When cats sharpen their claws on the furniture many owners think that the cat is showing contempt and adopt ‘strong measures’ such as using repellent sprays or reprimands that the cat doesn’t understand. But what is behind this typical cat behaviour and how can we limit the disastrous effects on our furniture? Dr Maria Grazia Calore, veterinary doctor and expert in pet behaviour, helps us to understand.
Cat’s nails and scratches: what you need to know
A cat’s nail grows ‘in layers’ like an onion and never stops growing. For this reason, a feline has to remove the older, external layers by regularly sharpening its claws.
So scratching, is therefore essential to accomplish this painstaking task, and has two main functions: physical and behavioural:
– Keeping nails orderly: in this way, the cat prevents the nail penetrating the fingertip causing pain.
– Communicating: a cat is a relational animal, not a social animal, so it needs to communicate its presence in the territory through a number of signals, including marking with scratches in key areas, like near the place they sleep or near potential access points for unwelcome visitors, such as doors and windows. So, the more the scratches are evident, the more our domestic cat feels safe from external intrusions.
The scratching post: a solution for cats and owners
We should accept the fact that cats marking with scratches is a perfectly normal behaviour and can’t be eliminated, however any potential damage to our fixtures and fittings can be addressed by introducing an object such as a scratching post.
Considering a cat’s preference for scratching both horizontal or vertical surfaces we need to choose the most suitable type of post that should have the following specific features:
– Stability: it must be stable enough not to topple over
– Appropriate dimensions: the cat has to be able to fully stretch out to sharpen its claws
– Adequate positioning: it’s better if the post is positioned close to doors or windows or near the place the cat sleeps.
All important details if we want to be sure that our cat uses our gift.
And if you want to replace the scratching post, remember not to remove the old one straight away, it may be unsightly for us but is ‘a thing of beauty’ to our cat. Instead, it’s better to put old and new side by side to make sure that the cat uses the new one before we throw away the old one: in this way we will avoid a lot of stress for our cat!