Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Pet Watch

Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Pet Watch

Article excerpt

In the second instalment of the cat behaviour column, PDSA takes a closer look at what causes cats to scratch furniture and other household objects.

Scratching at furniture

It is quite natural for cats to scratch, and this activity is usually directed at trees and scratching posts. If the scratching is carried out in just one or two places, then it is likely the cat is `conditioning' and `exercising' its claws.

Regular scratching removes the frayed and worn outer claws, exposing the new and sharper claws growing underneath. In addition, this process also exercises and strengthens the muscles used when the claws move in and out of the foot, which is essential for a cat's normal behaviour of climbing and catching prey.

Scratching also creates visual and scent `markers' of a cat's territory. On the underneath of a cat's foot-pads are small scent glands, and the repetitive movement of the pads against a scratching post activates these. This, plus the simultaneous activation of the sweat glands on the pads, makes a unique scent `signature'.

Scratching can be a problem in cases where a cat hasn't managed to transfer the above behaviour on to acceptable objects, such as trees and special scratching posts, and exercises its claws on household furniture.

Any treatment programme should aim to direct claw conditioning to an area that is more acceptable. A wide variety of scratching posts are available to buy, and owners can also make their own. However, it is not a good idea to cover any scratching post with fabric or carpet, as this may confuse the cat. Place any new scratching surface in front of the affected areas and once the cat has begun to use the new object, it can be moved to a more convenient location.

One of the most important factors is to make sure the scratching post is the correct height. …

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