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How to Manage Destructive Scratching Behavior in Cats

Cats like to scratch when playing or marking their territory. Here are some tips to manage destructive scratching behavior in cats.

Cats scratch different surfaces and they do so for several reasons. They will scratch any surface that is textured such as furniture and wood. They will scratch surfaces that their claws can penetrate and slice into.

Unfortunately, their claws are sharp enough and can do real damage, so owners often end up with scratched furniture, ruined upholstery, and damaged valuables. 

Why cats scratch

To manage this behavior, you first need to understand why they do it. They don’t do it out of boredom or pent-up energy.

Cat scratching is their natural instinct; it’s not something that can be resolved or eliminated. 

They scratch because it gives them satisfaction, it helps them with their anxiety, it sharpens their claws, it is a form or work-out, and they do it to leave their scent.

They have scent glands on their paws which lets them leave their scent on anything they scratch.

Experts believe that prior to domestication, cats utilized scratching as a way for them to mark their territory in the wild, where they would scratch trees to leave their scent and also to guide their way.

How cats scratch

Cats do their scratching either vertically (standing up) or horizontally (on four paws).

However, vertical scratching is more common, as it gives them more opportunity to stretch out their limbs, exercise their muscles, and stretch their bodies.

Vertical scratching often victimizes the legs of tables and chairs, as well as furniture and cabinets. For this reason, having leather furniture at home is a bad idea for cat owners.

How to manage this behavior

On the bright side, there are many ways to deal with this. Here are some tips on how owners can manage this behavior:

1. Use scratching deterrents

The smell of cologne, citrus, menthol, and similarly strong odors throw them off. Try soaking a cotton ball with any of these scents and rub them on surfaces you want them to avoid. 

2. Use scratching posts

Scratching posts that are specifically designed for cats are widely available in pet stores. It may take some time for them to switch to their new scratching post, so it’s best to use scratching deterrents on their favorite areas to help them transition.

3. Make a DIY scratching post

There are videos and articles online that can help you make a DIY scratch post. Mimic the type of textures they love to scratch to encourage them to use it. Make sure that the materials to be used are not treated with any kind of chemical that may leave strong odors, otherwise, they will refuse to scratch it.

Make sure to praise your cat and give them rewards for using their new posts and for avoiding the old ones.

Never punish them for scratching and never resort to declawing your cat. Understand that this behavior is a part of their nature and is also necessary to stimulate their senses.

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