03 3489728 Straven Road Vet
03 3525749 Papanui Vet
by Dr. Francesca Matthews
Does your cat scratch all your best furniture?
Read on to find out why and some possible solutions.
Did you know?
This is perfectly normal behaviour for a cat. However, except in the cases of the most tolerant owners, it is not acceptable behaviour for a cat living in a domestic
Why do cats scratch?
Cats generally have one or more scratching ‘trees’ which they repeatedly scratch. These are vertical visual marker posts of your cats territory - alerting all other cats in the neighbourhood. Look at the trees around your property or what you think lines their territory and you may well see lots of vertical scratch marks. In New Zealand, cabbage tress are commonly used for this purpose. I guess the bark is quite soft and it's easy to make a visible mark on the tree quickly.
Your cat will also usually mark the areas with its scent glands. These are on the side of the face. When your cat is rubbing you with the side of their face they are marking you as their territory. Have a look at some of the corners on your walls at about their head height - you may see black marks. This is left by your cat as he or she marks the corner with their scent
As well as providing visual markers, scratching also removes the worn outer layers of the claws.
Within the house, cats will also mark vertical objects. This is more prevalent in cats that do not have an extensive outdoor territory or their outdoor territory does not have easy access to prominent vertical objects which other cats can see easily.
Possible solutions to resolve the problem
The good news is that if the correct measures are put in place, this problem is often resolvable.
Identify the targeted objects and make them unavailable if possible. For example, cover with plastic, use double sided sellotape (cats don’t like their paws sticking to the tape), or if possible, move the object or furniture. As well as doing this it is essential that you put an alternative scratching object in an identical place to the preferred vertical scratching zone. Most pet stores have great ranges of cat scratching posts and cat furniture, or you may be able to make your own.
You might need to help your cat identify this new scratching post as a scratching object by gently rubbing their feet on the post.
Once they have accepted the post, slowly but surely, move it to the side of the room, to a place where you are happy for it to live.
In addition to this, you may also need to employ forms of remote punishment (that is punishment that the cat does not associate with you) when they go back to their old scratching areas while the new habits are established. This may include alarms, double sided tape, water (using a water pistol) or upside down mouse traps (these must be upside down so that the cat doesn’t get caught in it). Some of these techniques may not be appropriate for very timid cats, so it is important to discuss your particular cat with one of our qualified staff.
In some cases you may need to have available several scratching posts, where the cat has used several vertical surfaces in your house in the past, or confine them and break the habit for each vertical marker, one at a time.
Contact us, to discuss any problems you have with furniture scratching and methods to rectify it.