Cat Scratching Problems
Scratching may be one of
the most mis-understood behaviours. Most people believe that it is
to 'sharpen' the cat's claws, but it is actually a multi-purpose
Cats do sharpen their
claws, but not in the way that most people think. The frayed and
worn out outer claws are removed by scratching and the new, sharp claws are exposed. The hind claws are removed by chewing.
One of the purposes of
scratching, or stropping, is to exercise and strenghten the mechanism used to retract and protract the
claws. This is essential for cats in fighting, climbing and
Another reason is marking
territory. The scratch marks are used as a visual sign and at
the same time a scent is left. On the underside of the cat’s
paws are small scent glands between the toes. The action action
of the front feet on the scratching ‘post’ activates these glands to release their scent. At the same time the sweat glands are also activated and the mixture of
secretions resuklts in a scent mark that is unique to the individual.
Scratching may also be
anxiety related if it’s widespread, is present in a multi-cat household, is in a home in a densely
cat-populated area, or where there have been major changes within the home.
If anxiety related, the
cause must be identified before a solution can be found. But you
can try a number of things, such as:
number of high resting places (one per cat).
indoor litter trays, if there is limited access to the outdoors. One per cat plus
food bowls elsewhere in the house.
water bowls elsewhere in the house.
sleeping areas and beds (even if it’s only a cardboard box with an old
Cover cat flap
with a solid panel on both sides of the door and give access on demand.
electronic controlled, exclusive cat flap.
New furniture is
particularly at risk from scratching. This is because, to a cat,
it will smell strange, foreign and possibly threatening. The cat
will want to put it’s own scent on it as soon as possible.
New items should smell of
‘you’ as soon as you can. Whatever it is – say a
sofa. You should sit on it, lay on it, rub your hands all over
it. The more is smells of ‘you’, the less threathening it is to
There are commercial deterents that you can buy to spray on
the scratched area. These may, however, have an off-putting
odour that you can smell.
Tin foil wrapped around
chair and table legs. Either ‘scrunch’ around or use
Put soft-claws on your
Use strong smelling
polish on the area.
Place things in the
Use cat facial pheromones
that can be sprayed over the area.
Erase all signs of the
damage (visual signals).
Use double-sided tape
over the area. Not too sticky though – try to find the low-tack
Use double-sided adhesive
sheets available especially for this purpose.
Only employ these methods
once you have given your cat an alternative scratching place.
Otherwise he will probably find somewhere else in the house to scratch, compounding your
Alternative Scratching Places
If your cat scratches
vertical objects at a certain height, then provide an alternative that is vertical with a similar texture
that allows him to stretch to the same height. Similarly, if he
scratches your flooring then provide a horizontal alternative of a similar material and length. Place these near to the damaged area(s). You can spray then with a catnip spray to draw your cat’s attention to
Scratching posts and pads
can be made of any material – carpet, sisal rope, log (watch out for splinters).
scratching posts, pads, trees, toys etc., are plentiful and come in all shapes and sizes. You can even get some that attach around a door frame. Some cats will use the posts naturally, some will need
For cats that scratch
flooring, carpets and stairs you will need to provide a horizontal scratching alternative near to the damaged
Commercially made pads
are available or you could make your own. Cover something heavy,
piece of wood or a breeze-block say, with carpet and place near to scratched area. You can spray with catnip spray and/or play a ‘chase and pounce’ game with
your cat around it to get him used to it and encourage him to get his claws into it. Drag a toy on a piece of string around and over it until his claws come in
contact with it. Do this a few times and wait and see if he goes
back to it in the future.
Upright scratching posts come in all shapes and sizes – carpet, sisal rope, trees, condos,
pyramids. Or you could make your own.
Again whichever you go for, they can be madmore interesting by
spraying with catnip spray. Some are already impregnated with
catnip by the manufacturer but this can fade with time.
Again, as with horizontal
scratchers play the ‘chase and pounce’ game areound and over it and site it near the damaged
You could also place dry
treats or food on the new posts. If a ‘tree’ or ‘condo’ place
some or various levels or in the ‘nests’ and encourage your cat to investigate.