Paw prints: Scratch this, not that!

Community Columnist

Owners of cats frequently ask me how they can stop their cat from scratching the furniture.

Unfortunately, scratching is a natural behavior of cats. There is no way of stopping it entirely, but there are some things you can do to prevent them from becoming too destructive.

Cats scratch for a number of reasons.

First, it is a form of communication to other cats. Every time a cat scratches, scents are deposited from glands in the cat’s paw. They likely prefer to leave their scent in a prominent area of their living space and not in a remote corner of the house.

Second, cats scratch to maintain the health of their claws. As the claws grow, dead keratin sheaths must be shed, making way for new coverings. The act of scratching is also a form of exercise, maintaining muscles that are important for a cat’s agility.

It takes time and effort, but it is possible to train your cat to scratch on appropriate objects. Every cat has its own preference. Observe your cat to determine the material and position your cat likes to scratch. The best scratching surfaces are large enough so that the cat can extend its body full-length, about two to three feet.

Some cats prefer an upright post, others angled or horizontal. The post needs to be sturdy enough that it doesn’t fall over during use or else you will scare the cat away from using it all together. Materials preferred are typically cardboard, rope, burlap or durable fabric. The more texture the better. Avoid carpet, as some cats will continue to scratch at the carpet on the floor if they become accustomed to a carpet scratching post.

Attract the cat to scratch on the post by placing it near their “usual” scratching spots or near a window where the cat watches wildlife outdoors. Do not put it in a remote location. With time you may be able to gradually move the post to a more discreet location as they become accustomed to using it.

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