Why Do Cats Need a Scratching Post?
When a cat scratches a wall or post, it’s a sign that strong winds are about to rattle the rafters. If the cat scratches the legs of your table, it mean a change in the weather. According to old British folklore, that is…
In reality, cats scratch for personal reasons – not to alert you to things your weather app may have missed! But the folklore underline something very true – the fact that cats will happily run its claws up and down your household treasures. That’s why a tailor-made scratching post is a must for all pet cats.
There’s no doubt that cats enjoy the sensation of scratching. But there are two practical reasons for the behaviour. Cats trim their nails by clawing against hard or rough surfaces, so a scratching post is a kind of manicure station. Scratching also lets them have a good, general body stretch.
Cats also have scent glands in their paws (to match the ones on their cheeks – that’s what they’re up to when thy brush against your legs). When scratching, they are also scent-marking, to tell the world that this particular territory belongs to them.
It’s not just domestic cats that do this. Tigers, for example, scent-mark trees, gouging them with their enormous claws as they do so.
Learning From Scratch
Pet cats that spend a lot of time outdoors will not scratch as much in the home. Their nails will be kept in good shape the natural way as the animal roams its wider territory. Cats will also, like tigers, take advantage of trees and other natural scratching stations.
If your cat spends little time outdoors, the urge for indoor scratching will be strong. You can reinforce desirable scratching behaviour by showering the cat with praise and affection when it uses the scratching post, and gently discouraging it if it tries to get its claws up close and personal to the furniture. It’s important not to simply cuddle the cat to stop it clawing, as your pet may interpret this as attention. The assumption “My Claws + Your Furniture = Quality Time With You” is one you need to discourage.
Cat Scratch Posts – Feline Groovy
A persistent furniture- or curtain-scratcher will need to break the habit. Covering the cat’s favourite table leg, sofa arm, etc., with kitchen foil, double-sided sticky tape or shiny plastic sheeting usually does the trick. The cat doesn’t like the feel of its claws on these surfaces.
Odours can deter persistent scratchers too. Citrus and menthol are two scents that most moggies will keep away from.
Another trick is to buy (or make) a scratching post and place it next to the piece of furniture the cat has been scratching. A sprinkle of catnip will make the new scratch post irresistible. Once the cat has engaged, the post can be moved somewhere more convenient.
It’s important that the scratching post is appealing to your pet. It will need a wide, heavy base to prevent it from wobbling or falling over during clawing, and should be tall enough to accommodate your cat at full stretch – between 60cm and 90cm. Make sure the material attached to the post has vertical grooves, rather than horizontal. Corrugated fibre boards work well, or materials with a vertical weave. This will ease the scratching process, and also minimise the chance of a claw snagging in the material (something to be aware of if you’re making your own post).
A scratching mat is another option, although many cats seem to prefer stretching upwards to scratch. This may be something to do with getting their scent spread at optimal height for feline passers-by to sniff at.
Identifying the Claws of Stress
Cats sometimes claw when they’re stressed, and that’s when your furniture is in real danger from cat-scratch-fever. Identifying the source of stress is important. It could be another cat, another pet (usually a dog), or even a child in the house whose rough handling has freaked out the poor puss. On the other hand it could be a noisy household appliance, or some regular noise from outside the home, such as aircraft or hyperactive car alarms.
As far as possible, remove or minimise the source of stress. Provide a second scratch post too. If you have more than one cat, it’s a good idea to give them each a separate post to call their own.
And just out of interest, next time your cat has a prolonged scratch at its post, take a look outside. Is it getting windier? Is the weather on the change? After all, those weather apps don’t get it right every time.
This entry was posted in Cats