Eventually, people with cats will discover (once their favorite chair has been smashed) that cats organize “their house” quite carefully. You need to be ready for new challenges if you want to have a “tiger bonsai” in your living room.
If you are thinking about buying designer furniture or updating your wallpaper… you better wait until you are single again since sofas, wooden furniture, and wallpaper top the list of items scratched the most by cats.
However, why do cats always scratch everything? Is there anything we can do to prevent this? How to train cats not to scratch?
Why do cats scratch?
Cats scratch as an instinctive behavior. It’s in their nature. They do it to express emotion, such as excitement or stress, to mark objects with their scent (paws have scent glands), to remove dead nails, and, often, just to get a good stretch.
Let’s have a look at different reasons why do cats scratch.
Scratches as a defense mechanism
The claws are the most important “tools” of the cat.
Deprived of their efficient claws, cats cannot hunt prey, climb or jump. A cat with broken claws would be unable to defend itself and, in territorial battles, would have no chance of defeating other members of its species.
Cats are solitary animals, and they worry all the time about protecting their territory, which is of fundamental importance because it is their source of food. That is why they will defend it tooth and nail if necessary. Losing the turf battle means looking for new territory.
In that sense, male cats that have not been neutered are more aggressive than neutered cats or females. As if it were a wrestling match, the territorial fight is quite a spectacle. The objective is basically to intimidate or impress the opponent, without seriously injuring him.
When a cat intrudes on another cat’s territory, or when kittens reach adulthood, serious confrontations often ensue to establish a pecking order. Once the conflict is resolved, there is usually no need to continue the fight.
Scratches like a game
Playing is fun and very important for cats; it is a way to exercise and acquire social skills. Cats learn the repertoire of movements necessary to become great hunters, and they can also be taught manners. The signals must be unambiguous so that other members of the species understand them. The hype that comes with games sends a clear message to cats: “Hey! It’s a game, understood?
But why do cats sometimes get carried away and go overboard?
Young cats, especially, sometimes get out of control to the point of scratching and biting. In the heat of combat, they latch onto an object with their front paws and scratch their fill.
When interacting with their feline friends, this behavior is perfectly normal and acceptable (it allows them to get an idea of what is happening and launch a counterattack if necessary). However, humans do not like it and may even see it as a hostile act.
Scratching out of boredom
Cats are used to living with us and, over the centuries, have adapted perfectly to our lifestyle. However, we must not forget that they are still animals and have their own natural instincts, which must be lived.
All cats have in common with their undomesticated wild ancestors the hunting instinct, which manifests itself differently depending on the breed. Persian cats are quite placid creatures, while Burmese, Abyssinian, and Siamese cats are more active.
Indoor cats are especially dependent on a daily quota of playful activities and entertainment. For them, games are at least as important as proper hygiene and nutrition. Just as their friends follow the hunting instinct outside, they too want to capture anything resembling prey.
Thus, if the cat is the only feline in the home and has no one to fight with, it will be the furniture or the people who suffer the consequences.
Why do cats scratch doors, sofas, and furniture?
Because they don’t have enough scratchers
We have deprived our cats of everything they used to know: they no longer have to hunt to feed themselves and we make sure that they have a litter tray to relieve themselves and even that they live in the company of other felines so that they have a little friend to play with.
The cat scratches the furniture
However, they still retain their instincts. We cannot turn them off, nor would we want to. In fact, we are excited that a “wild animal” like the cat allows itself to be tamed and shares its affection with us.
The fun of movement – whether it’s catching prey, fighting, or playing – is the engine that keeps the cat fit, faces challenges, and brings joy. The excess tension accumulated in the body has to be released, but what happens when it is impossible? In that case, the cat will look for an escape valve. And as today we do not usually have trees in the middle of the room, the cat will look for an alternative in the domestic environment.
Scratches as territorial marking
In the wild, cats scratch trees to signal their presence to other cats and send the message “this is my territory” through the scratches and scents they leave on the bark.
