Why does my cat scratch?

Has your couch, carpet, bed or even wallpaper been the victim of your cats scratching attention? This is a common problem for cat owners, but the first thing you should know is that scratching is a completely normal behaviour for our feline friends. There are many reasons why our cats scratch, this article will tell you why and give you some tips to move their attention away from your innocent couch.  

Some common reasons for your cat’s scratching behaviour:

Sharpening and grooming the claws

This comes naturally to cats and can’t be stopped. Outdoors this is usually done on trees or fences, but if your cat is indoors it will choose the next best thing.

Marking their territory

Cats deposit a scent from their foot pads, scratching in areas helps to disperse this to ward off other cats. This is often the case if they are in conflict with other cats or feel as though they are in danger.

Habit and entertainment

This behaviour comes naturally to cats, so they get into the habit of scratching – maybe as their morning ritual or their after dinner stretch. Scratching also helps them to stretch out and play. It may also give them some extra entertainment of their human chasing them around trying to make them stop.

Some ways to save your possessions:

There are a variety of ways to prevent scratching, some may work for your cat and others may not. This process is usually one of patience. Remember to never physically punish your cat if they are scratching inappropriately, positive reinforcement is more effective with all animals.

Provide a new and exciting outlet for scratching

There are a wide variety of scratching posts available in shops now. They all range in height and luxury – the most important points if you decide to purchase a scratching post is to make sure the surface texture is loosely woven (like carpet) and that the post will fit in an area that you spend a lot of time. If you are making your own scratching post, make sure it is tall enough for your cat to scratch while standing on hind legs and sturdy enough so that it does not topple when scratched.

Some ways to encourage your cat to use the post may be using catnip spray – this can be purchased from your local veterinary clinic. Make the post exciting, similar to a play area with perches to climb on, toys on ropes or springs and other toys placed around. Placement is also important as cats prefer to use a post placed in a prominent location so that they can leave their ‘message’. If you see your cat scratching their new post, be sure to give them praise and positive reinforcement. Feliway spray will also attract you cat to use their post, if you would like more information on Feliway, ask the staff at your local vet clinic.

How to deter your cat from their old scratching places

Your cat may have been scratching to mark their territory, so they are likely to want to refresh their old marking at some stage. If it is possible to clean the area where they were previously scratching, clean this with a non-ammonia based product. Another tip is to use orange/citrus peel around the area as many cats find the smell extremely unpleasant. If you see your cat heading towards their old scratching spots, gently pick them up and move them to the scratching post – if your cat becomes intimated by this, don’t continue this as it may begin to associate negative feelings with the scratching post.

If your cat is showing extensive behavioural problems and you would like further tips on feline behaviour, your local veterinarian can assist you with this.