Furniture scratching. So many people are convinced this is a behavior displayed by cats just for the sheer thrill of destroying the living room sofa or treasured antique chair. If you live with a cat who has turned your upholstery into mere shreds, you’re probably at your wit’s end in terms of whether keeping kitty means abandoning all hope of ever having intact furniture again.
The problem is that you might’ve gone at this the wrong way. You were trying to train your cat to NOT do something that is actually a normal and essential part of being feline.
Scratching is a Normal Behavior for Your Cat
Scratching is important and more complex than you may realize. You might be under the misconception that scratching is merely your cat’s attempt to sharpen his claws to razor-sharp perfection or that the behavior is based on a willful attempt to get back at you or destroy his surroundings. If you view the cat’s motivation for scratching as just a willful act of destruction, you run the risk of damaging the relationship you have with your cat because he’ll become afraid to scratch in your presence to avoid physical or verbal punishment. Since he still has a natural need to scratch, the behavior will still be done but it’ll occur when you aren’t around.
Don’t Resort to Declawing
Having claws is a vital part of a cat’s physical and emotional health. Declawing is a cruel and inhumane practice and is the equivalent of amputation. Pain can last long after the healing process and may even continue for the rest of the cat’s life. The Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery recently published research indicating that declawing increases the risk of long-term or persistent pain, which can result in behaviors such as litter box avoidance, aggression/biting and over-grooming. Here’s the study if you’d like to read the results: Pain and Adverse Behavior in Declawed Cats
Scratching is Good for the Claws
When your cat scratches on an object, it removes the outer dead sheath of the nail and exposes the healthy new growth underneath. If you look at the location where your cat likes to scratch, you may find several half-moon shaped nail sheaths. Scratching is how the cat sharpens the claws so don’t be under the misconception that banning your cat from scratching will keep the nails blunt. The nails will still grow but scratching will help keep them healthy.
Scratching Enables Your Cat to Stretch
In addition to conditioning the claws, it’s a very effective way for the cat to stretch his back and shoulder muscles. Imagine how good it must feel to be able to fully unkink those muscles after sleep in a tight little ball.
Scratching Serves as a Marking Behavior for Cats
The marks left on an object when the cat rakes his claws vertically create a visual sign for others who pass by. In an outdoor setting, these visual markers are important because they show approaching cats that they’re entering an area where another cat has been or is currently residing. This advance warning system can reduce the number of actual physical confrontations cats may otherwise have. The visual mark can be seen at a distance. Scratching also creates an olfactory mark as the cat presses his paws onto an object to scratch. There are scent glands in the paw pads that release pheromones as the cat scratches. Any approaching cat who comes close enough to the scratched object will be able to get valuable information about the cat who did the scratching.