Aren’t kitties the cutest? We think they are among the most adorable things on this planet! It’s just amazing how felines can melt your stress away by simply watching them. They look so innocent, harmless, and just plain charming—sans their scratching of, well, almost anything at home, but nothing a scratching post can solve. But come to think of it, why do cats need scratching posts?
What Is the Feline Behavior: Basic Instincts
If you are a cat parent, then you know how annoying and destructive their scratching can be. As humans, we see and label this as inappropriate behavior. However, we should also remember that animals are full of instincts and no matter how responsible we are as pet owners, how much we try to domesticate them, some of their primal instincts stick with them. Some are even difficult to deter. Our best option is to understand why they act in a certain way and eventually learn how to deal with it properly.
Why do Cats Scratch: The Reasons Behind It
Cats may not be as rational as humans are, but believe it or not, there is a reason why cats scratch and why cats love scratching posts. Read on and find out what they are.
- Marking Territory
Did you know that the paw pads of your feline friend have tiny glands that secrete a chemical that they use to mark their territories? We, humans, cannot smell them, but your cat and the other cats around can detect this unique scent. When they scratch, they establish a territory, which will let other felines know that they don’t have business in that marked location.
Moreover, unlike dogs, cats take advantage of two sensory cues. One is olfactory; the marking of territories by using the chemical secreted from their paw pads, and the other is visual; cats leave scratch marks to warn other cats to stay away or face the consequence. Yes, that scratched and ruined door frame of yours is a warning for other cats to not mess with the resident cat—your cat.
In a way, your cat is protecting you from uninvited cats! Your cat loves you so much it makes an effort to mark its territory and prevent other cats from entering—or worse, thieving—your home. Yes, the scratch marks are quite an eyesore, but if you think about it, it’s an expression of love from your pet! Isn’t that lovely?
- Sharpening Claws
Aside from territorial marking, this behavior is for hygienic purposes, too. Now, cats can be adorable and may seem harmless, but underneath those soft, furry, tiny paws are sharp claws! And how do they keep them that way? You’re right! They scratch all over the place to keep their claws sharp.
- Stretching and Maintaining Top Shape
Your cat marks territory and sharpens its claws on a daily basis to deter other cats. But aside from those defense mechanism-like reasons, this behavior has another important purpose which is to maintain a top shape! Scratching is a form of stretching exercise that helps strengthen and improve your pet’s flexibility.
Why Do Cats Need Scratching Posts: A Diversion
Scratching is a primal instinct of a cat to mark territories, sharpen claws, and maintain a healthy body. Perhaps, some cats have forgotten it through years of domestication. Others don’t have it at all as the instinct was not passed along by their parents.
However, if your cat does have this behavior, then your furniture and other home furnishings are at risk of getting damaged relentlessly by this lovely creature. If you don’t do something about it, then most likely you will end up pissed, and your relationship with your feline friend might also be at stake, although we are talking about worse the case scenario here. But let’s not get there, shall we?
As a responsible pet parent, your best move here is to understand where they are coming from. We have already established that scratching is one of their primal instincts and discouraging such may lead to more frustrations. One of the best ways to deal with this is to channel their scratching cravings to a more appropriate object.
Scratching posts are a great way to channel a cat’s urge and instinct to scratch. Like humans, your cat probably has a favorite object to scratch at home—door frame, carpet, or upholstery. So to encourage your cat to scratch the post instead of the valuable object, place the scratching post near it and, as much as possible, use a scratching post with the same material as their favorite object to scratch.
You can also place a scratching post on each of your cat’s favorite locations to further help divert the behavior to the post. This way, you don’t hinder your cat’s instinct, and you get to keep your stuff free from scratches. Also, part of why cats love scratching posts besides their natural instincts is the health factor to them.
Supplemental Method: The Plan B
If your cat still favors its favorite object over the scratching post, then you may need another method to channel its behavior. If you can’t encourage it to scratch the post, then discourage it from scratching its favorite object.
You can try placing strips of double-adhesive tape on its target object. Cats don’t like the sticky feeling of the adhesive tape on their paws, and this will discourage them from scratching that item. And as initially planned, make sure that the scratching post is adjacent to that object so that your cat can find a convenient thing to lay its paws on and not get frustrated. A frustrated cat is the last thing you want to deal with.
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As a cat parent, it is your duty to understand the underlying reasons behind a cat’s behavior—good or bad. If you are among those who take their time to learn why cats scratch and why cats like scratching posts; or even why do cats need scratching posts; and anything else that makes cats cats then we salute you for having a big heart.
To one Ailurophile to another, cheers! May our cats live longer than Pinky and our furniture scratch-free.