ATTENTION * CONTENT UNDER REVISION* ATTENTION
This article is currently being reviewed with regards to the vocabulary used. However, the tips suggested can be applied without worry. Only a few very specific notions must be reviewed throughout the site, like territory (we now refer to it as environment), marking, pheromones and other specific concepts that have recently been the object of studies.
(The video version of this article is only available in French)
Are you convinced your cat has a sixth sense that clues him in on the cost of your couches, so he can stab the most expensive one and claim it as his scratching post? Well, he doesn’t! You might ask yourself why kitty chooses your nice couch even though you’ve got him a brand new scratching post. Here's why.
Are you convinced that your cat has a sixth sense that tells him the cost of sofas so he knows to dig his claws in the most expensive one in your house? Of course not! So why then is he more inclined to sharpen its claws on your first-class sofa when you have just provided him with a brand-new scratching post?
The story behind claws
Cats have scent glands in their front paws that enable them to mark their territory. Hence, when a cat claws something, he tells his surroundings that this place belongs in his territory and that he comes there often. It is as if he puts up a sign saying “Private Property, Do not Trespass”. If several cats use the same scratching post, what they are doing then only amounts to “routine clawing”. In other words, inside the home, this “sign” no longer retains any aggressive territorial value.
Did you notice that when your cat is done clawing, he stretches and arches its back? By doing so, he stretches his spine, which allows him to stay flexible!
A homemade manicure
Do you think that your little feline claws things in order to sharpen his claws? Guess again! He is rather trying to wear them off so they are less cumbersome.
Now that you understand why your cat claws, let’s see why he does not use the scratching post you chose for him.
The scratching post’s location
Chances are that the scratching post was placed in the corner of a room so as not to ruin your decoration. But as your cat uses it to mark his territory, it is very likely that this place does not suit him. Indeed, what kind of visibility a “Private Property” sign would have if it were put in the backyard? The same goes for a scratching post that is located in a dark, unfrequented corner of the house. The corner of the sofa, conversely, is probably located at the entrance of your cat’s territory. The scratching post has to be moved so as to be located at the place where your cat wants to put up his territory sign, that is in front of the sofa’s corner.
Making the sofa unappealing
If it were unpleasant to dig the claws in the sofa, your cat would be less inclined to go back to it. For example, put up a plastic sheet, aluminum foil or double-sided tape on the corner or at the base of the sofa: those textures are rarely appreciated by felines. Then, put some catnip on the scratching post in order to get your little companion’s attention. Once he has taken the habit of using it (for at least 14 days), you will be able to move it a few feet at a time so that it is less in the way (a FEW feet only).
The good scratching post
Unfortunately, the vast majority of store-sold scratching posts are inadequate, because they do not answer the cat’s needs. Here is how to choose the best scratching post:
- The post must be as stable as a tree. Unfortunately, most commercial posts are not sturdy enough and topple as soon as a cat puts his paws on them. Moreover, their base is rarely wide enough to offer adequate stability when a cat climbs on it. A 24’’x24’’ base is ideal. Your scratching post is inadequate? Lift the corner of the sofa and steady the post by sliding its base under the foot of the sofa. Then your post will not only be more stable, but also located in the ideal spot.
- The post has to be high enough for your cat to stretch at its full length so as to realign his spine. A post of 36’’ high and 4’’ wide is ideal (a 4’’x4’’ does the trick nicely).
- The post has to be covered in a material that has a texture the cat likes. Each feline has his preferences: carpet, sisal rope, cardboard and wood are all excellent materials. The easier to use is probably sisal rope, since all you have to do is to wrap it around to post, from top to bottom.
Some cats also like to claw on horizontal supports like sisal carpet.
Cat trees also make excellent scratching posts, for they meet all of the above-mentioned criteria. Moreover, they are a great investment, for they also answer other essential needs in the cat. We will broach this topic in a different article.
The number of scratching posts
Generally, cats wish to put up more than one territorial sign in their house. We therefore need to provide them with several opportunities to do so. The more cats you have, the more posts the house needs.
Your scratching post looks worn-down? Do not get rid of it: if your cat especially likes it, it is because the post is impregnated by your cat’s scent. If you want to give him a new one, place it next to the old one while he gets used to the change and leaves his scent on it. Then, you will be able to remove the old post.
Cats’ attraction for vertical lines
Wooden surfaces displaying vertical streaks as well as wallpapers and fabrics with vertical stripes pattern attract your cats like magnets! They will relish scratching those. That’s what explains that a great number of cats love to claw doorframes. As visual marking (claw marks on wooden surfaces) also encourages a cat to replicate this behavior in the same place, the only way to prevent more scratching is to sand and paint over the surface.
Thanks to scratching posts, homemade scratching posts and cat trees, you no longer have a reason to support the decision of declawing your cat. Indeed, five cats and two sofas can co-exist peacefully in a single home and remain intact (cats and sofas alike)! Success rests in education and in the richness of the environment so that your cat has all he needs to live his cat life.