You may be surprised to know that being a house cat is stressful. Inadequate enrichment, smelly litter boxes, intercat aggression, sudden schedule changes, and many other issues can lead to untold feline mental and physical problems. Key to helping reduce your feline friend’s stress is to ensure they have plenty of scratching opportunities. While you feel frustrated when your cat claws your furniture, curtains, or carpet, you can help alleviate your whiskered pal’s anxiety when you allow them to scratch appropriate surfaces. Learn how to help your cat satisfy their instinctual scratching drive by reading our Just Cats Clinic team’s guide to encouraging your feline friend to scratch appropriately.

Your cat needs to scratch to stretch their body

Does anything feel better than a long, luxurious stretch after a refreshing nap? As your whiskered pal reaches out to a scratching post’s full length and digs their claws deep into the surface, they engage in a full-body stretch that helps keep numerous muscles and joints limber and flexible. Cats typically have a stretch-and-scratch session upon waking to prepare for running, stalking, and pouncing, even though no hunting is required for them to get their next meal.

Your cat needs to scratch to deposit pheromones

By claiming their territory with scent and visual markers, your whiskered pal feels safe and secure. Pheromones are chemical signals cats spread via their scent glands. Some of the most important feline scent glands are along their cheeks, around their mouth, under their chin, and in their paws. When your cat bunts you, (i.e., bumps their head against you), they are likely leaving pheromones that mark you as their own. When a cat scratches or rubs their face against a scratching post, they are also depositing chemicals that impart a great deal of information. Feline pheromones may communicate the following:

  • Health status
  • Reception to mating
  • Territory
  • Relationships
  • Security
  • Familiarity

Your cat needs to scratch to take care of their nails

Cats are generally skilled at taking care of their own grooming needs, from removing dead fur to cleaning their hind ends. They also keep their nails healthy through regular grooming, which consists of scratching on various surfaces. When your cat scratches, they remove the outer husks and dead nail fragments that can snag on fabrics and cause painful breakage. Scratching also sharpens your cat’s claws and helps keep them at a manageable length. However, regular trimming is the best method to ensure your whiskered pal’s nails don’t grow too long.

Encourage your cat to scratch acceptable surfaces

When your feline friend shreds all your belongings, your resulting frustration can also damage your pet-owner bond. However, you can successfully encourage your cat to scratch in acceptable locations, thereby protecting your household items and clothing. To teach your cat appropriate scratching behavior, follow these tips:

  • Scouting the best spots — Scratching is all about location, location, location when encouraging your cat to practice this instinctual behavior appropriately. First, determine where in the house your whiskered pal typically scratches. Most cats enjoy scratching near their sleeping spot immediately after waking, and near entrances and exits such as windows and doorframes. Rather than placing scratching posts in out-of-the-way spots your cat never visits, position posts in prime hangout locations. To encourage your feline friend to scratch appropriately, place scratching posts in front of windows, next to doorways, and near your cat’s bed.
  • Adding attractants — To attract your whiskered pal to appropriate scratching areas, use catnip, pheromones, and treats, which are designed to appeal to cats. Treats are doubly beneficial, acting as attractant and reward for appropriate scratching behavior!
  • Offering variety — A cat does not find a solitary scratching post intriguing, so spice up their scratching sessions by offering various acceptable objects. To determine their scratching surface preference, offer your feline friend different textures and fabrics such as sisal, corrugated cardboard, wood, and carpeting. In addition, provide your whiskered pal with scratching posts that come in various configurations such as horizontal, vertical, and angled. Ensure each scratching surface is long enough for your cat to fully stretch their body and extend their claws, otherwise, your feline friend may continue to scratch your tall doorframes. 

Your cat’s scratching spots may be inadequate if your feline friend is behaving abnormally. To get to the bottom of your whiskered pal’s uncharacteristic attitude, schedule an appointment with our Just Cats Clinic team.