They also mark their territory with urine and feces. In fact, scratching trees is a way of drawing limits: this far and no more!
Another common type of marking consists of rubbing the head against objects or people. If the cat rubs against its owner’s legs to greet him, both exchange aromas and this creates a feeling of union and, in a certain way, of belonging.
For the rest, as far as territorial marking is concerned, the trees are the main object: the rough bark is quite resistant and, therefore, the ideal medium for the cat to impregnate it with its scent. At the same time, the scratches serve to maintain the claws, since by sharpening the nails against the bark, the horny tissue is shed. Cats use trees like huge limes.
Personal care scratches
Cats consider personal care extremely important. Not in vain, they dedicate almost four hours a day to it.
Claws are not excluded from the grooming routine. We human beings have to cut our nails only once in a while. Cats, on the other hand, meticulously clean their eighteen claws every time they clean themselves: they open their paw, remove their claws and clean even the spaces between their fingers with extreme thoroughness.
Cats take care of the claws of the front legs by scratching and those of the hind legs, with their teeth and tongue. When they scratch their claws against a rough surface, they shed the old nails.
How to train cats not to scratch?
Establish attractive scratching zones, as many as possible; At least one or two per room.
The market offers an infinity of options for the enjoyment of scratching:
Scratching post: It is best to opt for scratching posts made of natural materials, such as untreated wood (without toxins). These not only impress with the use of quality materials and chemical-free craftsmanship but are also great for the cat. It is true that they are not very cheap, but, in the long run, it is worth investing in a resistant scratching tree.
Scratching Barrel: Scratching barrels come with cat flaps and caves provided with reclining, cushioned surfaces. It’s a solution to kill two birds with one stone: the resistant material is perfect for sharpening nails, and the cozy hiding places are ideal for lounging. It will undoubtedly become the favorite place for your domestic tiger.
Tip: designer furniture and scratching objects
If you want to give your home a special touch, you can place cat furniture in the living room. In addition to renewing the space, they are very entertaining for the cats and the spectators!
Daily training: the sooner the better
Ideally, you should put the new scratching posts in places where the cat likes to spend time, near their favorite areas. Since our little cats are naturally curious, they won’t need any encouragement from you to inspect and investigate the new “unidentified object.”
If they don’t show interest, resort to imitation instinct: scratch the post vigorously and wait. The cat will come closer and start scratching it. (Your strange behavior may throw him off completely, but in any case, you’ll be sure to catch his attention.)
Start early: if you get your kittens used to scratching objects and furniture, they will adopt this activity at an early age as part of their routine.
Praise and rewards work better than punishment
And if an accident occurs…
Keep in mind that the cat is not doing it to annoy you.
Take gentle but categorical steps so that he knows that scratching those areas is not allowed. It will be enough to pronounce a resounding “no” and move it from the “forbidden” site to the scratching post. If he gets the message and starts scratching it, praise him and give him a treat.
Avoid draconian measures: don’t scold him, yell at him, or spray him with water. Also, do not punish his “misdeed” by denying him affection, acting offensively, or withdrawing his word, since the cat will not understand it, much less if you maintain the punishment for a prolonged period.
Harsh measures can scare the cat and harm your relationship. Flattery works much better: it strengthens your relationship and induces the cat to repeat the desired behavior, which he associates with pleasant feelings.
Be patient! Cats have their character and can be stubborn. Do not give up; otherwise, not only will you take damage from scratch attacks, but you’ll also have a supremacy problem.
If educational efforts are unsuccessful, observe the cat carefully. Pay attention to his body language. When and where does it scratch? Have you made any changes at home? Are there new people at home? Is bored? Think about what might be missing and try to remedy that deficiency.
When the cat is home alone
Trust is good, but preventative measures are better. You cannot control your cat twenty-four hours a day. If when you are away from home, you are worried about the furniture, you will have to take preventive measures.
Cover the furniture with smooth materials (if it’s rough, the cat will want to scratch it) that make noise, such as aluminum foil, crepe paper, or an insulated blanket.
