Cat scratching a wall

Having a cat in your home involves claws, and for the most part, that’s okay. Sometimes, though, cat scratching can be a real problem. The pet experts at Naperville Animal Hospital have some great tips for you, though, to help keep kitty’s claws from being a cat-astrophe.

Why Cats Scratch

Scratching is part of normal feline behavior. It serves several important purposes, and while it doesn’t always jive well with our new leather sofa, it is not the cat’s fault that humans are so particular.

Cat scratching behavior exists for some good reasons. Our feline housemates scratch in order to:

  • Promote the health of their claws
  • Remove old nail sheaths
  • Visually mark their territory
  • Mark with the scent glands in the paws
  • Stretch their muscles
  • Comfort themselves
  • Protect themselves

Some cats seem to be more into scratching than others, but it is part of being a cat nonetheless. It is simply our human expectations that begin to make it a problem 

Mitigating the Damage of Cat Scratching 

When cat scratching becomes a problem in a home, often the solution is not to stop the scratching entirely, but to encourage other more acceptable outlets for this behavior. 

  • Create a scratching paradise—Cats need to scratch whether we like it or not, so creating a tempting environment for them to utilize can help to limit the behavior to a certain area. Provide scratching surfaces large enough for your cat to fully stretch out on, making sure that they are not wobbly. Most cats prefer a vertical surface, but you will need to watch for your own cat’s preference. Try to place scratching surfaces near sleeping areas or places that your cat already likes to scratch.
  • Try different surfaces—Cats often have a strong preference for certain scratching surfaces. Many like sisal rope, however your cat may like carpet, wood, cardboard, or upholstery. Pay attention and try to provide surfaces your cat likes best. 
  • Utilize pheromones—Synthetic pheromones like Feliway can help you to scent mark places your cat is scratching so that they are not tempted to further mark. 
  • Interact with your cat—Environmental and social enrichment is important to cats, and being sure to incorporate daily play and attention into the routine is important. Doing these things can provide a more acceptable outlet for unwanted behaviors like scratching. 
  • Praise your kitty—Let your cat know that you approve! Use positive reinforcement like physical affection, verbal praise, treats, catnip, or extra play when they scratch in approved locations. 
  • Trim those toes—Make the time to trim your cat’s claws once every one-to-two weeks. This can help to minimize damage and promote healthy claws. 
  • Try nail caps—For some cats silicone nail caps like Soft Paws can be a great solution for stopping claws from damaging your home. 

With some effort, in many situations excessive or unacceptable, cat scratching can be improved or fixed. 

Declawing may be a tempting solution, but it is not usually one that we recommend. Declawing is surgical amputation of the tips of all the toes and can potentially lead to chronic pain. There is some evidence that declawed cats have a higher tendency to have issues with biting and not using their litter box appropriately, which is hardly a good solution. 

Please let us know if you have questions about problematic cat scratching. It’s our goal to help our feline friends and their human family members live together harmoniously, and we are happy to do anything we can to help that happen.