We often get asked how “can I stop my cat from scratching ?”
Sadly we have also had people asking if their cat can be declawed (this is an operation to surgically remove an animal’s claws by means of the amputation of all or part of the end bones of the animal’s toes) – just imagine having the ends of your toes & fingers cut off. This is an extremely painful procedure; thankfully it has been outlawed by the Animal Welfare Act 2006 as it is considered to be cruel.
Cat scratching behaviour is hard-wired into the feline brain, and is a natural instinctive behaviour that can’t be stopped.
The main reasons cats lose their homes and lives are destructive scratching, inappropriate toilet habits (not using the litter tray), and aggression. If you understand why your cat scratches, you can train them to use a scratching post or other ‘legal’ target, protect your furniture, and preserve your relationship with your cat.
Why Cats Scratch
Claws are a physically, socially, and emotionally vital part of every cat.
Scratching, for a cat, is not only a natural act, but a necessary one as well.
- It removes the dead outer sheaths of nail, keeping it sharp and ready for action.
- It is an essential exercise technique which serves to stretch and strengthen their upper bodies.
- Cats mark their territory visually, especially in multi–cat households, as a way of determining rank.
- Between your cat’s toes are scent glands which leave their ‘signature’ when they scratches.
- Scratching is an essential element of cats’ communication, problem-solving, health, and security issues.
Which changes popular question, “How do I get my cat to stop scratching?” to “How can I get my cat to scratch somewhere else?”
The key to successful scratch training is giving the cat an irresistible target, while making forbidden objects undesirable.
Location Is Important
Clawing marks territory so scratch objects must be located correctly for the cat to use them. Your cat wants the world to see their scratchings, so don’t hide scratch posts in back rooms. Place them in high traffic areas or near important cat territory— windows, lookouts, sleeping areas, and food stations.
Think about where your cat would want their scratching post to be, not where you would like it to be.
Place the scratching post in front of the damaged spot on the furniture. That way you can direct their claws appropriately, while he still has a preferred location for scratching. Once they’re using the right scratching post, you can move it–six inches at a time every other day, until in a more acceptable place (for you AND the cat).
Give Cats Multiple Scratching Opportunities
The same 1 per cat +1 extra rule applies with scratching posts as it also does for litter boxes–at least one object for every cat, plus one. So for one cat, provide at least two scratch opportunities, and for two cats offer three. More always is better.
Cat Furniture: Scratching Posts, Cat Activity Centres & Cat Trees
Cat activity centres/cat trees are beneficial in many ways, one of which is to provide a common marking post in multi–cat households. Before you invest a lot of money in buying or building a post, make sure you are catering to your cat’s particular preferences.
There are inexpensive horizontal cardboard scratchers for carpet–lovers, wedge shaped cardboard ramps for cats who scratch low on furniture, and upright posts or ‘trees’ for cats who like to stretch when scratching. The material that the post is made of is also important.
Many cats prefer the feel of a sisal rope–wound post, and natural wood is also desirable in that it closely mimics what they’d like to scratch most of all — a tree! A redwood or cedar (softwood) plank or log may be a real hit. Beware of carpet covered furniture, mainly because it’s hard to teach your cat that scratching ‘this’ carpet is okay, but ‘that’ carpet isn’t.
Remember that in order to fully exercise their upper extremities and get a good stretch, the cat must have enough confidence in the post to put all of their body weight into it. If the post has too small or too insecure a base, it will wobble or tip as they pull, eroding their confidence in the post and leading them back to that nice solid furniture.
How to Teach Your Cat to Use their Furniture (not yours)
Once the post is in your home, rub it with catnip, or dangle your cat’s favourite toy from the top, creating a game which encourages your cat to mimic the motion of scratching. Your lavish praise will also help create a positive association with the act of scratching the cat furniture.
Be sure that the scratch post is sturdy enough for a cat’s assault. If it tips over on him, that’s likely the last time they’ll use it! Also provide for your cat’s growth. What works for a youngster probably won’t satisfy a big cat’s full stretch.
Place a food bowl or bed nearby. Cats typically enjoy a good scratch after meals or when they awake so use this natural urge to encourage proper claw etiquette.
The ‘No’ Techniques
The following methods will help break the cat of the habit of scratching inappropriate objects (your furniture) by removing the pleasurable component and replacing it with something not quite so nice.
These include things such as:
- tin foil covering the spot
- double-sided tape
But remember, aversive methods will only work when the cat is provided with an alternate surface that is equally or more desirable.
The ‘Yes’ Technique
Working to get your cat to embrace the idea of a new place to scratch is a process. It must become a part of their habits, which takes some time.
- As the cat uses the post or cat furniture more, you can begin to lessen the aversive measures.
- If the cat is having a hard time accepting the post, try daily sessions where you make the sound with your fingers of scratching on the post, accompanied by praise, and an irresistible treat to reward the cat as soon as they perform the desired action. Timing is important! The positives need to be heaped on the cat while they perform the action; a nanosecond later and they’ll have no idea why you are praising them. They’ll like it, but won’t get the message.
- If you catch the cat in the act of scratching in the undesired spot, even with the ‘no’ techniques in place, correct the cat with a sound; hissing, but nothing that they can interpret as punishing sounds associated with your voice.
- Be patient; incorporating this new behaviour into the routine may take a few months without having any “slips”.
An appointment at St Clair to have nails clipped is currently £10, we are very experienced at doing this and it usually only takes a short time. To book your pet in for a nail clip contact us on 01670 457271
Feliway is a synthetic copy of the ‘feline facial pheromone’ and is proven to reassure and comfort cats, helping them to cope with changes in their environment or other stressful situations.
The effects of Feliway has been shown in more than 13 studies published in scientific journals or presented at veterinary conferences all over the world.
Clinical trials show a reduction in urine spraying in up to 91% of households and up to 96% reduction in stress-related vertical scratching. Feliway comes as a spray or a plug-in diffuser.
What are ‘Facial pheromones’?
When a cat feel safe and comfortable in its environment, it rubs its head against the furniture, walls, bottom of curtains etc, leaving a substance call the facial pheromone. This pheromone is specific to cats and conveys a message of security and reassurance. In the presence of this pheromone cats are seen to show less signs of stress.