Cats like to scratch. They scratch during play. They scratch while stretching. They scratch to mark territory or as a threatening signal other cats. And because cats’ claws need regular sharpening, cats scratch on things to remove frayed, worn outer claws and expose new, sharper claws. All this scratching can cause a lot of damage to furniture, drapes and carpeting!
What does it mean when your cat scratches the couch?
Scratching is a normal, instinctive cat behavior. Cats have a need to scratch. They do it to express emotions, like excitement or stress, to mark objects with their scent ,they have scent glands in their paws, to remove the dead part of their nails and, often, just to get a good stretch.
Cats prefer to scratch tall, sturdy objects that allow them to dig their nails in and get a good grip. That’s why cats tend to scratch furniture. Most cats prefer even more than furniture! A scratching post that is at least 32” tall, will not wobble when scratched, and made of a type of rope called sisal. Some cats prefer to scratch horizontally, in which case you can either place the vertical scratching post on its side or find a sturdy sisal-covered horizontal scratcher. Some cats like scratching corrugated cardboard as well. Another ideal scratching surface is wood, so if you are handy you can create your own scratching post or pad. Just make sure it’s tall or long enough and sturdy.
What to do about your cat's scratching habits?
The best tactic when dealing with scratching is not to try to stop your cat from scratching, but instead to teach her where and what to scratch. An excellent approach is to provide her with appropriate, cat-attractive surfaces and objects to scratch, such as scratching posts. The following steps will help you encourage your cat to scratch where you want her to:
Provide a variety of scratching posts with different qualities and surfaces. Try giving your cat posts made of cardboard, carpeting, wood, sisal and upholstery. Some cats prefer horizontal posts. Others might like vertical posts or slanted posts. Some prefer a vertical grain for raking, while others favor a horizontal grain for picking. Once you figure out your cat’s preference for scratching, provide additional posts of that kind in various locations. Keep in mind that all cats want a sturdy post that won’t shift or collapse when used. Most cats also like a post that’s tall enough that they can stretch fully. This may be why cats seem to like drapes so much!
Make sure that using scratching posts and designated scratching areas is very appealing to your kitty. This can be done by playing with your cat in these areas, praising and rewarding him for doing so, and stashing treats on scratching posts.Encourage your cat to investigate her posts by scenting them with catnip, hanging toys on them and placing them in areas where she’ll be inclined to climb on them.
Discourage inappropriate scratching by removing or covering other desirable objects. Turn speakers toward the wall. Put plastic, double-sided sticky tape, sandpaper or upside-down vinyl carpet runner (knobby parts up) on furniture or on the floor where your cat would stand to scratch your furniture. Place scratching posts next to these objects, as “legal” alternatives.
Maintain your cat’s claws: Another important way to limit scratching is to maintain your cat’s claws. Unmanaged claws can grow into your cat’s paw pad, causing pain and sometimes infection. Clip your cat’s claws every few weeks to keep them from overgrowing.Clip your cat’s nails regularly. To learn how, please see the "Nail Care" section of our article, Cat Grooming Tips.
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If you catch your cat in the act of scratching an inappropriate object, you can try startling him by clapping your hands or squirting him with water. Use this procedure only as a last resort, because your cat may associate you with the startling event clapping or squirting and learn to fear you.
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*We hope to give you better ideas for your pet, but this information is not meant to be a substitute for veterinary care. Always follow the instructions provided by your veterinarian. If your pet feels bad, please take it to the veterinarian in time.