Place empty cans or metal toys on the furniture so they make noise when the cat touches them
Distraction is everything
Offer your cat an interesting and irresistible alternative. Put a scratching post next to the furniture you want to protect or distract him with a new toy. (By the way, you don’t have to buy toys all the time. With a little imagination, you can surprise your kitty with very simple objects.) To distract the cat, an empty cardboard box will suffice; if he has cat flaps and has a surprise inside, all the better.
Another option is to place a box full of things on the furniture you want to protect. When falling to the floor, the box will make a noise and the cat will be scared and move away from the furniture.
The simplest method, however, is to close the door so that the “assailant” does not have access to the room. But, a warning: some cats know how to open doors! Therefore, we recommend that you lock the door, so you will be covered.
Smells that repel cats
Cats have a highly developed sense of smell and hate some natural scents such as thyme, lavender, and lemon. Place small bowls of lemon, thyme, or lavender peel near the items you want to protect. You can also spray lavender or lemon essentials (fabric air fresheners) on the carpet in the room where the furniture is.
If you don’t find them unpleasant, you can use repellents with fecal odor from other animals (fox, for example) to scare away the cat.
Choosing the right furniture
Now you know that cats prefer to scratch rough and resistant surfaces, such as the bark of trees. When you buy a new sofa, try to choose one with the smoothest possible surface to avoid “scratch attacks”.
Thick materials, which are supposed to be more durable, are ruled out. The upholstery of the sofa must be smooth and soft, natural or synthetic leather, for example.
If you don’t want your feline friend to immediately take over the new furniture, buy her her own furniture. Just as the sofa is reserved for you, that furniture will be reserved exclusively for your pussycat. Remember that your cat is a cave explorer. So you can surprise him by giving him a piece of furniture that includes caves, invites climbing, and at the same time, resists scratches, because if he likes it, he will soon mark the new hiding place to communicate “this is mine!”.
Additionally, you can satisfy their exploring needs by hanging a blanket or sheet over the hideout to leave only one or two open entrances. Place a prize or some of their favorite toys inside and voila! You will have created the best hiding place.
In some cases, cats scratch because they are bored or lonely, especially when they don’t live with other cats. To attract attention, our little cats develop a wide repertoire of behavior patterns…
Games and pampering sessions are important. These shared rituals feed the cat’s body and mind (and yours!) and cement your relationship. The pampering will transport you to paradise if you accompany them with massages since these stimulate the metabolism and help release tension.
Offer Alternatives: Indoor cats need to play to stay fit. Try to alternate and vary the toys, but be careful: do not hide your favorite toy, it could be the end of the harmony of the home.
Offer your cat objects to scratch
The right scratching post
One scratching post is fine, but it’s much better to have several. With well-fixed posts reaching all the way to the ceiling, complemented by ropes, boats, baskets, caves and shelves, you can build a fabulous play area for your cat.
Of course, if you install a protective net, you can also mount such a play structure on the balcony. Your cat will love it! He will be able to sunbathe, relax, listen to the chirping of the birds, or simply appreciate the smells from outside. A beautiful place to daydream.
Tip: Try to use natural materials, such as toxin-free wood, sisal yarn, and untreated leather and fabrics that resist scratches and bites from your cat.
Get your cat used to the scratching post
Finally, the scratching post is already installed and waiting for the cat to discover it, but how to make the cat like it?
Any helpful tips on this?
Regardless of whether it is a novelty or a replacement for a worn one, the scratching post should be inserted slowly and tactfully. It will not be enough to get rid of the old post, you will have to work for a while so that it wants to use it. Place the new post next to the old one and make it a tempting alternative by adding a few of their favorite snacks.
It is often advisable to treat the post with catnip, valerian, or similar, but be careful! Many cats do not like these fragrances, so they are counterproductive. Once the fragrance is absorbed, the aroma lingers for years in the wood or sisal yarn. Cats have a highly developed sense of smell, so your kitty will look the other way and avoid it.
