all! Such is life with a cat, and we wouldn't have it any other way!