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Why Does My Cat Scratch?

21 August 2014
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UK - Younger cats tend to enjoy nothing more than a good scratch. Be it the furniture, a tree, or even their owner! But why?

Cats scratch to keep their claws sharp and in good use should a rodent ever cross their path. When cats scratch it leaves sweat from between their pads, leaving a scent and physical marks that act as a territorial message for other cats.

Most cats will go outside to scratch and usually choose wooden objects, such as trees or posts, as they are the right texture for claws to dig into and be drawn down, removing the old claw sheath to reveal a sharp point.

Once most cats have grown into adulthood they’ll tend to stop clawing and scratching things around the house; gone are the days of them tearing the arms of your chairs with their claws, shredding carpets or scratching patches of wallpaper off the wall. So why do some cats carry this on into adulthood? Let’s take a look.

Ingrained Nature

It is entirely natural for cats to work their claws and if kept indoors they will still need to do so. If you don’t have something for them to sink their claws into then they’ll find other objects to use.

Insecurity

If cats feel vulnerable then they’ll rub their scent on prominent places in a room to make themselves feel more secure. Therefore it is common for cats that are trying to feel more secure to claw at surfaces, particularly in specific places such as the edge of a chair that is nearest to a doorway.

Habit

Some cats can develop the habit of sharpening their claws indoors and enjoy the textures available to them. Carpets, furniture coverings and the shape of some furniture can be very inviting to cats that are predisposed to such a habit. In addition, scratching can actually be a precursor to, or part of, excited playtime.

Other Cats

Cats will often scratch and claw a lot more when other cats are in the vicinity. It is not known exactly why they do this but it’s thought that they’re making a display and leaving a scent mark to communicate with the other cats.

Curiosity

Often cats will develop a liking for wallpaper after a loose part of the paper encourages them to explore and play with it. If they accidentally grab at wallpaper then it can sometimes result in paper removal and give them a game in chasing all of the little pieces that fall off. Once this happens cats’ curiosity can get the better of them and they can start to actively claw at the wallpaper to play the fun game again.

So what can you do to reduce clawing?

Scratching Post

It is vital that cats have an outlet they can use to sharpen their claws, especially if they live indoors. Introducing a scratching post to the house will provide this outlet and prove invaluable in helping cats to stop clawing at surfaces that you’d rather they didn’t.

A lot of cats will need to be shown the scratching post and encouraged to use it. Do this by gently wiping their claws down the post to leave some of their scent and loosening a thread on the post so that they start to play with it and realise they can scratch it; this may need to done a few times if a cat continues to scratch elsewhere.

Increase Sense of Security

Some cats consistently scratch indoors as a way of marking their territory and this can illustrate that they are feeling insecure with their surroundings. You’ll need to identify the cause of this insecurity to find a solution.

Common causes can include strange cats coming into the house, a fear of something outside, conflict between local cats or changes within the household, such as redecorating a room or moving furniture around.

There are a few ways to help cats that feel secure in their surroundings:

  • Limit their access around the house and concentrate on making them feel secure in one or two rooms.
  • Use their scent to help them feel more comfortable in the areas where they consistently scratch; cats use their cheek glands to mark their territory, using a soft cloth, wipe around your cat’s face and dab the cloth around the room where you’ve seen your cat scratching, the presence of this scent will help your cat to feel more relaxed.
  • If you redecorate a room then keep your cat out of there until the new smells have mingled with the other more familiar scents of the household. It’ll also help to spread your cat’s scent around the room using the method outlined in the point above.
  • Keep the cat flap shut and manually let your cat in and out as they please. Alternatively, you could fit a selective type that keeps strange cats out.
  • If you have more than one cat then try to assess their relationship with each other, providing resting places that are located at elevated points around the house will give your insecure cat a place to relax whilst still being able to see what’s going on.

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