Why does my cat scratch the furniture

Adopt a Pet Animal Welfare Cats Pet Care Pets Pet Health Animals Article taken from The Biscuit magazine Posted Dec 1, 2020
Besides being the bane of table legs everywhere, scratching is a natural instinct that all cats will indulge in at some point or another. How do you let your feline friend relieve their purr-ges while saving your favourite furniture?
Article derived from Issue 8 of The Biscuit Magazine.

As a first time cat owner and RSPCA volunteer, Rebecca found out firsthand what it was like with a new cat in the home. “I didn’t anticipate every item in my house being a scratching post when our Domestic Short Hair, Tulip arrived. When my partner and I woke up to our bed posts being clawed at two in the morning,” she said. 

Why do cats scratch?

Scratching is an innate, natural behaviour in cats that shouldn’t be punished. It helps relieve pent up anxiety, excitement and other emotions and keeps claws healthy and filed.

Cats are naturally territorial animals and when adopting a cat, it’s definitely worth considering this before moving them into an entirely new environment. Change can be quite stressful for cats and excessive scratching can be anything from stress relief to marking their territory. 

Cats also prefer to scratch things such as trees; so an indoor cat may naturally head straight to wooden furniture. Rougher surfaces like wood, brick and concrete also act as files to remove the dead outer layer of your feline’s paws, keeping them pain-free.

my cat scratches the table legs 

Illustration by RSPCA Volunteer, Chris Ward

How do I stop my cat scratching the furniture?

It’s important to be patient and understanding with your cat while halting scratching behaviour on the wrong surfaces. Firstly, you need to purchase or make a suitable scratching surface for your home such as cat posts, scratching pads or cat gyms. Check out the range of cat enrichment available from RSPCA World for Pets here. 

Rebecca did just that and bought Tulip a large cat gym, which she has since happily claimed. But it wasn’t immediate. She says, “It took time to convince our Majesty that this gym is the only suitable place for her to scratch. We placed her food bowl and blanket on the gym for a time and frequently had to redirect her – we had to place the gym directly at the end of our bed, her favourite post!”

Over time, as Rebecca interacted with Tulip and the gym, providing positive reinforcement and offering treats as rewards for approaching the gym without encouragement, Tulip began to use the gym daily.

It’s important to remember cats do not scratch for no reason and this behaviour shouldn’t be discourage entirely. Rather, it should be redirected and rewarded in the appropriate circumstance.

why does my cat scratch

Illustration by RSPCA Volunteer, Chris Ward

For cats still interested in your furniture even after you’ve provided an alternative place to scratch, try to gently discourage them from sharpening claws there. 

Among the things you can try is putting wide double-sided sticky tape or Sticky Paws over the furniture or setting up a PetSafe SSSCAT spray bottle near problem areas (the spray is harmless compressed air and is activated with motion sensors). Here are some ideas from RSPCA World for Pets.

Never use physical punishment like hitting your cat.

Claw maintenance for senior cats

Remember that if you have an older or sedentary cat that cannot scratch, it’s important you help them maintain their claws. Senior cats’ claws grow thicker than in younger cats but can also have a weak or brittle texture. Your senior cat might also have problems retracting its claws. Clipping and filing the nails on a regular basis keeps them sturdy and strong. You can purchase clippers for your pet from RSPCA World for Pets.

Always ask your vet’s advice if you think your cat needs some help with their claws.

cat enrichment scratching

If you have a question about your pet’s behaviour, contact the RSPCA on 07 3426 9999 any time.

lauren hope bickley

Lauren Bickley
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