If you are going to use essences, do so sparingly. Put a few drops on a cloth or a small cushion and place it next to the scratching post.
The best option, however, is for the post to have the scent of the cat. To do this, stroke your kitten’s head and body with a cloth, then rub it over the scratching post. You will notice the smell immediately!
By the way, in general, catnip should be used sparingly; ideally, once a week. In excess, even good things become boring.
Scratching boards as an alternative
For three-foot cats: Cats love scratching boards because they can scratch and stretch at the same time.
We all know that when we can choose, it is difficult to decide. A well-stocked pet store offers a wide variety of products for all tastes and budgets.
Scratching boards: Before you buy a scratching board, you should think about how it would be used and where you would place it.
One of the advantages of the tables is that they come in two models: fixed and folding. Cats often have their favorite places to scratch, such as around a hiding place, around the food bowl, or under a table or corner bench. Remember that cats mark their territory. So where would be the best place to put the boards to cover the boundaries of your territory?
That doesn’t mean you have to cover your apartment floor with scratchboards. Observe your cat’s behavior and install the boards in the most relevant places. Cats, just like humans, love variety; so you can add other boards or replace them after a while with cardboard scratching posts, scratching barrels, scratching toys, or natural fiber scratching mats.
How to cut a cat’s nails?
If your cat has plenty of opportunities to sharpen and wear down her claws, you don’t need to trim them; he himself will remove the dead cells and shed the nails, without the need for your help.
Only in the case of older, overweight, or sick cats that can no longer maintain their nails by themselves, you should control the length of the nails and cut them if necessary. To do this, lightly press the paw pad and the cat will immediately pull out its claws, without hostile intentions.
But be careful! Don’t go crazy with the scissors. You should go to the vet first so they can teach you how to do it safely and professionally. If you don’t feel safe or anxious, it’s best to leave it in the hands of the vet, this way you will avoid injuries and stress.
Why cut the cat’s nails? When do you have to cut them?
If the cat is walking or resting and the claws are fully retracted and you can’t see them, then they are not too long and impede movement. However, if you can see them all the time and they don’t fully retract, even when the cat is at rest, it’s time to cut them off.
Too long nails hinder the movement of the cat:
- The cat’s repertoire of movements is hampered and limited.
- The cat’s claws constantly get caught (in carpets, blankets, etc.)
- When the catwalks on a hard surface, a “ticking” noise is heard.
What do I need to trim the cat’s “toenails”?
You will need to:
- A special nail clipper
- Enough light
- Your cat
- Someone hold the cat
- Please never cut the claws with nail clippers, nail scissors, or household kitchen shears. This is nothing to cat claws!
For “cat manicure”, pet stores sell special tweezers designed especially to cut cat’s claws cleanly and precisely, without breaking or chipping them.
How to cut cat’s nails: step by step
The claws are almost always very light in color so that it is very easy to see where the living part of the nail begins, that is, where the blood vessels and nerve channels are.
Here’s how to do it:
Resolutely but fearlessly pick up the cat and tuck it under your arm. She presses on the paw pad to get the claws out and cuts off the ends with a special cat nail clipper. Ready!
Note: Cut only the tips of the claws; at most 2mm below the live part, for no polite reason beyond that, you could damage the fabric.
Everything you need to know before having a cat at home
1. Cats are not human beings
We live with them, of course, and they have adapted perfectly to us, but they are still animals and have the right to be. After all, animals follow their instincts, which have been passed down from generation to generation.
2. Nature is not wrong
In nature, everything follows a system, a logical order, nothing is left to chance. Everything works perfectly and has a deeper meaning that, unfortunately, we don’t always perceive or fit into our modern world.
3. A sofa can be bought; the love of a cat, not
Artists of life (and of survival) among us: people have less and less contact with nature, but our cats bring us closer to it and teach us another way of doing things, without haste. A cat will remind us of that life lesson on a daily basis; It will be like having a free life coaching session every day.
Keep calm and, instead of a sofa, buy yourself another cat.