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Understanding Your Cat’s Scratching Behavior

understanding your cat's scratching behavior

Your cat looks so determined as she sinks her little daggers into your prized antique chair to start shredding. She is not doing this to protest your taste in decor or to tick you off, however. She is scratching to satisfy a need that all cats share, according to the American Association of Feline Practitioners. Understanding why she insists on trashing your furniture is an important first step toward harmony in your home.

Claws Don’t Need to Be Sharpened

When your cat decides to tear up your prized Persian rug, she is not doing so out of spite. Contrary to popular myth, she is not sharpening her claws either. A cat’s claws are naturally honed to sharpness already. Just take a look at your kitty’s handiwork. Dull claws didn’t dissect the side of your sofa. There are legitimate reasons why you catch your cat scratching things, but sharpening her claws is not one of them.

This Couch Is Her Couch

By nature, cats are territorial. In the wild, cats lay claim to turf by marking their territories. One way of doing this is to scratch on objects in their surroundings. That instinct remains in your furry family member. Cats have scent glands in their paws. When your cat scratches something, she is leaving her scent marker on it as a means of claiming her space. Scratch marks also make a visible statement, warning others that this is her turf. When she scratches, she also sheds off the brittle outermost layers of her claws. These layers are dead tissue that gets replaced by healthy nail tissue as her claws grow. Scratching grooms her nails while leaving a third sign of evidence that she has claimed this domain.

Reach and Stretch

You know from your own experience how good it feels to stretch. Reaching your arm up as high as you can and stretching your back muscles is revitalizing. That need to stretch is one that you and your cat have in common. Cats scratch things as a means of flexing and stretching the muscles in their back and their upper body. Your cat can’t strike most of your yoga poses or stand up tall and balance on her back two feet. Her stretching workout is accomplished by reaching as far as she can, anchoring herself to something with her claws and pulling.

Emotions Unleashed

Cats also scratch things as a way to communicate and release emotions. They scratch with exuberance when they are especially happy or excited. They also scratch to work off stress and anxiety. Scratching also serves as a means of kitty anger management. Angry cats scratch things to release their frustration. Read this to figure out what scratching post is best for your cat!

Redirect Scratching

Now you understand that scratching is a healthy, hardwired and necessary habit that all cats need to indulge. You can’t reboot your kitty to stop her scratching behavior. Instead, the two of you can compromise. You can redirect her scratching needs to surfaces other than your furnishings. Provide acceptable things for her to scratch, such as cat scratching posts or scratching pads. Be sure that scratching posts are tall enough that she can really stretch to her full length when using them.

Encourage Good Behavior

Redirecting your cat’s scratching focus will save your sofa and restore your relationship. By following a few tips, you can encourage your cat to use a cat scratching post or pad.

  • Sprinkle loose catnip on the cat scratching post or pad to lure her to it.
  • Place a post or pad near her favorite snoozing spot. This can inspire a stretching and scratching session when she awakens from her catnaps.
  • Keep scratching posts and pads in plain site so that they are just as readily accessible to your cat as the forbidden furniture.
  • Give your cat love praise and offer her a treat as a reward for good behavior each and every time she scratches a post or pad.

As you take these steps to encourage good behavior, you’ll need to try to discourage your cat’s bad behavior.

Take the Fun Out of Your Furniture

Your cat crouches into position for a gratifying scratch on the side of your sofa. Think twice about shooting her with your kid’s super soaker. Squirting water pistols, yelling and shaking coins loudly in a metal container teaches her to fear your presence. Discourage your cat’s destructive scratching by making the forbidden furniture unpleasant. Try these tips to teach your cat that shredding furniture and rugs isn’t so much fun after all.

  • Place double-sided tape along the surface that she likes to scratch, like the corner of your couch. Cats hate that sticky feeling on their paws.
  • Install a motion detector that sounds an alarm when she approaches the forbidden zone. The noise will send her scurrying, and she won’t associate it with you.
  • Clean the area where your cat has been scratching with an odor-neutralizing cleaning product. If she can’t smell her scent on it, she may be less likely to return to the spot to reclaim it.

To you, your normally sweet kitty is committing scratching sins on your belongings. From her point of vie she really is just doing what a cat’s got to do. By understanding why cats scratch and providing for those little paws with claws, peace will prevail.