To Scratch or Not to Scratch?

Photo courtesy of Sara Stamper

Did you know that Blum Animal Hospital is a Cat Friendly Practice? This means we have gone through a detailed certification to make sure we have identified the needs and specific diseases/behaviors of cats to educate our clients in the best way.

Ever wonder why cats like to scratch? It is not to annoy their owners, but it is actually a part of their natural behavior! Cats need to scratch and use their claws to mark for several reasons:

  • Stretching out their body and legs
  • To remove the old worn nail and expose the new, sharper nail underneath
  • Mark their territory through scratching inanimate objects or pheromones

Living with a clawed cat can be easy. Just follow these tips:

  • Get their nails trimmed on a regular basis or learn from your veterinarian how to do it at home
  • Provide a variety of cat scratching objects (i.e. different sizes and surfaces) – although most cats prefer to scratch vertically
  • Offer sufficient environmental enrichment and resources for your cat such as litter boxes, food/water bowls, perches and sleeping areas
  • Do not use your hands or fingers for play with your cats – this can lead to unwanted biting or scratching
    • Use toys that mimic prey such as a toy mouse or a wand with feathers

For the best results, make sure to teach your cats how to scratch appropriately. Set them up for success by putting their scratchers in front of their sleeping areas, since most cats often stretch or scratch when they wake up. Also put a scratcher in front of a problem area, such as the corner or back of a couch or chair. If your cat continues to scratch at unwanted areas, pick them up, take them to the scratcher and reward them if they use it. Remember, positive reinforcement is going to be the most effective way to get your cat to use the scratcher!

If you have any further questions about living with a clawed cat, please contact us! For more information on Cat Friendly Practices, click here.

Written for Blum Animal Hospital by Jackie Sheppard.