If you have ever had a favourite sofa or piece of furniture ‘personalised’ by your cat’s scratch marks then you may have wondered why they felt the need to display this destructive behaviour.

Scratching is a normal part of a cat’s grooming regime as the outer layers of claws are removed to leave sharper points. The action of scratching, either vertically or horizontally, also exercises the cat’s leg and back muscles. Some cats prefer to scratch a vertical surface and others enjoy pulling themselves along while lying on their sides…this is particularly good around bed and sofa bottoms! Scratching is also a way for cats to mark out territory as their pads contain sweat and scent glands which produce a unique odour.

Many cats are happy to scratch outdoors as trees and fences provide the ideal surfaces. If cats are kept indoors, or chose to spend large amounts of time indoors , then alternative scratching areas are sourced. If your cats’ scratching seems excessive then it could be a sign of anxiety and therefore this method of scent marking is an attempt to create a more secure environment.

It is important to provide adequate surfaces around the house for cats to scratch. Commercially available posts work well as do sections of carpet attached to walls. Spraying catnip onto these can help encourage reluctant cats to try them out.

Deterring a cat from scratching established places can be tricky. Perspex sheets can be used to temporarily cover wallpaper and furniture edges but sometimes restricting access to a room is necessary until the cat is happy to scratch in an alternative location.

-Penny Clarke MRCVS

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