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home : columns : columns August 1, 2014

2/4/2014 1:16:00 PM
Why cats love to scratch
Tink and Jazz playing on carpeted toy for scratching. photo by Jodi Schneider McNamee
+ click to enlarge
Tink and Jazz playing on carpeted toy for scratching. photo by Jodi Schneider McNamee

By Jodi Schneider McNamee

You've just sat down to dinner when you hear a sound that all cat parents' dread: Claws tearing into fabric. You grab the spray bottle and rush into the next room. Tiger sees you and takes off to hide under the bed.

Cats make great pets. They love to play and keep you laughing with their antics. They enjoy cuddling with you on the couch or bed and they purr for no other reason than being near you. But your sofa and your nerves are tattered. You've been scolding Tiger when you catch him in the act of scratching your favorite chair and you know it's pointless.

Scratching is a natural behavior for cats; that's why your feline friend doesn't understand why you get so bent out of shape when he claws that tempting couch arm or carpet. It is a powerful instinctive behavior. Cats do not scratch furniture with malicious contempt.

Healthy and natural to your furry friend, scratching can become a real problem for the human. Inappropriate scratching is one of the top reasons cats end up in a shelter or a trip to the vet for declawing.

Understanding your feline family member's behavior can help. Scratching is easier to deal with if you understand why cats scratch in the first place. In the wild, cats scratch near and around their immediate environment to signal their presence to other cats.

Did you know that cats have scent glands on their paws? According to the Animal Behavior Society, cats secrete pheromones from superficial glands in the skin of their paws though the process of kneading. It has long been assumed that cats are sharpening their claws when they scratch things. Research on cat behavior suggests that the major reason for scratching things is communication. Felines tend to pick a small number of places in their environment to scratch such as trees, fence posts or the corner of the couch and return to them repeatedly.

Check out the area of the couch that your feline friend scratches; most likely it's the same place every time. The scratched surface leaves a highly visible mark that can be easily seen by other cats. It's instinctive. It's a territorial warning or just a marker that announces, "Tiger lives here."

So how can you prevent or redirect Tiger from scratching your new loveseat?

One solution is to buy or make them carpeted scratching posts. It can be a cat condo, a carpeted cat tree or just a plain post. Bear in mind that your furry friend likes rough surfaces that they can shred to pieces; they're ideal for releasing kitty's primal urges.

One example of prevention is to put a scratching post next to the damaged area of your couch or chair. Make sure the tattered area of your furniture is covered with material that your feline friend will not want to scratch, like double sided tape, so it will be less appealing. Leave scratching posts in other areas of your home.

Most cats can be taught or retrained to scratch a post.

Encourage Tiger to scratch his roughly carpeted post with clever enticements. Play with him by the post and place dangle-toys around the area. Rubbing dried catnip into the post might just do the trick.

If you do not have a scratching post to use, you can always find pieces of carpet that provide a satisfying resistant texture for clawing. Put them on or around kitty's scratching area.

Remember that Tiger has marked his favorite spots with his scent and claws. You may need to remove his scent from the areas that you want to distract him from with pet odor removers.

If you are starting off with a kitten, consider yourself fortunate. It's much easier to start off with good habit patterns than to correct undesirable ones!

Sisters Country Weddings

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