Why Do Cats Scratch Things And What To Do About It
Cats have been scratching for thousands of years all throughout their evolution. They like scratching and do it while playing, stretching and marking their territory.
Cat’s grow claws similar to how we grow fingernails – however, they don’t have the tools we have to maintain theirs. Therefore, they also use scratching as a way to clean, sharpen and remove frayed claws.
The problem (as I’m sure you well know) is, scratching can cause a lot of damage to sofas, furniture, carpet, drapes and other things around the home.
How to stop cats from scratching
Behavioural studies on cats suggest the best method to prevent your cat from scratching up your couch is not to stop them from scratching altogether, but to teach your cat what they can and can’t scratch. To do this you could try some of the following:
Provide some scratching posts and surfaces for your cat. Try cardboard, carpets, woods, and upholstery - different cats like different things. Also, try a variety of shapes and positions, some cats like stretching tall and others prefer slanted or horizontal surfaces. No matter the type or position, all cats will appreciate a sturdy surface that they can put their weight and strength in to.
Position the post or scratch friendly setup nearby where your cat usually tries to scratch so you can easily show them when they try to tear up the sofa. You can encourage them by showing them to the scratch post using cat toys or pretend to scratch it yourself.
Ensure you clip your cat’s claws regularly as this will ensure they are not bothering your cat or making them itchy, these claw trimmers can get the job done. You could also try putting silicone claw caps on your cat’s claws, but make sure this is not giving them any discomfort.
Discourage inappropriate scratching by moving your cat away when they start. You may also be able to protect your sofa by putting plastic, foil, double-sided tape or sandpaper on the part your cat likes to scratch, or on the floor where your cat stands to make it uncomfortable for them.
- Try to keep your cat entertained with some other types of cognitive toys, such as a motorised floppy fish or a teaser wand
What NOT to do to your scratching cat
Do not hold your cat onto the scratching post or physically force them to scratch it or drag their claws on it. This will scare your cat and they will end up fearing you and the post, making it very unlikely they will use it.
Do not throw away a scratching post that is damaged – even if it is ugly! This means your cat likes scratching it and cats prefer frayed material as they can really get their claws stuck into it. Try to repair it if necessary or get something similar if you really need to replace it and keep both near each other until your cat gets used to the new one.
Do not hit or scare your cat, also try to avoid spraying or clapping – scratching is a natural impulse for cats and doing this will likely cause them to fear you rather than understand that you’re trying to tell them off.
Never declaw your cat, this can cause your cat severe pain for several weeks or more and could lead to infections or other complications. The procedure actually involves removing the last bone in your cat’s toes (think of the top bone in your finger) including the nail bed and claw.
Cat scratching can be annoying and sometimes costly, however, it is something cats have always done for several reasons including hygiene, so it's unlikely you'll stop them from doing it completely (and probably a bad idea anyway).
There are some simple ways to manage this as mentioned above. Your best bet is to ensure your cat’s claws are tidy and well maintained, and they have something suitable to scratch, encourage them to scratch the scratching post and they will quickly learn.