It’s every cat owner’s nightmare, a new sofa arrives, the one you have been saving up for over the last 2 years and whilst you’re signing the delivery note, out of the corner of your eye you see your beloved feline friend flexing its claws just waiting for the moment you turn your back.
Why do cats scratch?
So why is it that our feline companions don’t share our taste in décor? The most common reason for a cat to scratch is to sharpen their claws. The action of dragging their front claws (known as stropping) loosens and removes that outer layer of the claw revealing a new sharp surface underneath. It also exercises the muscles of the forelimbs to keep the cat in prime condition for hunting.
The other main reason that cats scratch is to mark their territory. Cats are extremely territorial creatures and the process of scratching not only acts as a visual message but also marks the area with a scent which is released from sweat and scent glands in between the pads of the cat’s feet.
Given access to the outdoors, cats may exhibit most of their scratching behaviour on trees, fence posts, gates and other natural surfaces. However, why do some cats decide to bring this destructive behaviour into the home?
But why does my cat scratch the furniture?
In most cases, cats scratching indoors arises from fairly normal circumstances including:
Having limited access to outdoors
Not wanting to go outdoors
A precursor to play
A sign of territorial confidence
Marking their territory (especially in multi-cat houses)
Moderate scratching behaviour in the house is, unfortunately, to be expected, however, there are a number of ways you can limit damage to your furniture.
Claw trimming can be performed on a regular basis if your cat will tolerate it. This should only be undertaken if your cat is kept exclusively indoors. Cats with access to the outdoors may rely on their claws to get them out of trouble in certain situations.
The best solution is to provide your cat with a scratching post to provide them with opportunities for play and exercise in addition to a variety of different surfaces to scratch. If introduced at a young age, a scratching post should limit damage to other household surfaces.
It is important to note that when introducing any additional cats to the house, always provide a second scratching post ideally situated in a different part of the home.
Help! My cat still won’t stop scratching.
In some cases, excessive widespread scratching in the home, especially near windows and doors can be an indication of stress scratching.
Stress scratching is more likely to occur if:
You have a multi-cat household
Your home is in an area with a dense cat population
There have been changes in your home, including new furniture or moving furniture around your house
There have been any new additions to your home including babies and pets.
The common dominator is that cats who stress scratch feel threatened or insecure. As previously mentioned, cats are by nature territorial animals, therefore, it’s important to take steps to help reduce anxieties caused by a threat on their territory.
In multi-cat household’s environmental changes should be made to help reduce competition for resources such as food, shelter and territory. Provide separate feeding and sleeping areas and an individual scratching post for each cat.
If you’re worried that your cat is excessively scratching speak to your veterinary practice for advice and help.