Why do cats scratch at all?
As with most domesticated animals, cats are still subject to the instincts passed down from their ancestors. Wild cats relied on their claws for survival. Claws helped them climb trees and catch prey. Claws helped cats flee danger. Claws helped provide sustenance.
To our cats’ forefathers, dull claws meant seconds lost shooting up a tree to escape a predator. Unhealthy claws could have meant a lost meal during a season of famine. Even though Tiger is safe and well-fed, that history is still in his genes.
But scratching is not just a shadow of the feline past. Scratching helps keep a cat’s claws healthy, removing the dead outer sheath of the claw. Scratching also helps your cat mark his territory. And just like a manicure can leave a woman feeling great, scratching just plain feels good to a cat!
Cats are equipped with the instinct to care for their claws; despite generations of domestication, this instinct remains strong in many cats. Trying to stop your cat from scratching at all? Futility.
But why the antique chair?
Cats often seem to pick the most inappropriate things to scratch, but perhaps that’s because it seems like the best option to them?
When you see your cat begin to scratch an inappropriate item, catch his attention (some people have been successful shaking a soda-can with a few pennies inside or a few light squirts of water), then move the cat to his scratching post and show him that it’s OK to scratch there. And keep that option close to where he wants to scratch.
Experts suggest to offer your cat several alternate scratching options, tall and sturdy enough for your cat to stretch to his full “height” and to sink his claws in. Natural, rope-wrapped scratching posts with wide bases and tall posts are often best. A little catnip can sometimes help “seal the deal,” too!
You might say, “sure that works when I’m there…but what about when I’m not?”
Protection when you’re not around
Consider a portable ScatMat®, which offers the cat an unpleasant but harmless tingle when he steps on it. Place the ScatMat® in the area where the cat stands to scratch…and he’ll certainly find a new spot quickly! If you’ve provided an alternative scratching surface close by, he’ll start using it.
But what happens when your cat simply insists on using your grandmother’s heirloom chair?
Perhaps your cat needs some outdoor time.
Often, a cat with scratching issues is kept indoors with few choices of natural things (like trees) to scratch. Cats need to stretch, and they love scratching on vertical surfaces. If your cat is always inside, you might be hoping to keep him safe but may be opening up an unexpected risk to your furniture.
Can a cat really be safe outside?
Yes, cats are known to wander far and wide. Yes, cats are known to climb tall fences or to wiggle under and through the smallest gaps. Special “cat fences” can be effective, but they can bring on the wrath of the neighborhood association!
There is another way.
Experts believe that the happiest cats, who demonstrate the least amount of inappropriate indoor scratching, are cats that have enough outdoor time. Your cat can be fitted for a Computer Collar® programmed specifically for him. Cats quickly learn the boundaries marked by the tone and tingle of an Invisible Fence® Brand system. This allows you to define a safe outdoor zone for your cat to get outdoor exercise and scratching time.
What if my outdoor cat still keeps scratching inside?
Occasionally, a strong-willed cat will still find himself drawn to your most precious furniture. He might stop scratching when you’re there, especially if he knows about the soda can or the squirt bottle. But what about when you’re not there? Cat owners know that their strong-willed cats will do whatever they please when they are not being watched.
Consistency is the key. Custom boundaries can be established for any item or area in the house that’s off-limits to your cat. The system keeps watch so you don’t have to.
Don’t want him near Grandma’s chair? Need to keep him out of the formal Living Room? An Indoor Shields® unit will do the trick.
No matter what solution is right for your family and your cat, remember that scratching is an important part of your cat’s natural behavior. Be sure to keep your cat’s claws trimmed and provide your cat with appropriate options, both inside and out, to address his need to scratch.