Scratching is a perfectly normal behaviour exhibited by cats. The primary reasons for scratching are to mark territory and remove the worn-out layer of the claw to keep it clean and healthy. Cats also use their claws to defend themselves if they feel threatened.
Cats that spend most of their time outdoors will naturally exhibit scratching behaviour, including marking on trees or fence posts. Cats leave visual and scent markers as a means of communicating with each other.
Cats that spend most of their time indoors may cause problems when they express this behaviour in the home. They might scratch furniture, walls or doors, and even use their claws to climb or hang from the drapes. This information sheet provides advice on how to deal with scratching behaviour.
How can I prevent my cat from scratching?
It is impractical and unfair to expect your cat to stop scratching altogether. In order to prevent your cat from scratching household items, you should set up a play area that will allow the cat to exhibit its natural behaviours, including scratching, climbing and playing.
You should set up scratching posts in your cat’s play area and put at least one close to the cat’s sleeping quarters. The posts should be tall and sturdy and the surface should be made of loosely woven material that allows the claws to hook on while the cat is scratching.
How can I get my cat to use the play area and scratching post?
To encourage your cat to use its new play area, make sure it is fun and stimulating. Include lots of things to climb on, hide in and play with. Placing cat nip in or near the play area may also entice the cat to use the scratching post. You should also play with your cat around the scratching post and encourage it to use the post by dangling a toy against it.
What can I do if my cat continues to scratch the furniture?
Some cats will continue to scratch the furniture out of habit or due to the poor positioning of scratching posts. If this is the case, you should consider setting up a confinement area or cat-proofing your home. Cover the items your cat likes to scratch with things that it will find unappealing, such as double-sided sticky tape or foil. Placing an unpleasant odour on the furniture may also reduce the cat’s desire to scratch it.
It may also help if you place a scratching post directly in front of the area being scratched. When you move the posts, remember to do it gradually. A sudden change in the location of the post may encourage your cat to go back to its original scratching area.
Should I punish my cat for scratching?
You should never punish your cat for scratching the furniture or other things within the home. Punishing pets is only effective if they are caught in the act. However, if you constantly present yourself while the cat is scratching and punish it for doing so, the cat will only think it is unacceptable to scratch in the presence of people. Therefore, it is best to provide a scratching post so your cat can exhibit this natural behaviour without causing any damage.
Will it help if I de-claw my cat?
De-clawing your cat is strongly discouraged. Scratching is natural behaviour and can usually be directed onto something appropriate (eg. scratching post). Without claws, your cat will be unable to defend itself, should the need arise, and it may also develop behavioural problems.
What should I do if the scratching is directed at people?
A cat scratching a person is usually due to frustration or an overly boisterous desire to play. The best way to combat this behaviour is to provide your cat with an outlet. You should set aside some time each day to play with your cat and encourage it to use its play area. Try not to play with your hands as this will encourage the cat to continue scratching you.
If the cat is scratching after a pat, it is best to stop the patting before the cat becomes frustrated. Learn to spot the signs of frustration, which could include a stiff body, swishing tail and ears moved back. If your cat does not like a lot of affection, only give it a little bit. This will encourage the cat to seek out affection from you when it wants to.