Scratching is a normal, instinctive behavior among cats and this is not something you would want to discourage completely, explained The Humane Society of the US, an American non-profit organization. Kittens learn to bite and scratch these actions are a normal part of their development, said Franny Syufy of The Spruce Pets, a website dedicated to publishing pet-related content.
If the kittens are not trained early, they will not know when to appropriately use their claws and teeth. Again, your goal is not to ban scratching, rather it should be getting your pet feline to scratch acceptable objects such as a scratching post.
Survey On Cat Scratching Behavior (2015)
Colleen Wilson and colleagues of journal portal Research Gate conducted an internet survey, posted on several public websites, and collected details about scratching behavior as described by owners living at home. The study involved 4,331 respondents over a four month period. However, only 4,105 respondents were included in the analyzed population as they have met the inclusion criteria.
48.8% of male cats were castrated and 45.6% of female cats were spayed. Only 2% and 1.9% of female and male cats were intact. Most respondents owned several posts (83%), occasionally more when keeping several cats. Most of the felines used their preferred post at least daily or multiple times a day (89.3%). The authors noted that the amount of time spent inside the home by cats affected how frequently they use the post. For instance, 75.7% of cats living permanently indoors scratched on their post multiple times a day unlike 69.9% of those having outdoor access.
However, it made no difference with regard to inappropriate scratching at home (52.5% of cats living 100% indoors and 51.5% of those living 0-99% indoors). Cats aged 9 years and below preferred a rope substrate (32.5%), followed by carpet (25.1%), and cardboard (18.2%). They also preferred cat trees with two or more levels (75.8%), simple vertical posts (69%), simple horizontal on the floor (49.5%), on the floor at an angle (24%), other (15.8%), and hung or mounted on the wall (5.8%).
On the other hand, cats 10 years and older preferred carpets (24.7%), ropes (22.9%), and cardboard (19.6%). They also liked vertical posts (21.9%), followed by cat trees with two or more levels (18.8%), simple horizontal/lies on the floor (16.9%) on the floor and at an angle (8.6%), other (5.7%) and hung or mounted on the wall (1.7%).
52% of owners observed inappropriate scratching from their cat. 65% of respondents’ cats exhibited inappropriate scratching at least once per day, with 35.4% exhibiting inappropriate scratching multiple times a day. Most of the respondents had a scratching post located in the same room as the inappropriately scratched object or area (69.3%). Meanwhile, 49.3% of the scratching post or object was located 1-5 ft. away from the inappropriately scratched object or area.
Interestingly, inappropriate scratching behavior was associated with the original source, with cats obtained from a breeder exhibiting less inappropriate scratching (38.2%) than felines acquired from other source (53.6%). Cats obtained from a shelter or rescue displayed more inappropriate scratching (55.1%) than cats from any other source (50.2%).
The researchers concluded that the ideal scratching posts to help prevent inappropriate scratching is one that includes rope as a substrate, is upright vertical, 3ft. or higher, has two or more levels, and a base width between 1 and 3 ft. Owners who reward their pet feline for scratching the desired post or motivate it with natural supplements can increase its use of the appropriate target.
Why Do Cats Scratch?
Cats scratch for a number of reasons. It could be to remove the dead outer layer of their claws or to mark their territory by leaving a visual mark and a scent, stated PAWS, a non-profit dedicated to people helping cats, dogs, and wild animals go home and thrive. Cats also scratch to stretch their bodies, flex their feet and claws, and expend energy.
Stopping Your Cat From Scratching You
Don’t teach your cat that your hands are toys. This is behavior owners must strive to develop and correct when they own kittens. If you choose to ignore this advice, your kitten’s claws and teeth will grow into razor-sharp “hooks.” Expect scars on your hand if that happens.
Avoid using your hands as toys or when you’re rough housing, though it may not hurt at first. However, once your cat matures, it will think that it is okay to play with your hand despite having sharper and stronger jaws and claws. Hands should be solely used for petting and carrying. Early on, you should establish that any “mouthing” is painful to you, even if it’s not that painful. Once you do, you need to direct your cat’s playful behavior onto other objects.
Provide objects or toys for scratching that are appealing and convenient for your cat. If you’re not sure which one to provide, ask yourself: What are the physical features of the objects that your cat is scratching? Where are these objects located? What are the textures of the objects and how tall are they?
Once you have pinpointed your cat’s preferences, substitute similar objects for it to scratch on such as rope-wrapped posts, corrugated cardboard, or a log. Place them close to the inappropriate object that your cat has been scratching. Cover the inappropriate object with something unappealing such as aluminum foil, sheets of sandpaper, and more.
You can also give the objects an aversive odor by attaching cotton balls infused with perfume or a muscle rub. Be careful with using odors to stop your cat from scratching the inappropriate objects, as it may prevent your feline from using nearby acceptable objects. When your pet cat starts to use the appropriate object consistently, gradually move it to a place more suitable to you. Be sure to move it no more than three inches a day. However, it is recommended to keep the appropriate objects as close to your pet’s preferred scratching locations as possible.
Don’t remove the coverings or odors from the inappropriate objects until your cat uses the appropriate objects consistently. This can span from several weeks to a month and coverings or odors should be removed gradually.
It’s normal for cats to scratch as it is an instinctive behavior. It’s not possible to completely stop them from scratching, but you can do something to train them to scratch on appropriate objects. These can be ropes, cat trees, or scratching posts. Most importantly, don’t teach your cat to treat your hand as a toy when rough housing with it.