If you are new to feline ownership, you will probably create yourself a list of all of the essential items that you need to buy when you first bring your new furbaby home. While bedding, a litter tray, and food bowls are almost certain to appear in your shopping cart, many cat parents won’t even think about getting a scratching post. Those that consider it, may regard it as a cumbersome and rather useless piece of furniture that will just take up additional space in their home. However, we can guarantee that within a few weeks of having your cat in your home, you will be dashing to the pet store to pick up a scratching post.
Why do cats scratch?
Scratching is a completely natural habit for any cat, regardless of their age or breed. Here are some of the most common reasons for cats to scratch and claw.
Keeping claws sharp. Your cat’s claws are her primary weapon whether she is threatened or attacked, or pouncing on her own prey. Felines are predatory by nature, so it is habitual for her to want to keep them as sharp and useful as possible.
Marking territory. When your kitty scratches something, she leaves some of her own scents in those scratches. This is because small secretions of watery sweat come from the pads in her paws and filter down into the scratches. By scratching, she is marking her territory and warning any other animals that come across them that they are in her domain.
To stretch and flex. Cats spend a lot of time lying down and chilling it, so it is only natural that when they do get up, they want to enjoy a good stretch. Digging their claws in can enable them to fully flex their body.
Out of boredom. Many people don’t realize that felines need mental stimulation to keep them happy. Boredom is one of the leading causes of behavior problems, and if your pet’s mind is not kept active, she may resort to scratching the things around her.
Why a scratching post is important
Although scratching is normal and to be expected, it can be very frustrating to come home from work and find that your adorable little kitty has taken her claws to your curtains, couch, carpet or furniture. Nevertheless, it is important to realise that your furbaby isn’t scratching your stuff because she is cross with you and that punishment isn’t going to improve the situation.
Instead, by providing your feline friend with a scratching post, you are giving her a safe space where she can fulfil her natural desire to scratch without fear of being reprimanded. A scratching post is an essential tool that allows our kitty to effectively reduce her stress levels, burn off any excess energy, reap enjoyment and keep her claws sharp and healthy, all from one accessory!
Getting her used to the scratching post
It is perfectly normal for a cat to be extremely suspicious of anything new in your home, including her new scratching post. This is because she won’t immediately realise what it is for and that it is actually a wonderfully beneficial tool for her instincts and enjoyment.
The easiest way to get your kitty to accept the post is to hold her and run her paws down it. This will transfer some of her scent on to it, making it smell safe and familiar to her. You may need to repeat this process several times. Place the post in front of the place in your home where your cat previously liked to scratch the most. If you catch your furbaby trying to scratch elsewhere, gently pick her up, place next to the scratching post and run her paws down it again. Some owners attach toys or feathers to the post to encourage their kitty to play, while others sprinkle catnip around the post as another incentive. After a short while, your feline should start to prefer to use the scratching post, and should cease to use her claws in other parts of your home.
If you need further advice on cat scratching and the use of scratching posts, or if you need a recommendation as to which post is right for your cat, contact our local veterinary office.