Why do cats scratch?
Scratching is always one of the first topics that pop up in cat forums and more often than not, seen in a negative light. We ask questions like “Why is my cat scratching my couch?” or “My cat is not using his new scratching post!” But that’s because we view it from our human perspective, and not from the cat’s purrspective if you will. Your cat is not a “jerk” or scratching out of spite, as is commonly thought. In the world of cats scratching is very much linked to everyday cat rituals and is a behavior that carries positive associations for the cat.
In our post about Declawing, and why it needs to stop we mention that scratching is a vital part of a cat’s well-being. Providing cats with many different types of scratching posts contributes to a cat’s enrichment needs. Cats do not scratch your couch to get back at you but it’s an innate feline behavior necessary for cats to feel confident and happy in their environment.
- Scratching exercises, stretches and tones the muscles of a cat’s front legs and spine by hooking their claws and pulling their weight down. The action of hooking the claws onto hard substrate conditions the claws by removing the outer nail sheath. This is known as stropping and you will often see little pieces of nail sheath lying around near a cat’s scratch posts. Good job! That means kitty is using his scratching post!
- Cats scratch to mark their territory and claim ownership of space, depositing scent via their paw pads. This alerts others to their presence. It’s like leaving little sticky notes for their housemates and to the humans.
- The mere act of scratching is a confidence booster because of all the things mentioned above. You may notice that some cats especially like scratching their posts before supper time, when you return from work, when playing with a toy or when responding to you when talking to them in cat speak. How cute is that?
- Scratching allows cats a platform to communicate their gripes and affirmations to their housemates and humans. Yes, in a multi-cat household, a scratching post area is like the suggestion box of the cat world. Can you imagine all the notes they are leaving for each other? Or for you! “Human, that new cat food you bought has got to!”
- Scratching provides exercise and amusement and can be a great form of interactive play and bonding with you. NOTE: Do not encourage cats to play with your hands, always use interactive toys. So get out that wand toy and get your cat dancing around the scratching post!
- Scratching feels as good for cats as yoga or stretching feels to us. It makes them feel happy and contented with their surroundings and everything in it.
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Things you can do to entice your cat to scratch his scratching postRub generous sprinklings of dried catnip along the length of the scratching post to attract your cat. Honestly, what cat wouldn’t be attracted to this!?
So your cat is not attracted to catnip? No problem, try some cat vine sticks or cat vine powder and rub it on the scratching post for spine wriggling cat fun. Just be careful your fingers don’t get in the way as they scratch quite vigorously against the post when trying to grab the stick.
Find an extra tall and sturdy scratching post to give your cat a good stretch. If the scratching post is too short or flimsy and can easily be toppled over it may discourage your cat. The kitties’ go-to and communal scratch post is the Ultimate Scratching Post. The cats have been using this for the past 5 years and we really should get another one or two for upstairs!
Play with your cat using a toy that gets him up and jumping, such as a wand toy to encourage scratching the post. Our favorite now, which has been around a long time is the Cat Dancer toy. Seriously, for such a simple toy, it generates the most jumps, backflips and scratching post action than most cat toys. We also love the popular Da Bird feather toy which is still a firm favorite for those cats attracted to the sound of feathers flying. Beware of copy cats or imitations, if it’s not from Go Cat, it doesn’t quite fly like the bird and the ones with bells get annoying pretty quickly! In our video below, our ground-scratcher Sly Pie plays at the scratching post with his favorite, the cat catcher mouse that resembles a real mouse, also made by Go Cat.
From the cat’s mouth, a note from Sly Pie
Scratching serves many purposes, us cats do not just scratch for sitz and giggles. We don’t scratch because we think the couch needs a cat makeover. We don’t scratch because we’re upset about your new boyfriend. Scratching is written in our DNA and it’s part of who we are.
In our latest Caturday Voodle, I demonstrate my skillful scratching wiggle that any cat can easily do. With the help of my purry housemates, I give encouragement to Charlie but he prefers to be in a state of inertia. Charlie is a ‘big-boned’ boy and resists any change to his state of rest or speed. This is one lad that keeps a leisurely pace about everything in life, even during playtime.
That’s okay, I don’t think he’s going to give the couch a makeover anytime soon. Mr. Couch Potato is too lazy for that!
What do you think of my stretch, wiggle and scratch technique? I’m sure all you good kitties have some interesting and unique scratchy moves yourselves. Please do chirp and share in the comments below. This curious tuxedo capri pants would love to know!
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