Whether a jungle cat or an adorable kitten, the fact is that cats love to scratch as much as they love to meow. As can be expected, there is always a hidden meaning in why they do what they do. In typical cat fashion, it’s often purely selfish. Since they are going to do what they want, is there a way we can help them and keep our homes from being clawed to pieces? The answer is yes and yes! So, let’s find out what we can do to keep our belongings in one piece and our cats entertained.
Why are cats so physical?
Anyone who knows a cat knows that they’re very physical creatures. They hiss, scratch, run and yowl to express displeasure. But, scratching and meowing can also be signs of affection! Many of a cat’s habits come from their ancestors and their innate need to express ownership over the things in their territory. And yes, that includes you.
For example, head bumps are more than a simple hello! That sweet little bump that my Maddie used to give me once she jumped on my lap was really a secret message. “Bunting” is a sure sign of their love for you and their desire to keep you to themselves. The bumps activate glands around their head (around mouth, whiskers, ears) and other places on their body (neck, tail and paws). The chemicals released are called pheromones. Pheromones are used as a type of secret communication between cats to signal that you belong to that cat. Only cats can detect and understand these messages. Just as a snowflake, each scent is unique to each cat. Cats scratching around the house is their way of marking their territory with their scents.
Cool! Tell me more about why they scratch my things.
Along with releasing secret scents and hidden messages, scratching does much more than you would think. The claw marks themselves are also warning signs to other cats that a fearless ferocious cat has been here and to steer clear. I guess cats need to also see to believe? Scratching is also the best way for them to relax and relieve stress or excitement. For example, notice how your cat scratches: they stretch their bodies and elongate their legs and toes. This is a natural massage to release muscle knots and tension.
If you notice how your cat scratches, you can pick better toys for them. If your cat is a long horizontal stretcher & scratcher, they probably need something low to the ground almost twice the length of their body. Some cats prefer to stretch vertically, so a hanging toy might be better for them.
Finally, you may notice little claws laying around the area they scratch. These ‘nail clippings’ are from the cat scratching to pull off the dead outer layer of the nail and reveal a new one. It is important for them to be able to really sink their claws into a material so they can pull off that layer easily and quickly. Claws grow back fast, usually within 10 days to 2 weeks. Some cats have trouble doing this naturally and may need their nails trimmed. Additionally, some cat owners may not want to wait for this process to happen. Therefore, every 2 weeks or so is the suggested time frame I tell customers for nail clipping. This can also be affected by age, as nail growth tends to slow the older they get.
What kind of scratching toys should I get?
Having had my oak moldings in my house shredded, I’ve gotten pretty well-versed with all of the options for cat scratch toys on the market. I can tell Daphne’s getting tired of her toys when every so often, I hear the sound of a chair being attacked. There are some really great simple options on the market (or do it yourself) for cat scratch pads.
The short answer: Yes! Of course!
Cat posts are the most popular style and super easy to make at home. I would start with a simple cardboard or plywood frame covered in excess carpet, but there are a lot of very creative versions on the internet. If you are the DIY type, search for some styles you’ve seen and liked and start to be creative with some options! A friend of mine used a simple cardboard mailing tube over an old post and his 8 cats were delighted with a fresh tube every so often. You could even re-wrap your old scratching post in something new to get more use out of it!
When buying or DIYing anything for your cat, be sure it won’t topple over and injure them. Another factor to consider when choosing a new scratching toy/pad/tower/post is sound. Cats love the sound of scratching! If this sound drives you up a wall, consider a softer material. Any of these options here are still better than your new sofa or door moldings so start off immediately once you bring a new cat home. Replacing the posts as soon as they become worn will also deter kitty from eyeing the nicer things to destroy. All of these can be purchased and tested rather inexpensively and then once decided on which is preferred, keep a small variety around the house in areas that your cat can easily find. Hopefully, you will notice your cat willingly choosing the scratchpad over the chair!
Or, when in doubt, send your cat our way for a day of de-stressing at the spa.