Your Cat’s Claws & Scratching

A well-scratched area serves a cat’s social needs as a visible “message board” or territorial marker. Scent, deposited by glands in the cat’s paw pads as the cat scratches, adds a reinforcing olfactory element to the cat’s visible claw-mark message.

Problems arise when your cat carries out the behavioral mandate of millions of years of feline evolution in your home. To your cat, the arm of a sofa – a prominent object in a well-traveled area – is the ideal place to scratch. After your cat begins to scratch the sofa, it wants to return again and again to mark the same place.

Scratching is a part of feline nature and serves many purposes.

  • Scratching is a form of feline marking.
  • It is a normal part of the feline communication repertoire.
  • A cat’s natural inclination to scratch tree trunks or other convenient objects in the environment serves both physical and social needs.
  • Scratching removes the worn outer layers of a cat’s claws and exposes a new, sharp claw tip.
  • As the cat claws, it also exercises and stretches muscles. Just as we often enjoy a good stretch when we get up in the morning, cats often seek out a good scratch shortly after they awaken.

However, this behavior is often unwanted, especially when it comes to preserving household furniture, door frames, and carpet. Rather than fight feline nature by punishing the cat for scratching, as an owner you can offer the cat acceptable alternatives such as scratching posts, scratching boards or other scratching items.

It is best to have these scratching items available and in places your cat frequents before a problem starts. We also recommend having multiple scratching items throughout the residence. Add catnip to the scratching items to entice the cat.

Sometimes your cat won’t take to scratching designated scratching items and still scratch furniture, door frames, or other items in your household. There are a few tricks you can do to change this behavior.

  • Place a scratching post or board in front of where the cat is scratching. – If the cat takes to scratching the post or board gradually move the post further away (over a period of days or weeks). Finally, the post should end up in a less prominent but still-visible location once the cat grows accustomed to using it. If the cat goes back to scratching the unwanted spot, repeat the process.
  • Use an herbal spray deterrent or apply double sided sticky tape to the area. It will make the area undesirable to scratch.
  • Dull your cat’s claws by clipping the tips or using nail caps. 

Declawing your cat can be discussed although we recommend the above alternatives first. If declawing is the option you choose, remember that younger, healthy cats undergo the surgical procedure better than older or overweight cats.