Are your chairs, window screens and rugs all turning to confetti beneath your cat’s lethal claws? Scratching is a serious problem in some households but can be minimized or resolved if approached properly. To understand destructive scratching and how to stop it, you first must understand why your precious feline is doing it in the first place.
Before cats were domesticated, they were fierce hunters. They relied on their razor sharp claws to help them climb trees so that they could leap down on their prey. Today, cats may get their meals from a bowl, but they still sharpen their claws. Scratching is their way of trimming their nails, since it removes the old outer part of the claws. It also helps wear down the tip of the nail, which keeps their nails healthy.
Another reason cats scratch is to let other cats know that your house and yard belong to them. When cats scratch, they “mark” their territory by leaving behind visual markers as well as scent markers from small glands in the pads of their feet.
Cats may also scratch because they’re excited or frustrated. Your cat may scratch upon seeing you walk in the door. He is excited to see you and most likely expressing joy. If your cat sees another cat out doors or even a dog, he could scratch out of frustration.
Finally, cats scratch to get the kinks out of their bodies and to burn off some of their energy. Cats also like to dig their claws into something to get a full-body stretch, especially after a long nap.
One simple way to prevent cats from scratching is to provide them with scratching pads or posts. You can shop for a wide variety of scratching posts, including posts that are part of an elaborate condo. However, you can also make your own simple scratching post, using a two foot high section of a four by four, a two foot by two foot piece of heavy plywood, and a carpet remnant. Once you have a scratching post or pad, be sure you place it right next to your kitty’s favorite piece of furniture. After he is in the habit of scratching the post, you can try moving it a bit further from the furniture, but you should do so gradually.
If having his own personal scratching post doesn’t deter your cat from ruining the furnishings, try using a pet repellent spray, such as Bitter Apple, on the furniture. (You may want to test the spray on part of the upholstery first to be sure it doesn’t discolor the fabric.) If you don’t want to risk spraying your furniture, try covering the material with aluminum foil or tape that is placed sticky side up. Your cat will not care for the feel of these materials and should willingly turn to his scratching post instead.
The easiest and most humane way to do so is to regularly trim the cat’s claws. Blunt claws do less damage than sharp ones. Trim the claws about once a week, and always avoid the blood vessels and nerves in the base of the claws so you do not injure the cat. If you aren’t sure how to trim your cat’s claws, ask your veterinarian to show you.
Some people recommend using nail caps or covers like Soft Claws instead. These caps do have a tendency to fall off and will need to be replaced occasionally. The caps are applied in a similar manner to the way manicurists attach false nails on humans. The nails are shortened and then the caps are applied with a non toxic adhesive.
Scratching is a completely normal and healthy behavior that most cats engage in and it serves many purposes. Cat trees, posts or condos can be an excellent option if they are made for scratching. If your cat needs a little help finding and using scratching posts, you can sprinkle a little catnip around them to make them more inviting.