A common problem for many cat owners is their cat scratching the furniture. I see a lot of evidence of inappropriate scratching during home visits with my mobile vet practice. Many frustrated owners try covering the couch with cloths and putting odd bits of furniture on pulled up carpet. Some owners attempt to clip their cat’s nails every few weeks (with variable success). I’ve even seen people trying the stick on nail covers in pretty colours (with very little success). Thankfully declawing is illegal in Australia.
When presented with a scratching problem, the first question I ask is – do you have a good scratching post? I invariably get the same reply – ‘we have a post but the cat doesn’t use it’. Unfortunately a lot of posts are not good scratching posts and do not get the feline scratch of approval.
When selecting a scratching post you need to think like a cat – firstly, most cats like to stretch out whilst scratching. Some cats can be quite tall when stretched out so your post needs to be similarly tall. Secondly, cats don’t like things that might topple over when they touch it so your post needs to be solid and not move whilst your cat sharpens their nails. Some cats prefer to scratch horizontal surfaces so you may need to find a scratcher designed to be placed on the floor.
A good scratching post is part of the solution, encouraging your cat to use it is the other part. Cats scratch to shed old nails, stretch and relieve frustration. Scratching is also a form of communication. Cats have scent glands on their paws, and scratching is a way of saying ‘I was here’.
Place your post in a prominent area of the house, or near that destroyed sofa to encourage use. Some households may need a few prominently placed posts to prevent unwanted claw marks. To encourage use you can try dangling toys near your scratching post. If they still won’t use it, consider spraying the post with ‘Feliway’ – an analogue of a facial pheromone that reassures anxious cats and encourages scratching when sprayed on a post.
So happy scratching to all the cats out there! (On your post and not the furniture.)