Scratch marks on your furniture…
Scratch marks on a new sofa, on the table legs or on that nice wicker chair in the living room… Your cat has transformed the furniture into his own personal scratching posts. Chances are you’re not too happy about this. But why is your cat putting his nails in the furniture and how can you stop this behaviour?
Scratching behaviour of the cat
Sharpening the nails, that’s usually the reason for scratching. When a cat scratches something it removes the dead, outer layer of its nails and a new sharp layer is released. Cats that are also allowed to go outside, often use trees for this. Indoor cats often use a scratching post, but can also put their nails in the furniture; a cat doesn’t know which objects he may or may not use to sharpen its nails.
Another reason for scratching a scratching post or the furniture is the demarcation of the territory. By means of scratch marks a cat indicates that it is present in the house. You won’t find these scratch marks in the corners of a house, where they aren’t visible, but in clearly visible places. Usually these are table legs, the corners of the sofa or the doorpost.
Finally, a cat can also sharpen its nails because it is very anxious, stressed or very cheerful. At these times you can see the scratching as a kind of emotional release.
Unwanted scratching of the furniture
Often you see cat owners placing a scratching post in a corner of the living room. Cats are more likely to use objects that are well in sight, instead of a scratching post which is tucked away in the corner. First of all because indoor cats generally are a little lazy, they will use the nearest object to sharpen their nails. Secondly, scratch marks are not visible on a scratching post that has been tucked away in a corner, scratching marks on the furniture however are visible, so the cat will start using them. Always put a scratching post in a place where your cat spends a lot of time or in a clearly visible place in the house.
Another way to make sure your cat will use the scratching post is to use catnip. Spray some catnip on the scratching post to make it more attractive to your cat. In addition to the catnip, you can use a spray that won’t appeal to cats in places where you don’t want it to scratch.
If you have bought a scratching post that is too small for your cat, chances are he won’t use it. When scratching cats often stretch out to stretch their back, legs and shoulders. With a scratching post that is too small, a cat can’t do this. Another option for the cat is, you guessed it, your furniture. So always make sure that a scratching post is high enough for your cat.
Scratching behaviour and Behavioural Problems
When a cat puts its nails in every objects it encounters and scratches everything to the extreme, there is often a hidden or unnoticed problem. By scratching excessively a cat tries to tell you that something is going on or that something is wrong. In these cases you can think about stress, insecurity or fear. Punishing the excessive scratching behaviour usually has a reverse effect, because this will only worsen the uncertainty, fear or stress in your cat; and therefore the scratching behaviour will also increase.
To stop extreme scratching behaviour, you will first have to check if there has been a recent change for the cat (for example in the living environment) that has caused the cat to become stressed. Try to remove the source of fear, insecurity or stress or let your cat get used to it gradually (for example when your cat gets a new roomie, like a new dog or cat).
If letting your cat get used to new situations doesn’t help, and your cat keeps showing excessive scratching behaviour, you can contact a cat behaviour specialist. The extreme scratching behaviour is caused by an underlying issue, so it’s important to try to solve the underlying problem and help your cat.