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Avoid The Dreaded Shred: Why Cats Need Scratching Posts

Cats are wonderful pets and we love them to bits. This can, however, prove to be a bit challenging at times – as any cat owner will know. Especially when you find them destroying your best carpet or couch, while vacantly staring you directly in the eyes: zero remorse.

So, before you attempt one of your finest mock-backswings maybe ask yourself – why is it that cats have this instinctive need to scratch?

There are a number of reasons. And none of them includes being spiteful, calculated revenge or world domination by scratching. Scratching is in fact very normal cat behaviour, and attempting to stop it would not be very realistic. Instead you should encourage it in the correct manner.

If you don’t believe us – below are just some of the reasons your curtains are now sporting that “shredded look”:

    - Firstly, cats have scent glands on their paws near the base of their claws and mark their territory by scratching on objects. Each cat has its own unique scent which tells a story to other cats about where he or she has been and what territory he or she is claiming. Luckily, or unluckily, for us humans, we are unable to smell this scent and often don’t realise what our cats are trying to communicate.

    - The second reason a cat will scratch is to remove the outer layer of its claw, keeping it functional, strong and healthy. This is very important for your cat to be able to climb and live a happy, adventurous and enriched cat life. Basically - your cat is trimming its nails.

    - A third, important reason why cats scratch objects is as a form of exercise. This is especially important since most modern household pets have a tendency to become overweight due to overfeeding and not enough exercise. Thus scratching is a good way for them to burn some extra calories in a way that they enjoy.

    And lastly, cat scratching allows your cat to stretch, flex and relax. It is very important for a cat's emotional wellbeing that they exhibit this behaviour.

Knowing what you know now, a scratching post really is a cat owners godsend, and how to go about buying one is easy.

Firstly get one as you get your cat or kitten – this way they will have something from the very start that you can direct them to.

If you already have a fur-baby that’s ripping it up all over your upholstery then try and find a scratching post that copies some of the physical features of what it is scratching in your home.

Take note of where the object is located. How tall it is and its shape. A crucial aspect of the object would be to note its texture; whether it is coarse or smooth – this is clearly what your cat likes to dig its nails into and you want to emulate that as much as possible to create an acceptable replacement.

Now that you have your scratching post – you need to make it unacceptable to your cat to discourage scratching any other surfaces in the future. Ideas of doing this include covering the object with sellotape or aluminium foil, making it smell unattractive by using things like cotton wool sprayed with perfume or actual repellents commercially available. Use things cats generally don’t like.

Place your scratch post close to the old preferred “scratch post” (eg. couch leg or curtain) to make the transition easier. Don’t remove the unattractive smells or coverings from the object you don’t want scratched until your cat has completely accepted the new scratching post.

Place pheromone sprays and catnip around the new scratching post to encourage quick appeal and acceptance. And then, only after a few weeks once your cat has forgotten about the old object, can you think of removing the unattractive smells and covers. But remember not to remove everything all at once. Doing things gradually is key.

Because scratching is normal behaviour for cats, punishing them won’t solve your problems completely. Your cat will continue to scratch and just become more fearful of you or become a ninja scratcher when your back is turned.

Buy the scratcher – take the time to get them accustomed to using it and you’ll be sighing sweet relief in no time.

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