Many cat parents have given up on the idea of owning furniture without scratch marks. Felines spend a large portion of their day flexing and sharpening their claws – even cats that have had their claws removed still display scratching behavior. What is it that makes cats scratch so much and what can you do to keep them from destroying your home?
Why do Cats Scratch?
Before you can tackle your kitty's scratching behavior, you need to understand it. There are many reasons why they scratch. Felines like to flex their claws as they stretch and some scratch during play. Scratching helps to keep the claws sharp by wearing away the outer layer of the old ones to reveal the sharp, new claws underneath. Cats also scratch as a way of marking their territory, using scent glands in their feet.
The most important thing you need to know about your kitty's scratching behavior is that it is completely normal. All cats scratch – it is a fact of life. In addition to understanding why your kitty scratches, you should also realize that there is no way to stop this kind of behavior completely. It only becomes a "problem behavior" when it negatively affects you, the pet parent. If you try to stop your kitty from scratching, he will not understand it and you will probably just end up frustrating yourself.
Dealing with Scratching Behavior
Once you come to terms with your cat's scratching behavior and realize that there is nothing you can do to stop it, you can start taking steps to redirect the behavior. Rather than trying to teach your cat to stop scratching entirely, you should teach him to stop scratching the furniture or the floor by providing alternative surfaces. Be sure to offer a variety of surfaces using scratching boards and posts made from cardboard, carpet, wood, and rope. You should also provide a mixture of horizontal and vertical scratching surfaces.
To help your kitty make the transition from scratching your furniture to using the scratching posts, you should make it as desirable as possible. Reward your kitty for using them by offering him a treat or rub catnip on the post to attract him to it. It may also help to hang one of your cat's favorite toys from the post to make him more interested. Cover other desirable surfaces so that your cat has no option but to use the scratching post if he wants to scratch something.
In addition to providing your kitty with alternative scratching surfaces, you should keep his claws trimmed short. Clip the sharp tips off your cat's nails once a week to keep them short. Some pet parents even decide to have their cats declawed. This is not a decision that should be made lightly, because it can be very painful and traumatizing for the cat. If your kitty spends any time outdoors, having him declawed could put him in danger because he will not have a way to defend himself if he needs to. As an alternative to clipping or having your cat's claws removed, you can find plastic claw covers that can be affixed to your cat's claws with adhesive – this doesn't hurt your kitty in any way and prevents him from doing any damage if he scratches.
As a pet parent, it is your job to keep your kitty's best interests in mind, and sometimes this means letting him do something that you do not necessarily like. Scratching behavior is completely normal so you shouldn't try to discourage it, but there is no reason why you can't redirect your cat's scratching behavior to a more appropriate outlet.