Scratching Surfaces

Cats use scratching as a way to relieve stress.
Don’t let it add to yours.

  1. Scratching helps cats to stretch their bodies and maintain their claws. Learn how to set up an accommodating home.

    Scratching is in a cat's nature, so it's important to give an alternative to your furniture, rugs or curtains.

    In the wild, cats will use both standing and fallen trees for scratching in order to keep claws fit for climbing, hunting and self-defense.

    This also helps them mark territory by transferring their scent.

    If your cat has done a number on a piece of furniture or décor or if you’re bringing a cat home for the first time, here’s how to do it right. 

  2. Select a Surface

    A sturdy scratch post or horizontal or diagonal scratcher can be used to replicate the types of surfaces available in nature and cats often show a preference for a specific kind. They can be made from corrugated cardboard, carpets or natural rope fibers, often times integrated into cat trees. To dig deeper into cat trees, check out the Activity on Vertical Spaces. We’ve even heard of some owners using natural logs.

    No matter which form you choose, it’s important that a scratch post is sturdy enough to accommodate the size of your cat. Larger cats may be able to push over the post. If this is the case, the post won’t be of much use. Your cat may likely turn to another less desirable outlet like your furniture.

    Also, make sure it’s readily available. If the post or surface is stowed away, or stationed in a room that is frequently closed off, it won’t be of much use.

    To Complete This Step

    Purchase a scratcher and put it to use. Make a note about why you chose it, along with your thinking behind where to place it. Did you cat investigate or use it right away? Upload a photo of you’re the scratcher in its place.

  3. Reward In Kind

    Know that cats can be leery to changes in their environment, so your cat may initially be apprehensive of the presence of any scratcher. So don’t be surprised if the scratcher isn’t used right away. Give your cat some time to get acquainted.

    As your cat begins to use the scratch post or surface, reinforce the positive behavior with a treat. Continue until he or she gets the hang of it.

    In time, the scratcher will show a little wear-and-tear – especially those made of carpet. Your cat sees these imperfections as a badge of honor. It's now covered with his or her scent and marked as "owned." So don’t feel as if you need to rush out and replace it.

    To Complete This Activity

    If you decided to try multiple options, which one is used most often? Which textures does your cat like best? Is the scratcher located next to people, the food dish or litter box? If your cat used to scratch in an unwanted location, has it stopped? Record your observations in your Journal. Then take a picture of your cat using the scratcher.

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