Scratching is just one of many quirky feline antics. This common cat behavior is completely normal and healthy—in fact, instead of trying to stop cats from scratching, cat owners should be encouraging this instinctive behavior (on the right objects, of course).
In order to put a stop to destructive scratching and promote your kitty’s happiness and health, it’s also important to understand the reasons behind your cat’s behavior.
Why Do Cats Scratch?
The most simple explanation behind your cat’s scratching habit is that it’s an instinct. Cats have a need to scratch, and a lack of proper scratching surfaces isn’t going to keep your kitty's claws from coming out!
Some common reasons for your cat’s instinctive scratching behavior include:
An intense scratching session on a sturdy scratching post can be a great outlet for your cat’s anxiety, stress, or excitement.
Cats have scent glands in the paws, which help them to claim territory as their own. Plus, the scratch marks left behind (on a cardboard scratch pad, for example), can be used as a visual indicator of your cat’s ownership.
If your kitty tends to head straight to her scratching post after a snooze, she’s probably enjoying a post-nap stretch. Scratching is a good way for your cat to stretch her claws and feet; if she has a vertical scratching post, she’s also able to give her body a big stretch.
Scratching can also be a form of exercise, as it gives your cat a chance to move her muscles—especially if she can really dig her nails in and get a good grip while she pushes and pulls.
Scratching can be a fun activity, especially if the scratching post or pad comes in the form of an interactive toy.
When your cat uses her scratching post, she’s also filing her nails. Think of scratching as just another step in your kitty’s self-care routine.
Choosing the Right Scratcher for Your Cat
Cat scratchers come in a variety of forms, shapes, and sizes and can be made of materials including rope, wood, and cardboard. Some cats prefer vertical scratching posts or cat trees, while others like to scratch pads on the ground; some also love scratch pads combined with interactive toys for added entertainment. It never hurts to have a few different options for your cat to choose from depending on her mood and needs on a given day.
At the minimum, you’ll want to have something sturdy for your cat to scratch—something where she can really dig in her nails and get a good grip without having to worry about the scratcher wobbling or toppling over. It may take some trial and error to find the right scratcher for your cat, but finding the perfect fit is well worth it. Your clothes and furniture will thank you!
Putting a Stop to Problematic Scratching
If your cat doesn’t have a good scratcher, it doesn’t mean she’ll stop scratching. Instead, she’ll turn to your furniture, carpet, or even clothes and skin. After all, scratching is a feline necessity.
Don’t punish your cat for scratching; this may only make her more stressed, which will lead to further scratching. Instead, think strategically about the type and placement of scratchable objects in your home.
When it comes to your cat’s scratching habits, location is key. Instead of “will she scratch?” think “where will she scratch?” Put her scratcher near an area of the house that she already tends to scratch. For example, if she loves scratching your couch, place her new scratching post next to the couch. If she’s a wall scratcher, try installing a wall-hanging scratch pad.
With enough time, patience, treats, and catnip, your cat will eventually learn which areas are appropriate (and enjoyable) to scratch, and will hopefully lose interest in your furniture.
Can Scratching Replace Nail Trimming?
While your cat’s scratching post can act as a nail file, it isn’t a complete replacement for regular nail trimming.
Because cat claws are retractable, they aren’t naturally filed down from walking the way dog nails are. That said, your cat’s nails should be trimmed every two weeks or so. If you notice your kitty’s claws getting stuck on clothes or other objects around the house, then it’s definitely time for a trim.
Help your cat get used to the feeling of having her paws handled by playing with her feet and paw pads. Allow her to sniff and explore the nail clippers, too—cats are curious creatures, and familiarity with a potentially scary object can help to ease some anxiety that may be associated with nail trimming.
Find a calm, quiet spot in the house (and make sure your cat is feeling calm, too). Examine your cat’s nail to identify how far you should cut—never go past the quick—and quickly clip before moving on to the next nail.
Don’t worry about getting all of the nails in one setting. If your cat is feeling too restless, she’ll let you know. Instead of forcing it, let her go and try again later.
Positive association is key. While trimming your cat’s nails, use a calm, reassuring voice to praise her for cooperative behavior. Don’t forget about treats, too.
Along with a proper scratcher, promote your kitty’s well-being with some of Pet Honesty’s yummy, natural cat supplements: Digestive Probiotics+ Powder for Cats, and Omega-3 Fish Oil for Cats and Dogs. Your cat will thank you!