If you have a cat, you would be aware that cats scratch on surfaces with their fore paws and claws. They make a hooking motion into their surface of choice with their claws, raking the material with their paws. Depending on your cat’s preference it will eventually choose whether it likes horizontal or vertical surfaces. Your cat will also eventually show its preference for the material it likes to scratch on. Scratching for a cat comes naturally and there are many reasons why they do it. The trick is to manage the scratching well to ensure your cats scratching needs are fulfilled and your home furniture is not in tatters.  

You may notice a sort of covering that forms on your cat’s claws, called a sheath. The sheath on your cat’s claws can become worn out and chafed. Scratching movements help your pet cat keep their claws in shape by removing the sheath, making them sharp. They can then easily use their claws for climbing, hunting and self-defence.  

One of the most interesting scratching purposes comes from the fact that when cats scratch, glands between their toes and under their foot leave a strong scent on the scratched surface. It is thought that cats mark their territory in this way and communicate with other cats with this scratching behaviour. The scent left on the surface gives information to other cats who may see the scratches and home in on the scent. Because cats engage in scratching behaviour indoors and outdoors, we still have a lot of research to do to understand the behaviour. 

Providing Appropriate Scratching Opportunities For Your Cat 

Understanding why your cat scratches can help satisfy that need that it has. One of the mistakes a new pet cat owner can make is to try and reduce the behaviour and not allow it. The trick is to allow it in appropriate circumstances. This would mean providing areas of scratching comfort to your cat. Scratching trees, board and mats strategically placed within your home can make for a happy scratchy cat. 

Cat scratching materials and resources come in so many different sizes and options that it can be a minefield figuring out what’s best for your pet cat. Many scratching posts have been wrongly designed with human aspects kept in mind. Having the right design and correct scratching post according to your cats preferences can be a huge saviour for your home furniture that could be used as an alternative. 

Which Features Should We Look For When Buying A Scratch Post Or Board? 

Horizontal Or Vertical Scratching Facility? 

  • Watching and observing your cat for its directional preference for scratching is important. Does it prefer a sofa arm which is vertical or the bottom of a staircase for example which is horizontal?  

If your cat seems like it enjoys both types it offers you more variety in choosing resources for it. If you are the proud owner of a cat family, make sure all preferences are taken into account, not just your favourite cats, if you have one!  

Height 

  • The height of the scratching post must allow for a full stretch to be possible for your cat to make with legs extended.  
  • A 60 cm scratching post is a good height to have for your average adult cat.  
  • You may have a kitten that is small in size now, but when buying resources, it’s a good idea to think ahead. Kitten sized items would quickly become uncomfortable for your cat. 
  • Some trees for climbing are made as multipurpose and may include scratching portions. The flow of resting places and scratching spots should be built in with the cat’s movements in mind.  

Stability 

  • Sturdiness in a scratching post is especially important. It should not wobble, move unexpectedly or bend when weight is applied. That could give your cat a scare and put it off using it. 
  • For balance, the post should have a heavy base that has got a good amount of width for good weight bearing of your cat especially when it scratches a wobbly post left unchecked can sometimes prove to be a hazard if it eventually tips over.   
  • The scratch post, therefore, needs to have a wide, heavy base to help support your cats’ weight when they scratch. If the post begins to wobble and cannot be mended don’t be tempted to leave it, it’s time to buy a new one.   

The Material 

  • To satisfy the need to scratch the material on your cat’s scratch post should be resistant. Bark, wood, sisal twine, corrugated cardboard or carpet are all fit for the purpose. 
  • Carpets that are made for heavy duty use such as loop weave are excellent for horizontal scratching. 
  • There is a dilemma in providing scratching opportunities on carpets maybe encouraging your pet cat to scratch your home carpet. There is little evidence of this so you should not worry too much about it, especially if you provide an attractive and fulfilling scratching facility around the house.  
  • Vertically weaved materials are deemed to be better than horizontal ones as they provide opportunities for downward scratches.  
  • Studies have been done that found cats aged between 10 and 14 prefer carpet scratching posts while all others prefer rope-based ones. As such, your cat’s preferences for materials may change as they grow.  
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How Many Scratching Facilities Should There Be? 

  • You may decide to keep a single scratching post for your pet cat. However, to make sure and reduce chances of your cat scratching your home furniture or carpet, it may be a good idea to have several strategically placed options around the house,   
  • If you have multiple cats, you will need multiple scratch posts, scratch pads to avoid feline feuds for resources. 
  • Ideally it should be one post per cat. If you feel that is a little excessive, think of the furniture damage you are saving instead.  

Where Should They Be Located?

Your cats scratch post must be strategically placed for full utilisation and diversion from furniture. It’s important to remember that what might look like a visually pleasing spot for us, may be an inconvenient one for our pet cat’s needs.

  • For your pet cat, having scratch pads next to where they sleep is a good idea. Their placement should allow a good stretch after sleep as well.   
  • Cats scratch as a matter territorial marking as well, so having posts at border of your cat’s space works well.  
  • If you are in the difficult position where your cat has already taken liberties on your home furniture, you can try and divert you pet cat by placing scratch posts near the targeted furniture. 
  • Remember, screaming at your cat is not the best way to manage unwanted scratching behaviours from your cat. It can lead to your cat being anxious and not wanting to spend time with you. 

Don’t Forget To Encourage The Use Of Them! 

  • Ensuring you cats scratching spaces are inviting is important and key to have scratch free furniture. There are several ways of making the spaces encouraging for your cat.  
  • Dried catnip or catnip scent are a sure shot way to lead your pet cat to any desired space. You cat is sure to investigate the scent.  
  • Your encouraging praise and reward for scratching in the right place can work wonders for your cat to repeat the behaviour.  
  • A creative way to get your cat interested in the spot is hanging a toy to a stick and dangling it in front of the scratching point so that while trying to grab the toy, your cat feels the surface and is encouraged to have a go.  
  • To encourage interaction, you may want to create novelty by moving the scratch post from its usual place.  
  • Food bribes are also a sure shot way to get your cat to scratch at the right places.

If you require any more information regarding this topic, please feel free contact Amity Vet and speak to one of our trained vets who can answer any of your queries. At Amity Vet, we pride ourselves in being the best vet in Dubai and the best vet near you.