Sunday, 19 March 2017

Scratching behaviour

Scratching is a normal behaviour. Cats scratch for two reasons; to keep their claws in good condition and as a communication signal. Scent glands in between the pads of the paws produce a unique smell, which is deposited on the surface that the claws are dragged down. This scent, combined with the visual signal of the scratch marks and discarded claw husks, leaves a reminder signal for the cat and a message for other felines in the area. 


Why is my cat scratching indoors? 

If your cat has limited or no access to the outdoors - either through their own choice or yours - they will have to maintain good claw condition inside the house. They will find one or two suitable scratching sites and continue to use them, whether this is a cat scratching post or the back of your settee! 

If the scratched areas are widespread throughout your home including areas of conflict like doorways and windows, it is likely the your cat is scratching for communication reasons and feels insecure in these areas. Just like spraying, the most common reason for scratching indoors is the presence of another cat. 

The reason for cats to show this behaviour can change over time. If your cat enjoys attention, they might learn that whenever they scratch the furniture you interact with them, so they will carry on scratching. 

What can I do if my cat scratches the furniture? 

If your cat is scratching furniture or wallpaper to maintain their claws you could:
  • Protect the scratched item by covering with thick, shiny, plastic sheeting as this is unappealing to cats 
  • at the same time, obtain a suitable scratching post and put it next to the area where they scratch
  • choose a scratching post with a heavy base so it doesn't topple over or wobble when in use. It should be tall enough to allow your cat to scratch at full stretch - ensure it has a vertical weave to let them drag their claws downwards
  • some cats prefer to scratch horizontally (e.g. cats that scratch carpets or stairs) or diagonally so provide a scratching mat to meet these needs 
  •  once your cat is consistently using the new post, you can gradually move it to a more convenient location if you wish and then remove the plastic sheeting from the furniture or wallpaper
  • cats often like to scratch and stretch after they wake up, so you could try placing the scratch post near your cat's bed 
Each cat in a household should have a scratching post - positioned in different locations to prevent conflict. Some posts are impregnated with catnip, or you could try rubbing quality catnip on the scratch post to entire them - placing pieces of food on the post may also help. Playing with your cat little and often throughout the day and providing toys may help redirect their energy away from scratching. 



Scratching to mark territory 

if you cat is scratching furniture as a marking behaviour, then try to identify what is worrying the cat in this part of their territory and remedy it. As mentioned above; cover the scratched areas with a protective material and place a scratching post next to them. However, to help your cat feel secure in their surroundings and permanently stop them scratching the furniture, you will need to identify and deal with what is worrying them. Don't just provide them with another scratching surface without attending to their feelings of insecurity. You may need guidance from a suitably qualified behaviourist to help identify the cause of their anxiety. 

Importance of praise 

It is important to remember that cats do not scratch just to be naughty. It is a natural behaviour they should be allowed to exhibit. Shouting when your cat scratches your furniture can lead to an increase in frequency as they become more anxious, or learns that scratching can be used for attention seeking. Cats quickly learn that unwanted clawing gets a reaction, but clawing a scratching post doesn't. Make sure you praise your cat when they claw the scratching post and try not to react if they scratch the furniture. (Source: Cats Protection) 

2 comments:

  1. I just read your article. Thanks for sharing that, I learned a lot from it!

    By the way, which would you recommend, sisal or carpeted scratching material? It’s something I get asked quite often from my own blog’s readers and I would love to know what you might think of it.

    I have actually written an in depth resource for buying cat furniture and I would love it you could share it with your readers as it may be of value or share some feedback!

    (http://cattree.uk/cat-scratching-tree-furniture-buyers-guide/)

    Let me know your thoughts and keep up the good work!

    Jon

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  2. Hello Jon, thank you, fantastic link to your website, we've liked your facebook page. We have sisal rope on our scratching posts at the centre. Our scratching posts are donated by members of the public, Amazon wishlist or via Pets at home VIP scheme. We do have some scratching pads as well. We have to be impartial, it depends how each individual cat likes to scratch, we recommend to our adopters if they like to stretch up for these cats they will need a scratching post to be tall enough for them to stretch. We recommend scratch pads if they start scratching the owner's carpet or quite often they'll scratch around the base of the scratching post. Meeting the cats needs really.
    Hope that helps
    Gemma (Cat carer)

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