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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 process.

 

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 catching prey.

 

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:

 

  • Provide a number of high resting places (one per cat).
  • Provide enough indoor litter trays, if there is limited access to the outdoors. One per cat plus one.
  • Increase play sessions.
  • Additional food bowls elsewhere in the house.
  • Additional water bowls elsewhere in the house.
  • Plentiful sleeping areas and beds (even if it’s only a cardboard box with an old jumper)
  • Cover cat flap with a solid panel on both sides of the door and give access on demand.
  • Provide an 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 your cat.

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 double-sided tape.

 

Put soft-claws on your cats.

 

Use strong smelling polish on the area.

 

Place things in the way.

 

Use cat facial pheromones that can be sprayed over the area.

 

Erase all signs of the damage (visual signals).

 

Provide an alternative.

 

Use double-sided tape over the area.  Not too sticky though – try to find the low-tack tapes.

 

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 problem.

 

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 it.

 

Scratching posts and pads can be made of any material – carpet, sisal rope, log (watch out for splinters).

 

Commercially made 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 encouraging.

 

Horizontal Scratching

 

For cats that scratch flooring, carpets and stairs you will need to provide a horizontal scratching alternative near to the damaged area.

 

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.

 

Vertical Scratching

 

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 area.

 

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.

 

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