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Cats & Scratching

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You love your cat, but maybe you wish they wouldn’t scratch the furniture.

Scratching is a natural behavior for cats, but you can guide your kitty to use scratching posts and other options rather than the leg of your favorite chair.

Here’s how…

Healthy Scratching Habits for Cats

Scratching is a behavior that cats absolutely MUST do.

There’s no way around it—scratching is instinctual, and beneficial. Here are some of the purposes scratching serves…

  • Nail Health. Cats’ nails expand outward as they grow, and your cat must shed the outer sheath to keep their nails healthy. If they don’t do this, their claws can grow around and into their paw pads, leading to pain, bleeding, and infections
  • Exercise. For cats, scratching provides upper body toning and stretching
  • Territory Marking. Cats feel an instinctual need to mark their territory, both visually (via claw marks) and in terms of scent (their paws have scent glands). Taking this option away from a cat can cause undue stress and may lead to other behavioral problems
  • Emotional Health. Many experts believe scratching provides emotional comfort, stress relief, and enjoyment

Since cats must scratch, finding safe scratching alternatives is the best solution.

Finding the Right Scratching Surface for Your Cat 

Scratching posts (or other scratching surfaces) are crucial. They are designed to be scratched, and therefore healthy for your cat and a better alternative to your furniture: a win-win.

However, individual cats have different tastes when it comes to scratching. Here are some factors to consider:

  • Direction. Does your cat like horizontal surfaces (like carpet) or vertical surfaces (like the curtains or the sides of the couch)? Scratching posts and surfaces come in both varieties
  • Texture. Popular choices among cats include: sisal rope, carpet, corrugated cardboard, and natural wood or tree branches
  • Sturdiness. Look for a strong base. If the scratching post wobbles or tips over, your cat might not want to use it anymore
  • Location. Try placing the scratching post near the spot where your cat already likes to scratch. For example, beside the couch, or next to their favorite napping spot (many cats stretch and scratch after waking up)

Training Your Cat to Use the Scratching Object

Whether you’ve purchased a cat tower, a freestanding scratching post, a horizontal cardboard scratcher you place on the floor, or any other option, your kitty may need some training to use it.

Try these tips:

  • Make It Tempting. Lure your kitty to their new scratching spot by rubbing it with catnip, placing treats at the base, or dangling a favorite toy over it during playtime
  • Provide Encouragement. When your cat uses their new scratching post, shower them with praise

Discouraging the Use of Furniture for Scratching 

Now you know how to train your cat to use a scratching post—but the other side of the coin is preventing them from using your furniture, curtains, carpet, etc.

Gentle discouragement is best. Here are some ways to do that:

  • Use Undesirable Textures. Cover the corner of the couch with double-sided sticky tape. Or, place aluminum foil over the carpet
  • Block Access. To eliminate all possibility of damage from kitty claws, place a plastic protector or scratching post that fits onto and covers your furniture
  • Gently Redirect. If you catch your kitty in the act, make a noise to interrupt them (nothing scary, just a quick clap of your hands or a firm “No” will do). Then, lovingly pick up your cat and take them to their scratching surface—and offer plenty of praise if they use it

If you see claw damage but didn’t witness your cat scratching, reacting after the fact won’t help your cat learn because they won’t understand why you’re upset.

You need to give your cat signals while they’re scratching, because that’s how cats learn best—they learn in the moment.

Trimming Your Cat’s Nails

You can trim your cat’s nails at home, or bring your kitty to a veterinary practice or groomer to get the job done.

When trimming nails at home, start slow. Get your kitty used to having their paws handled first.

Then…

  • Trim while your cat is sleepy
  • Use cat-specific toenail trimmers
  • Gently press on each paw pad to expose the nail
  • Trim just the sharp, clear tip. Don’t trim too low (where the pink blood vessel is), as that causes bleeding and pain—and will make your kitty very resistant to future nail trims
  • Start with 1-2 nails. Some cats only tolerate a couple of nails trimmed per session, so you may need to complete the trimming over multiple sessions
  • Once per month is a good frequency for most cats, but check to see how fast their nails are growing

A Quick Note on Other Nail Modifications: 

Maybe you’ve heard of declawing. While common in the past, this surgical procedure—which removes not only your cat’s claws, but also part of their toes including the bone—is falling out of favor. The procedure can result in chronic pain (and a painful surgical recovery), and may lead to other behavioral problems. It’s even illegal in some countries, and some parts of the U.S.

A better alternative is Soft Paws. This product—a set of plastic covers for your kitty’s nails that come in fun colors and are attached with a special glue—can work for some cats.

However, Soft Paws need to be replaced every few weeks. And some cats will remove them earlier than that.

For all these reasons, many experts recommend nail trimming as the simplest, most humane option to keep nails trimmed, healthy, and not overly sharp. 

Altogether, nail trimming, furniture deterrents, and—most importantly—a proper scratching surface can lead to scratching habits that work for both you and your cat.

Your kitty will appreciate your attention to their needs—and once you’re free of worry over the furniture and curtains, you’ll be able to focus all your attention on the wonderful bond with your cat.


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Fromm Family Pet Food