It is the general consensus that whilst dog owners put up with chewing, cat owners have to accept clawing as part of their pet’s behaviour. That’s not to say all cats claw, but many do and it can be a great source of irritation for the owner. Whilst it may seem like mindless activity and purposely destructive, there are many reasons why cats scratch.
Reasons for clawing
A cat is compelled to claw by instinct. It provides them with a visual method of marking territory to accompany the scent produced from glands on the paws. It also conditions the claws, removes any dead outer layers and is way for them to stretch their body. Scratching may also act as a precursor to play, and it exercises the muscles in preparation for hunting. However, there are other reasons why a cat could display this behaviour. Clawing around windows and doors signals insecurity, or it might be a form of attention-seeking. Your cat knows the behaviour will elicit a reaction from you, regardless of whether it is positive or negative.
Effects of clawing
A clawing cat can damage or destroy furniture, and may even injure members of the family. Whilst the scratching might be a sign that they are excited to see you, the behaviour can be met with anger as you observe the destruction or suffer their claws on your skin. As it is instinctual behaviour your cat won’t understand why they are being told off for clawing, so don’t shout or hit them. This type of response could scare them and encourage them to stay away from you.
What to do
Make a loud noise such as clapping to distract them, and then emphasise where they are supposed to go. You need to show them through training that there are appropriate times and places for them to scratch.
It may be beneficial to keep the cat away from an area they have clawed, especially if they keep returning to it. Try to make it less attractive to them so they aren’t as likely to repeat their behaviour, and create somewhere else for them to scratch. Cats favour objects with lots of texture, so placing something such as double-sided tape or sandpaper over such areas should deter them from clawing. You could also try squirting citrus scents in popular scratching grounds, as cats don’t tend to like the smell.
Ensure you have a scratching post so that your cat will have somewhere they can go to claw as much as they need to. Many prefer a vertical surface that enables them to fully arch their backs, and it needs to be stable enough to prevent it from falling over. Train your cat to use it by employing the methods listed above until they only use the post. Other items you can provide for your cat to claw include rope or even something as simple as corrugated card, it doesn’t need to be expensive or complicated. As long as it is textured and your cat can scratch it, they should get plenty of use out of it.
Bear in mind not every cat is the same, and some may ignore the toys you get for them. To encourage your cat, try putting a treat on the scratching post and praising them when they go over to it. It might also be useful to place the scratching post next to the bed if your cat tends to scratch after sleeping. A post may not get used if it is too lightweight or in an area where they don’t spend much time, so position it somewhere they regularly frequent. You could even position it by the front door so that if they tend to get excited after they greet you, the scratching post is close by. Placing one upstairs and downstairs means that the cat will not have far to go to find relief, encouraging them to leave your furniture alone.
Trimming an indoor cat’s claws will deter their scratching from an early age. They don’t wear down as quickly as an outdoor cat’s, so check them consistently for overgrowing. Failing to trim claws could lead to them growing into the pads and causing pain and infection. Their walking may also be impeded or they might find using the litter box difficult. Ask your vet to demonstrate how to cut the claws, as the blood vessel inside them can be caught if they are incorrectly trimmed. Outdoor cats don’t tend to need their claws cut, as they are usually worn down with natural activity.
If you are concerned about your cat’s behaviour, visit your vet to make sure a medical problem isn’t responsible. You could also consult a behaviourist if you can’t stop your cat from clawing.
Insuring your pet is another way you can protect them. Animal Friends offer a range of policies for you to choose from.