Cats scratch to stretch, exercise specific shoulder and back muscles, express happiness and play, groom and mark territory. Scratching makes cats feel good and keeps their nails trimmed and free of old sheaths (layers). For cats, scratching is as natural as breathing air.
How to Promote Good Scratching Behaviour
- Cat claws grow just as your fingernails do and need regular trimming. Regular trimming of claws every 4 to 6 weeks keeps cats comfortable. Note: Only the clear hooked portion of each claw is trimmed.
- Provide at least one scratching post at least one metre in height. The taller, the better. Posts should be well constructed and placed near a sunny window or near places where your family gathers.
- A sprinkle of catnip at the base of the scratching post or a game wiggling a wand toy up the post will encourage use.
- Some cats prefer horizontal surfaces for scratching, such as a jute door mat or corrugated cardboard scratcher from a pet supply store.
- Use positive reinforcement. Reward your cat for good scratching behaviour with treats, affection and attention.
Troubleshooting Inappropriate Scratching Behaviour
If your cat is scratching inappropriate objects, there are a number of effective ways to prevent the behaviour.
- Place a scratching post / cat tree nearby. Young or old, most cats will learn how to use and love their scratching posts. In fact, large, multi-level posts will become your cat’s playground, bedroom, observation deck, tanning salon, couch and favourite hiding spot.
- Use double-sided tape to prevent scratching of furniture or limit access.
- Discipline with a spray water bottle, a loud noise or a firm ‘NO’.
- Another option for problem scratchers is a product called ‘Soft Paws’. Soft paws are acrylic claw covers that are applied with a non-toxic adhesive to the cat’s nails. Each application of ‘soft paw’ claw covers lasts about 2-3 months. Think of these like glue-on nails for cats.