Cats >> Behavior >> Cat Scratching
Your cat is scratching all your most valuable possessions? It just drives you crazy and you don’t know how to deal with it? First, you have to understand that behavior better understanding is half the battle. Second, you can’t stop your feline from scratching but learn that there are many possible solutions to that problem so you and your cat can live together both happier.
Why do cats scratch?
Scratching is a behavior that surfaces at the age of 4-5 weeks old kittens. The main function of scratching for the cat is communication. It is natural, instinctual behavior that helps them:
- Marking their territory: it’s their way to mark their domain by leaving a visual mark and scent. Cat's paws have scent glands that leave their own special scent on their territory.
- Exercising: it exercises their claws, sharpens their nails and stretches their bodies and muscles. It also helps them to work off energy.
- Having pleasure: it feels good to scratch and helps them having even more fun with their toys.
Now, since scratching is a natural behavior and that cats are highly appreciating it, it would be unrealistic to try to prevent them from scratching. Instead, you should try to redirect the scratching onto acceptable objects.
How to train cats to scratch on acceptable objects?
By redirecting onto acceptable surfaces, we mean providing objects that are appealing, attractive and convenient from your cat’s point of view.
1. Start by observing the physical features of the objects your cat is scratching.
- Where are the objects located? Prominent objects, objects close to sleeping areas and areas near the entrance to a room are often chosen.
- What texture do they have? Are they soft or coarse? Carpeted?
- What shape do they have? Are they horizontal or vertical?
- How tall are they? At what height does your cat scratch?
2. Now that you know your cat’s preferences, you are able to substitute similar objects for him to scratch such as scratching posts and corrugate boxes. Place those objects near inappropriate objects that he already uses.
3. Cover the inappropriate objects with something your cat will find unappealing such as double sided sticky tape, aluminum foil, sheets or sandpaper or a plastic carpet runner with the pointy side up.
4. When the cat is using the appropriate objects, they can be moved gradually to a location more suitable to you. However, you should keep them as close as possible of the location where your cat preferred it.
5. Last step, you can start removing gradually the unappealing coverings from the inappropriate objects.
Tricks to make your cat use the scratching posts
If your cat seems reluctant using the scratching post, here are some little tricks that should be helpful:
- You may rub catnip or his favorite treat against the post. You can hide treats in the locations where you install the scratching posts.
- Have your cat chase a string or a toy around the post or attach toys to it to encourage him playing in that area.
- It's also a good idea to put a post where the cat sleeps. Cats like to scratch when they awaken, especially in the morning and the middle of the night.
- You may buy a scratching post feeder. It provides a cat with the necessary incentive to use a scratching post. Any scratching motion by a cat upon the scratching post feeder will automatically release dry cat food. You set the daily limit so there is no risk to overfeed the cat.
Tricks to discourage your cat from scratching the unacceptable objects
If you notice that your cat has a hard time giving up his old scratching areas, here are some means to discourage him:
- You need to remove your cat’s scent from those areas with pet odor removers that you can find in any pet stores or even some groceries.
- Cats have an aversion to citrus odors. Use lemon-scented sprays to make his former scratching sites less agreeable to him.
- Try squirting him with a water gun or a spray bottle. Another option is a loud whistle or other noise-maker. You should use those means while your cat is scratching for them to be effective.