Why cats scratch
Although many humans do not appreciate
when their cats scratching, you have to know that kittens and
cats do not scratch to make us angry, they just need to scratch.
Scratching is a natural hardwired behavior in cats, just like
breathing and purring.
But scratching is easier to deal
with, if you understand why cats scratch in the first place.
In the wild, cats scratch around their immediate environment
to signal their presence to other cats and to claim the area
in question. The marking takes two forms: visual and olfactory.
The visual is in the form of clawing marks and is so obvious
that even we humans can recognize it. The olfactory mark is
subtler, involving the release of pheromones. These are substances
secreted from the body to be picked up by the number of the
same species, causing them to alter their behavior.
Cats secrete pheromones from
superficial glands in the skin of the cat’s paws through
the process of kneading. The message is invisible to all creatures
and is undetectable unless you have the right equipment (a
super sensitive nose) or are close enough. A competitor coming
up to the site will see the scratch marks and then smell the
message: another cat has already claimed this place.
Scratching, when done
as a marking behaviour, follows a well-recognised sequence:
1.Your cat will approach the surface to be scratched
2.The surface is smelt and your cat will then exhibit 'flehmen' (a special
type of sniffing action which helps it detect the pheromone)
3.Limbs are stretched with extension of the spine.
4.Scratching with alternate forepaws takes place.
Two distinct groups are seen
with scratching cats. The first one is when your cat target
one or two areas in the home, usually near important territorial
areas such as: sleeping area, litter tray, hunting or play
areas. The second one is your cat undertake more widespread
and destructive scratching in highly visible sites such as:
doorways, windows, prominent furnishings - like sofas.
Where this occurs it may indicate
that something has occurred to psychologically stress your
cat - often over-crowding/bullying or repeated territorial
invasions by other cats in an area important to your cat.
Scratching has additional function
too. It removes the nail sheaths, outer layer of dead cells
from the claw. You might thing your cat scratches to sharpen
her claws, but it more likely it provides her with a form of
physical therapy for the muscles and tendons of her paws.
How you cat stop your
cat from scratching
It is impractical and unfair
to expect cats to stop scratching entirely. Cats that go outside
may be content to do all their scratching outdoors, but the
urge may still arise while the cat comes back indoors. Cats
that spend most of their time indoors will of course, need
some outlet for their scratching and marking behavior, so do
not be surprised if you come home to objects strewn all over
the floor, scratches on your furniture, and your cat playful
climbing or dangling from your drapes. Therefore, while it
may not be possible to stop a cat from scratch, it should be
possible to direct the scratching, climbing and playing to
appropriate areas indoors. That is where scratching equipment
comes in. Get the right scratching gear and place it correctly
and you can have your cat and furniture, too.
No matter how hard you try, you
will not train your cat to stop scratching, so you may consider
the following options:
- Provide your cat with scratching posts or board. It is critical to her health.
It not only relieves it on her innate desire to scratch, it is a form an exercise.
See How to make your cat to scratch her
- Provide your cat with some
cat furniture like a cat tree. Cats can literally exhaust themselves
playing with it. See Why cats
- Provide your cat with cat toys.
Good toys will encourage activities like scratching, chasing
and batting. See How to
play with your cat
- The last and the most drastically
solution to stop your cat scratching is declawing. See Cat
Declawing. Is it necessary?
How to punish my cat
for inappropriate scratching?
All forms of physical punishment
should be avoided since they can cause fear or aggression toward
the owner, and at best, the cat will only learn to stop the
scratching while the owner is around. Indirect, non-physical
forms of punishment may be useful if the owner remain out of
sight while administering the punishment. In this way your
cat may learn that scratching is unpleasant even when he is
not present. See 13 ways
to save your furniture from cat scratching
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