It’s a simple truth in the animal kingdom. Some people are cat people. For these individuals, sharing their home, whether it is a one-bedroom apartment in a city or a sprawling country estate, with their feline companion makes their life complete; but, as with any relationship, there are problems. With cats, one of those problems can be their propensity to scratch; not just themselves, but everything. Nothing is safe. Not the carpet, the bedposts, not even the couch. Is this normal? Is getting a scratching toy for cats a good thing?
The simple answer is: yes! Scratching is a normal behavior for cats. Harkening back to the days before domestication, the solitary feline hunters lived in many different world environments. Many of these territories were covered with grasses and trees used by these elegant creatures for cover or a place to call home. Under the domestic roof, nature continues to have a great influence on cats.
Marking Their Territory
Back in the wild days, cat used scratching as a means to mark their territory. Not only does scratching leave a visual cue; but, glands in the cat’s paws leave a scent trail which tells other cats, “This is my territory! Stay out!”. Each animal has its own unique scent marker. That maybe also why your cat tends to scratch more in areas they claim as their own, such as the bed or sofa.
Cats are fastidious when it comes to grooming. They can spend hours licking their faces, fur, and paws. Scratching is also a part of this process since it helps to keep claws sharp by removing the hard outer crusts from the nails. Cat’s claws are similar to a human’s nails in the fact they grow continuously over time and must be ‘trimmed’. Scratching hard objects and chewing does this and also keeps them sharp since they tend to dull over time.
The act of scratching involves the whole body by stretching out the tendons, ligaments, muscles and skeletal structure. It helps prevent injury and keeps your feline companion in stealth mode when walking about the house or playing in the garden. It also provides the infrastructure the ability to move about with that famous feline grace.
Whenever a cat becomes excited or frustrated scratching behavior ramps up. Ever notice more scratching when something new enters a cat’s domain? Perhaps an addition of a new baby in the house or a new cat pal can trigger an increase of damage to your furniture. This maybe a good thing, since your cat is expending energy on inanimate objects rather than the thing that triggers it. Perhaps it is better to attach furniture than the new kitten you brought in as a companion.
Scratching is a natural, inborn instinct to cats. It is not something that owner, however good intentioned they are, can change. It is important to understand why cats scratch before scolding or trying to change their behavior. In reality, it is the owner who must change, not the cat.