If you've got a kitty that loves nothing more than scratching your carpets or furniture, then you need to read this advice from International Cat Care.
Why do cats scratch?
Cats scratch with their front claws by dragging them downward, either on a horizontal or vertical surface – this action, referred to as stropping, loosens and removes the outer husk of the claw revealing a sharp new surface underneath.
It also exercises the muscles of the forelimbs and spine to keep the cat in tip-top condition for hunting. Some cats will scratch by lying down and pulling their bodyweight along the floor. The surfaces chosen are usually fixed and non-yielding to resist the force exerted by the cat.
Scratching is also used as a form of territorial communication or marking behaviour. Scent and sweat glands in between the pads of the feet mix to produce a unique smell. When claws are scraped down a surface, the scent is deposited and the combination of the mark, discarded claw husks and the smell provides a strong visual and scent message to other cats.
Evidence of scratching outdoors can often be found on trees, fence posts, sheds and wooden gates, for example, all strategically important locations in a cat populated area. Similar surfaces outside will also be utilised for claw maintenance. Unvarnished woods and tree bark are the most natural surfaces to scratch as they provide a perfect level of resistance to the action and show a strong visual cue when used regularly.
What can I do to stop my cat scratching my furniture and carpets?
If you have owned your cat from a kitten it is important that it is accustomed to handling and restraint at an early age. If a cat becomes used to claw trimming as a kitten then this will be well tolerated as an adult and will prevent damage to furniture. However, this should only be undertaken if your cat is kept exclusively indoors, as it may need those sharp claws for defence against attack and to get out of trouble.
Claw trimming, however, won’t be the whole answer – if a particular surface or object is being damaged it is important to provide an acceptable alternative that offers a similar experience when used. For example, if your cat is scratching textured wallpaper at a certain height it is advisable that the alternative scratching area is vertical with similar texture and striations that allows the cat to stretch to the same level.
Commercially available scratching posts range from a basic single upright structure with a heavy base to an elaborate floor-to-ceiling modular unit that provides many opportunities for play, exercise and resting as well as a variety of surfaces to scratch. In multi-cat households, it is advisable to provide one scratching post per cat (plus an additional one for choice) positioned in different locations.
The choice of design depends then on budget and space available. If space is an issue then scratching panels can be fixed to walls, either using homemade or commercially available products. Sections of carpet can be attached to walls using double-sided carpet tape and wooden batons attached at the top and bottom for added security. The carpet chosen to provide a suitable surface for scratching should be a loop-weave to offer the appropriate degree of resistance. It is also essential that it is positioned to allow the cat to scratch at full stretch (remember that kittens grow very quickly so full stretch for them will not be high enough!!).
Commercially available panels of sisal twine, bark or corrugated cardboard can also be attached to walls to create a similar scratching area.
Use of Feliway® (manufactured by Ceva Animal Health), can also be beneficial, as this provides a sense of security and reassurance to the cat, making scratching for territorial reasons less likely to occur.
Read more from International Cat Care about scratching and how to deal with this here