All cats – Males, females, neutered kitties, spayed females, old cats, young cats, declawed kitties, cats with extra digits, you name it – like to scratch objects such as cardboard boxes or trays, trees, couches, walls and in my personal case my mattress box spring. While there is no universal answer to the question of why cats scratch, there are several theories.
Scratching may be a way for kitties to condition their own nails, similarly to how we would use a nail file to even out the shape, or mend broken nails. Cats often scratch items when they are excited, or playing as an outlet for their energy. On the flip side cats also scratch items when they are relaxed as a way to stretch out. One of the most common theories as to why cats scratch is that they use it as a form of communication. When cats scratch items, the destruction that they leave behind is a visual cue – in the same way we carve our names into trees, or take a sharpie to the bathroom stall to write “I was here”. But a visual cue isn’t the only thing left behind. Cats have scent glands in their paws, and when they scratch an object, they leave behind their scent – and this may be why even declawed cats attempt and enjoy scratching just as much as the next cat.
Now we may know a few reasons why cats scratch – and that is all fine and dandy – but that does not mean that we want them to scratch to their hearts content! Scratching is a great outlet for your kitty and something they should do – just preferably not on your furniture! Thankfully there are a number of suggestions about how to prevent your kitty from scratching specific items.
Historically declawing cats was a popular way to prevent scratching damage to pet owners homes and furniture. The popularity of declawing, however is decreasing. As cat claws are retractable, they have many muscles and nerves attached to their nails, and declawing them requires those nerve and muscle tissues to be severed. Unfortunately this may lead to chronic sensitivity or pain in the paw. Thankfully there are many other less intrusive ways to prevent your kitty from scratching your couch!
One of the simplest ways to prevent unwanted scratching from your kitty is to provide them with numerous objects that are appropriate for scratching, such as scratching posts, and cardboard scratching pads or mats. If your cat has already taken to scratching certain pieces of furniture, you may be able to dissuade him from doing so by providing a scratching post or other outlet near the area he/she already scratches.
You may try spraying undesirable scents on or around the area you wish to discourage scratching. A lot of sources suggest different scents to use. The most common suggestion is to use lemon scented products, but the lists range anywhere from furniture polish to Vicks VapoRub – you may need to try a few different scents until you find one that works for you and your kitty!
Another solution is to drape unappealing materials over the objects that you want to protect, or that your cat is prone to scratching. In my house, although it isn’t the most visually appealing solution, aluminum foil worked best, and we wrapped all of our couch corners in it (I do suggest removing the foil when company comes over, a number of our guests thought we were just plain crazy, or preparing for an alien invasion)!Other people have suggested sticky materials such as double sided tape.
While there are many reasons cats like to scratch, there are just as many ways to deter your pet from using your couch as his/her personal billboard! Each kitty is unique, and you may have to tweak your approach to find a solution that best suits you and your furry housemate!
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