“Cat-Scratch-Tas-Trophe! Why is my cat destroying my home?”

DrPaul -

“Cat-Scratch-Tas-Trophe! Why is my cat destroying my home?”

After urine marking, cats scratching the furniture or carpet, is the second most ‘anti-social’ behaviour that cat owner’s encounter. What many people do not realise however is that this is completely normal behaviour for cats. Not only is it their way of keeping their claws healthy and sharp, it is a fundamental method of communication between cats!

Cats are sensory creatures and their sense of smell is of paramount importance to them and they will scent mark most objects, furniture, trees, plants and even their humans. So when you see your cat head rubbing the coffee table or your knee it is not just a simple greeting, but also their way of claiming their territory and their possessions, which includes you!

Cats will mark their territory via scent glands all over their body, and yep you’ve guessed it, they have these scent glands in between their toes too. The scent and sweat glands in between their toes mix to produce a very unique smell.
So when you see your cat scratching their scratch post or a tree outside they are not just sharpening those talons, they are leaving a strong scent messages to let other cats know they were there.

So why do cats scratch at our furniture, carpet or curtains?

In modern day pet ownership many cats have little to no outdoor access and unless enough scratch provisions are made they will seek to sharpen their claws on anything they can find. Commonly, in multi-cat households, there is competition over the scratch posts available. It is not unusual in these situations for the cats that find their access restricted to seek an alternative scratch facility. When a cat, who does have plenty of out-door access, suddenly starts scratching indoors it may indicate they are feeling insecure or threatened by something or someone outside.

How do you stop unwanted scratch behaviour?

Claw clipping is not entirely the answer. No matter how often you trim those nails your cat will continue to try and leave those scent messages and re-sharpen their claws. Look at the areas your cat is choosing to scratch in the home. Is it up the wall or is it on the bottom of the sofa or stair carpet? It is important to never under-estimate a cat’s preference for either vertical or horizontal scratch posts. Some cats like to lie down and scratch as opposed to stretch and scratch upward. Older cats in particular will appreciate a horizontal surface as they may find it harder to use a vertical post when suffering from stiff joints and hips.

Ultimately scratch posts are a core resource for indoor and outdoor cats. By ensuring there are multiple scratch facilities available you will help to eliminate the chances of unwanted destruction around the home.

Paul Manktelow

Veterinary Surgeon

Dr Paul Manktelow is a vet who's worked for almost 20 years on the front line in some of the UK's busiest veterinary hospitals. Paul also appears regularly in the media as a TV and radio presenter, writer, public speaker and podcast producer.