Scratching is a cat's natural behaviour
cats may tear chair arms with their claws, scratch patches
of wallpaper off the wall or shred stair carpets. Most cats
do not cause this type of damage, so why do others feel the
need to behave like this in our homes?
has several functions, one of the most important being keeping
a cat's hunting weapons sharp. Scratching also leaves scent
marks in a territory - secretions of watery sweat from between
the cat's pads leave a scent message on top of the physical
marks. Cats usually scratch outside, choosing trees or posts
- wood is just the right texture to allow claws to dig in
and be drawn down, pulling off the old claw sheath to reveal
the sharp point of the new one. If you look at a regular scratching
place you will find these pieces of sheath embedded in the
do cats scratch inside our homes as well as outdoors?
could be several reasons. Finding why the cat is scratching
will help you to decide on a solution.
the claws and sharpening the points
cats with no access to outside will still need to perform
this natural behaviour. If nothing suitable is provided, they
will find something in the house that has an appropriate surface.
cats may have got into the habit of sharpening their claws
indoors. Others enjoy the texture of carpets or furniture
coverings and the shape of furniture may make it inviting
as a scratch point. Some cats seem to enjoy the act of scratching
and it can sometimes be a precursor to, or part of, excited
fascination with the wallpaper may occur after a loose piece
encourages play, or an accidental grab at the wall results
in an exciting game of paper removal with the bonus of chasing
all the little pieces that fall off. It may have an additional
benefit in that owners suddenly start to take notice and give
the cat attention, albeit angry attention.
with other cats
cats will scratch more when in the presence of other cats.
Just what they are trying to convey is not well understood,
but this type of scratching may be done as a display and to
leave a scent mark to communicate with other cats in the vicinity.
their feeling of security
cats feel vulnerable, they will try to rub their own scent
on prominent places in a room so that they feel more secure.
While they may not resort to spraying (using urine as a scent
mark), they may use the scents produced by scratching to do
this instead. If the cat is trying to increase its feeling
of security, many surfaces may be scratched, particularly
those in strategic places such as edges of chairs nearest
can you do?
blame the cat
of all, realise that the cat is not doing this out of spite
or in an attempt to cause destruction on purpose.
a scratching post
is important to provide an outlet for claw sharpening in the
form of a scratch post if your cat is an indoor cat or has
got into the habit of sharpening its claws inside the house.
Place the post in front of the damaged area. Gently wipe the
cat's paws down the post to leave some scent on it and show
the cat what to do. Do this several times when the post is
new. If you catch your cat in the act of scratching elsewhere,
carry it to the post and encourage it to scratch there instead.
curiosity or the satisfaction of clawing soft furnishing is
encouraging the cat to use that area you will need to give
it another outlet for its energies. Try playing with your
cat more often, little and often throughout the day, providing
toys which offer an outlet for its hunting abilities. If your
cat attacks the wallpaper, you can try changing the type of
paper you use (cats seem to prefer paper which has a raised
texture) or painting the area instead. Don't encourage the
cat by giving it attention when it is scratching.
scratching occurs at many sites it can be a form of marking
behaviour and a sign that the cat may be feeling insecure.
The solution will rely on identifying the cause of this stress
or insecurity. Possible causes are other cats coming into
the house, conflict between resident cats, changes within
the household, and fear of something outside. You may be able
to help your cat feel more confident by:
- Closing the
cat flap and letting the cat in and out yourself or fitting
a selective type which keeps strange cats out.
- Looking carefully
at relationships between cats - providing some resting places
high up to let the cat relax while still being able to watch
what is going on will improve security.
your cat's access within the house and concentrating on
making it feel secure in one or two rooms.
- Using your
cat's own scent to make it feel more secure. Cats use their
cheek glands to mark their territory and the presence of
these scents will make them feel relaxed. You can help spread
scent. Take a soft cloth and wipe it around the cat's face.
Dab the cloth around the room where you have seen your cat
rubbing and where it scratches. (There are also manufactured
scents available that work in the same way - ask your vet
- Never punish
the cat. This will make it feel even more insecure. You
should be viewed as a source of security by your cat, rather
than as an additional threat.
cats are likely to find any new challenge threatening. When
we re-decorate our homes or replace the furniture, we inadvertently
remove all the cat's scents, which have made it feel secure.
We then replace them with strong smelling carpets, suites,
paint, etc, which can be quite disturbing to a scent-orientated
cat. When re-decorating, it may be worth keeping the cat out
of the new room for a while until the new smells have mingled
with other familiar smells in the house and helping your cat
to replace its scent using the method given above.
the cat is using scratching as a form of marking its territory
then it will be attracted back to the spot to 'top-up' the
marks as the scent wears off. If this is an area where you
want to stop the cat scratching and the surface is cleanable,
then it can be useful to try and remove the smell as much
as possible. This can be done using a solution of a biological
washing powder and then scrubbing it with surgical spirit
(check this does not remove colour from fabrics). Keep the
cat away from the area until it is dry. Keeping the cat away
from the area for as long as possible will also be helpful
to break the habit and to let smells dissipate. You can then
dab some cheek scents on the area to help the cat feel relaxed.
Updated November 2008