At some point in your life, you must have asked yourself “why do cats scratch?” It is a very inquisitive question and there are indeed important reasons why your feline friend have those built in sharp knives known as claws.
Cats are designed to be life’s little perfect killing machines and their claws are their instruments of death. Cats are specifically designed to pounce, leap, claw, and bite their prey in the wild, which is usually small rodents, small birds, insects, and reptiles.
Think about it for a moment… a cat hides and stalks her prey. She may be hiding in the bushes, under a car, or maybe in some tall grass.
Cats use the element of surprise in order to get the upper hand on their prey. With lightning fast reflexes and tremendous speed, cats are able to catch their next meal with relative ease. Every part of the body is beautifully designed to create a lethal weapon known as a cat.
Now, you’re probably asking “well, why the hell would I want one of those in my house? I have priceless artifacts!” And you are indeed correct. If you do not properly train your cat and you do not supply them with adequate places and things to scratch on, you will soon find out that cats can be the most destructive force to be reckoned with.
That is why it is important to understand that cats just naturally have the impulse to scratch and that we must train them to scratch responsibly. You will find that as a cat matures, they are not the type of animals to scratch anything and everything if properly trained.
In fact, cats should be encouraged to scratch often as there are many health benefits to the activity. When your cat scratches on a scratching post or other designated areas, it is essentially giving a nice work out to her entire musculature; from the claws through the legs and shoulders, all the way down to the back, the entirety of the cats body is exercised and toned when your cat digs her claws in and scratches passionately.
A cat who doesn’t scratch usually has underdeveloped muscles and aren’t as in shape. A healthy cat is a scratching cat!
How To Train Your Cat To Scratch Responsibly
Scratching is a natural behavior for cats and as their slaves, I mean owners, we must encourage and guide this behavior. That is why I must inform you and emphasize how important it is not to play with your cat or kittens with your fingers or hands.
I know what you must be thinking, “but kittens are so cute! Just look how it nibbles it’s little teeth on my fingers!” as your heart melts with joy.
Listen here you beautiful human being you… once your cat gets used to playing and roughhousing with your fingers and other appendages, she will not know the difference between your hands or those of another.
To the cat, scratching and biting have now become the norm and will only believe she is playing and building a bond with anyone hands she is shredding apart!
Your cat will not know the difference between your hands or the hands of your great-grandmother or your infant child. It’s very unfortunate that many cats get displaced from their homes and into shelters because of their play biting and scratching.
What was once an activity that brought cat and human together now becomes the very thing to break you apart. Never play with your cats with your fingers and hands. It simply is not worth it. There are toys that are specifically designed to enrich a cats life and trigger their primal instincts!
Scratching Since Kittenhood
As mentioned before, scratching, biting, raking with the claws are not only perfectly normal but it is the very essence of being a cat. From the stages of being a kitten, a cat will begin practicing these skills in order to survive and thrive in the wild.
All forms of play are training for a cat. They learn to hunt and to defend themselves while scratching and biting with other cats, so it is only natural for them to think the same when playing with your hands.
A kitten will quickly learn from her mother and litter members on how to appropriately use their claws and teeth. When a kitten begins to become too rambunctious or bites and scratches a little too hard, her mother may disengage and hold down her kitten to assert some rules and etiquettes.
A kitten learns not to bite too hard and not too hurt another family member. Along with playing with her siblings and hunting for food, a kitten will develop an understanding of how and when to scratch and bite.
When you start playing with the kitten with your hands, you are essentially teaching the kitten all over again that biting and scratching hard is allowed. It is the exact opposite of the behavior the kitten’s mother tried so diligently to instill in her litter.
It’s also so tempting too, cause kittens are just too gosh darn cute. Yet your cat won’t understand she is hurting you when she grows older and is able to bite down with much more ferocity and intent. This causes misunderstandings and a rift to be created between two bonded creatures.
That is why it is recommended that you never play with your cat using your hand and fingers, but rather use cat toys to play and bond with your cat. Your hands should only be used for petting, grooming, transportation, and administering medications. This way, your cat will never get into the habit of scratching and biting on human skin.
If by chance your cat has already gotten into the tendency to play with your limbs, you could always try and re-educate your cat to behave differently. Yelling and hitting your cat will never work.
So instead, you should just stop dead and not engage in any further activity. Gently but firmly say words of disappointment then begin to ignore your cat for the next few minutes.
Do this often and your cat will slowly get the hint that scratching and biting is not the way to go. Then when you play with cat toys and cat wands, be sure to give out treats to positively reinforce your cat that playing with toys is best. With enough time, your cat will learn and be mindful of her boundaries.
The Cat Scratching Post
So, where should a cat scratch then? We now understand that scratching is a completely normal behavior that actually helps the cat to maintain her health. We first have to understand that cat in the wild.
All feral cats love to have a good scratch session on a nice rough tree. This indicates that cats tend to enjoy clawing at objects that have a rough surface and is sturdy enough to take a beating.
That is why it is best practice to invest into scratching posts that tailor to the cat’s cravings. There are many cat trees out on the market that come in very lovely colors and are wrapped in fluffy materials.
While the comfortable fabrics may be good for a cat to sleep it, it simply does not do the trick when a cat wants to satiate her scratching itch. I highly recommend you avoid cat trees that fit this description.
The best kinds of cat trees are the ones that are a combination of comfort and rough. Let’s face it, cats like it a little rough and they need something they can really dig their claws in.
You want to invest in scratching posts and cat trees that are wrapped with sisal rope. This brilliant invention will literally solve all of your cat scratching problems.
Be sure to read up on my article about the Best Cat Trees for your feline friend!
Your cat will absolutely go ham for these types of scratching furniture. The rough, coarse, harsh, and scratchy sisal rope is the perfect material for your cat to shreds.
The rope itself is very durable and can take quite the beating, and if it is wrapped around a cat tree that is equally as sturdy, your cat will come back again and again. Five out of five stars on Yelp! If you don’t provide your cat with something to scratch, a cat will find a suitable replacement to shed those dead husks and get that nice body stretch in.
It is also worth noting that you should leave the scratching posts in places where your cat is often. A tall cat tree is best placed in the corner of the room where it can brace up against the walls while smaller cat scratching posts will be best placed near sofas or other furniture that your cat may have already taken a liking to.
By strategically placing cat trees and scratching posts, you will be able to enrich your cat’s life tremendously while preventing damage to all of your other belongings.
With a bit of training, meeting our cat’s needs, and providing loving guidance, humans will be able to teach their cats to scratch responsibly. As such, I must emphasize that you should never, ever resort to declawing your cat.
You can read and learn the truth about the declawing surgical procedure and why so many people, cat owners, and veterinarians frown upon it in my article here.