For many, understanding the reasons why cats need to scratch has remained an elusive mystery. From the wild cats of the jungle to the domesticated feline companion, scratching has been a means for survival. This predisposed instinct has unfortunately led to the untimely demise of our sofas, window screens, curtains, and walls. In order to decide what the best methods for alleviating this problem are, you must first understand why it is done.
In the wilds of the mighty jungle, it was necessary for cats to be mighty hunters in order to survive. Cats instinctively used their claws as a means for support for climbing trees, giving them the opportunity to pounce on their unsuspecting prey. Razor-sharp claws were required for hunting as well as fending off other predators. Today, the domesticated cat does not have to depend on their skills as a hunter as their food bowls are always full. However, the instincts to keep their nails hunter ready are still there.
Not only is the act of scratching a way to sharpen claws, but it is also a way to trim them as well. In addition, cat scratching is significant in that it is used for the purposes of marking territory. When cats scratch a surface or object, they are also releasing a chemical that is marking their scent, letting other area cats, whether in the same household or general location know that this is their territory. Scratching is also a great way for cats to work out any muscle tension they may have or as a means to release excess energy.
The most common and frequently used method for deterring cats from scratching and damaging our possessions is to have them de-clawed. However, this method does require your cat to undergo anesthesia which comes with some minor risks. Before you make the decision to de-claw, there are other alternatives available for consideration.
Scratching posts are an excellent choice for giving your cat his own personal area to scratch. They can come as part of a fancy cat condo or as single models in many colors and styles. A scratching post can also be cost-effective as it is a simple project you can create yourself. All that is required is a two-foot-tall section of a four by four combined with a two-foot by two-foot section of durable plywood and a small piece of carpeting.
Another inexpensive item available for cat scratching is scratching mats. Regardless of which you choose it is important that you place it as close to your cat’s favorite scratching area at first. After your cat has become accustomed to using the post instead of your furniture or walls, gradually move it away from those areas.
Another option for discouraging your cat from scratching where you don’t him too is by using a pet repellant spray. All that is required is a quick spray on the area you wish your cat to stay away from. This product, most commonly referred to as Bitter Apple spray, is an unpleasant tasting liquid that gets on their paws after scratching and they do not like the taste.
Although this method is effective, it is wise to test a small area of carpet or upholstery to ensure the repellant does not alter the material in any way. Some additional helpful hints include wrapping the areas in aluminum foil or placing the tape on the area, sticky side up. Cats definitely do not like anything sticking to their paws.
As a final result, many people have tried using nail caps. Just as a manicurist would place faux nails on your fingers, these caps are placed on a previously filed down nail using a pet-friendly adhesive. Of course, just as faux nails do, these caps also tend to fall off.
If you have tried every alternative and your cat still can not break this habit, surgery may be the only answer. Weighing the positives and negatives to each of the methods, along with consulting a veterinarian will help you make the right decision for both you and your cat.