Scratching is a natural, healthy, and necessary activity for all cats. By understanding why your cat or kitten needs to scratch, and encouraging healthy and appropriate scratching habits, you can have a cat and a nice couch too!
Why do cats scratch?
Cats use their claws for a variety of reasons:
- To defend themselves
- To climb, exercise, and stretch. Stretching is essential for cats to maintain healthy back, chest, and leg muscles and to help keep their spine and hips properly aligned
- To mark territory with their scent
- For emotional release when they feel stressed or excited
Cats tend to scratch in social areas and places where your scent is the strongest – like your couch or your bed – because they are trying to mingle their scent with yours. Consider it a kitty compliment!
How can I promote positive behaviour?
Here are a few tips to help your cat develop healthy scratching habits:
- Provide a good quality scratching post; a tall, sturdy, vertical one is best. You can train your cat to use it by, for example, having it chase a toy up the post. Some scratchers come with catnip to rub on the post as an incentive. A sturdy horizontal scratcher is a good alternative for cats that prefer to scratch carpet or other flat surfaces.
- Put the post beside any piece of furniture that your cat seems to like to scratch; gently encourage them to the post when they get the urge to scratch, for example, using a feather wand toy, or rubbing cat nip on the post.
- Cover any area or piece of furniture that your cat has chosen to scratch with a deterrent, such as double-sided tape. Once cats realize they don’t like the texture and they have a better alternative, they typically stop scratching that area.
- Keep multiple scratchers around the house, placing them in your cat’s favourite spots.
Never punish a cat for scratching furniture. Instead, use positive reinforcement, like treats: reward the behaviour you want to see!