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Cat Scratching: Why They Do It and What You Can Do About It

Cute cat enjoying himself outdoors.

As a pet parent, there’s no doubt you’ve wondered why your cat scratches at the rugs and furniture. Rest assured, your kitty isn’t doing this because he or she is bad. In fact, quite the opposite. Cats need to scratch. And although it may be incredibly frustrating to see shreds in the arms of the couch, understanding the reasoning behind it can make it a little better. It also doesn’t hurt to know how you can minimize the damage on your decor. Here, we’ll talk about both.

Scratching is Instinctive and Normal

Yes, really! And there are many reasons why they do it. From needing to manicure their claws to wanting to mark their territory to simply stretching and flexing, scratching is an instinctive and completely normal behavior for cats. Instead of discouraging it, persuade them to scratch on more acceptable areas, such as a scratching post.

Deter, Not Declaw

Your cat needs its claws. They’re part of who they are. And while declawing seems like it may be a harmless quick fix, it’s not. In fact, it’s pretty inhumane unless there is a medical need to do so (such as the removal of cancerous nail bed tumors). Taking away your cat’s claws not only changes their whole demeanor, causing them to do things like bite aggressively and avoid the litter box, it can also cause physical problems that can last their entire life.

To learn more about the negative effects of declawing you can read the study: Pain and Adverse Behavior in Declawed Cats.

Instead, pay attention to where your cat scratches as well as the texture of the things they prefer to scratch on and then make it obvious to your cat that these are off-limit spots. A couple of ways to do this could include:

  • Covering those areas with something your cat would find unappealing on their paws, like cat scratching guards or training tape.
  • Attaching cotton balls soaked in scents that cats don’t like, specifically, citrus or menthol. Essential oils, cologne, or a muscle rub could work.

When you notice that your cat is avoiding those areas, remove them one at a time.

Another popular option, of course, is to invest in scratching pads or scratching posts. Be sure to put them in areas your cat is happy with, such as by the front door or next to their sleeping spot. After a while, you can gradually move them to areas that you prefer. You can also keep their claws trimmed to help minimize damage.

Related Read: How to Clip Your Cats Nails
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Negative Reinforcement is Not the Answer

Remember, scratching is a completely normal cat behavior. If you scold loudly or hit your cat after you catch them scratching, it may only result in them avoiding you altogether. Rather than punishment, interrupt them by making a loud noise, such as clapping your hands or slapping the wall, and then redirect them to one of the acceptable scratching items.

It may take some time, so be persistent and patient. Eventually, your cat will learn what areas are good and what areas are bad--which of course, will make you both happy. And it doesn’t hurt that your decor will stay looking good either.

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