Did you know that when your cat’s claws rake the carpet, she is fulfilling three nature functions at once? (Four, if you include making you mad!)
- Maintaining her nails in purr-fect condition
- Identifying her territory with scent
- Exercising her back muscles
Does that make you feel better about the loss of a priceless Chinese rug? Perhaps not.
So if scratching is a behavior you could live without, here’s a quick zip through why cats scratch and how to stop them. By understanding what motivates this aggravating behavior you can psyche the cat out and prevent it happening.
Soft wood is an open invitation to clawing as it feels so nice under the paws. Try offering your cat a scratching post that has this feel-good factor. If you can find a piece of wood that you can dent with your thumb, then kitty’s going to love it and it will become a firm favorite.
Be careful to pick scratching posts made of materials that will appeal to your cat. This is a case of “If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.” If kitty prefers to rip up carpet, then tack a piece of carpet offcut or remnant onto a post. (This can get a little expensive if her preference is oriental rugs.)
Be aware that many store-bought scratching posts are made with plastic rope – which cats hate. Do yourself a favor and only invest in scratching posts covered with a natural material such as sisal.
Horizontal or Vertical
Does your cat prefer for scratching horizontally or vertically? If you’re not sure, take a look at the damage. If kitty wrecks mostly the carpets or rugs, you have a horizontal scratcher; the sofa or wallpaper and it’s vertical.
This matters because it’s how your cat likes to stretch out her muscles and feels comfortable. Pander to her desires by providing a scratching post that matches this preference and she’s far more likely to use it.
Cat psychology says that cats like to stretch and scratch upon waking. Place a scratching post beside her favorite sleeping spot and get set for success. Just be sure the post is well anchored so it feels secure under the paw. Nothing is more off-putting than a wobbly scratching post, and if she fears it’s going to topple over it will get the cold shoulder.
Also know that cats like to scratch by entrances and exits (this goes back to marking their territory). Make use of this fact and put scratching posts beside doorways, and give kitty a helping paw to develop good habits.
You know how the cat keeps going back to the same spot on the sofa? Well, this is because she’s scent marked it. An outdoor cat scratches as a signal to other cats that this is her patch. Your cat isn’t just being obnoxious when she claws your dining chairs, she’s depositing minute traces of scent signature from her paws onto the wood. So why not make use of scent to attract kitty to the scratching post?
Do this by rubbing the scent glands on her face with a clean, dry washcloth, and then rub the washcloth on the scratching post. The cat’s scent glands lie along her cheek bones, where she rubs her face on your shins. Repeat the scent gland treatment as needed.
Also spritz the scratch post with Feliway. This is a synthetic version of feline facial pheromones (try saying that in a hurry) and is to scent what a loudspeaker is to sound. It will make the scratching post instantly more attractive and increase the chances of her using it.
Stop Bad Behavior
OK, this next bit sounds counter-intuitive but bear with it.
As kitty rakes her claws down the best flock wallpaper, resist the urge to shout at her. The reasons shouting doesn’t work are two-fold:
- It gives her attention, so you run the risk of rewarding the bad behavior with attention, which encourages rather than deters the behavior.
- She associates the punishment with you, so waits until you’re gone THEN scratches the wallpaper.
What you need is an “Act of God” happening when she claws the carpet.
This means she gets a mild shock which she associates with scratching and so desists. On no account hurt her, the aim is to create an unpleasant surprise, such as the clatter of pebbles in a plastic bottle landing beside her. Don’t let her see you throw the rattle, so its arrival seems truly supernatural. That way she won’t link the deterrent to you and behaves in your absence.
Does your cat’s scratching have you tearing your hair out? Share stories of what your cat sharpens her claws on and help make other people feel better.