Scratching behavior in cats is one of the most common concerns that local pet owners have. Here is a summary of why cats scratch, and how you can manage this behavior … or at least arrive at a compromise with your feline family member!

Why Cats Scratch

  1. Remove the sheaths on their claws
  2. Mark their territory
  3. Play
  4. Stretch
  5. Relieve stress and pent up energy

Strategies to Manage Scratching Behavior 

Since scratching fills an instinctual need and acts as a physical outlet, any attempt to stop your cat from scratching will most likely fail. Instead, simply encourage scratching to be done on approved items, or in a non-destructive manner. It is important to recognize that you will probably need to utilize a combination of the following strategies.

  1. Provide scratch-friendly object placement

Supply your cat with scratch-friendly objects in locations where they are already scratching. (Ex. If your cat is scratching the corner of your arm chair, place your scratcher at that corner.) This strategy is most effective when used in combination with some sort of scratch-deterrent products like sprays or tape (described further in this post). The idea is that you put a scratch deterrent on your furniture for a brief period of time and also place a scratch approved item at the same location. This discourages your cat from scratching your furniture while providing a scratch-approved piece in the same location for your cat to use.

  1. Provide a variety of scratching materials

Common materials that cats enjoy scratching include:

  • Sisal rope
  • Cardboard
  • Carpet
  • Upholstery
  • Wood

A study on domestic cat scratching behavior found that that sisal rope was the most frequently scratched substance when offered, followed by carpet and cardboard. Researchers also found that inappropriate scratching decreased as the number of different scratching materials available increased.

  1. Provide different scratcher types and orientations

I recommend providing scratching surfaces that are vertical, horizontal and slanted. A study showed that multi-level cat trees and scratching posts greater than 3 feet in height were associated with the least amount of inappropriate scratching.

  1. Reinforce good scratching behavior

It is important to provide positive reinforcement when your cat scratches approved objects, (especially when you are initially trying to transition the cat to these scratchers). Providing a treat when you see your cat scratching the approved object works great. You can also encourage proper scratching by placing toys, treats, or catnip on the new scratchers.

  1. Scratch deterrent products

Aside from providing scratch-approved alternatives, you can also do things to deter from inappropriate scratching. The two most effective types of products on the market are fabric-safe double-sided tape and sprays that leave a foul odor. Another strategy is to put sheets or rubber mats with double-sided fabric tape on the furniture that is being scratched, thus providing a barrier to protect the furniture underneath.

Using a combined strategy to minimize scratching behavior in San Luis Obispo cats that includes deterrents, strategic scratcher placement, and timely reinforcement is the most effective approach for a long-term scratching solution. Once proper scratching is reinforced and the behavior has been modified it should be safe to stop using the scratch deterrent products.

  1. Cat Pedicures
  • Nail Caps

The basic concept is that you glue blunt plastic covers over each of your cat’s claws, thus reducing the ability of the claws to dig into your furniture. These can be VERY effective at eliminating any damage from scratching and they may be an excellent solution for some people.

  • Nail Trimming

Another strategy is to trim your cat’s claws to minimize damage from scratching. This can be a really easy process (for most cats) and most veterinarians are happy to show you how it’s done.

  1. Play with your cat

Providing mental and physical stimulation for your cat is absolutely essential for a well-behaved cat and will certainly help to alleviate any scratching issues. Cats that are bored or under-exercised may release some of their pent-up energy by scratching. Because scratching behavior is common amongst pets when left alone, here’s more information on separation anxiety

Most important of all?  Let us know how we can help you… and we will!!

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Mission Animal Hospital


3973 South Higuera Street San Luis Obispo, CA 93401

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Sunday Closed