Last updated: November 9, 2016
OK, picture the scene. You are tucked up cozily in bed, dreaming lovely dreams of walking along beautiful beaches in the sunset. Ruffles is at your feet, dreaming equally lovely dreams of catching mice for an afternoon snack when suddenly you are rudely awakened by ‘scratch,scratch,scratch!’ on the carpet. That’s – it Ruffles is at it again. Goodbye, lovely dreams, hello sleepless night! Why do cats scratch the floor? We’re only human, what do we know? But let’s try to get inside his mysterious mind and understand.
Cat Scratching is a Necessary Part of Being a Cat!
Keeping my Claws in Shape
It’s absolutely no good being a lean, mean killing machine if one of your chief weapons is worn out and not working properly. So your cat needs his claws to be in seriously good shape. Scratching something rough helps him sharpen them and exercises his shoulders and forelimbs at the same time (Mother Nature thinks of everything!) It is not his revenge for you taking away his tuna last week because he was spilling it on the floor!
Get Off my Patch!
If you’ve ever looked at exactly where your cat scratches, chances are it’s near a door or an entrance where there are lots of feet coming in and out. This is the cat’s way of saying:
“This is my territory and I am not sharing it with any other feline person. Don’t even THINK about coming in here!”
Cats have scent glands in their paws, and by scratching at a place where other cats might try to trespass they are depositing their own smells as warnings. Outside, if they scratch visible marks on trees or the outsides of doors they’re writing that warning down! A lot of cat fights and physical violence can be avoided by any potential trespassers reading the “note” and avoiding the area. Why do cats scratch? Because it’s a lot easier than fighting!
You Have a Beer – I’ll Have a Scratch!
You know the feeling – after a long day at work, all you want to do is lie down and have a nice beer and watch your favorite TV show. Your cat’s idea of this is to go to the nearest carpet/armchair/stereo speaker/very expensive Persian rug or any available rough surface to have a lo-o-o-o-o-o-ng stress-relieving scratch. And it works whether he’s tense, ecstatic, worried or annoyed. A scratch is a panacea for all ills. It’s the feline equivalent of a beer. Unfortunately all that scratching, while it’s just dandy for your moggy, it’s not good news for your furniture. Now, this may be bad news for you if you are not a total pushover like me, but for normal sensible people like you, a line has to be drawn in the sand.
Cats have an instinctive need to scratch, so if you don’t want them to do it in the wrong places, guide them to the right ones. The good news is that there are MILLIONS of ways to do it, and all they need are a bit of time and perseverance.
Odors: there are some smells cats absolutely hate, such as citrus, cinnamon, lavender, and eucalyptus. You can make your own cat repellant by putting a few drops of one of these oils in a spray bottle of water and spraying the affected area with it. Put a catnip- sprinkled scratching post close to it and if the cat is attracted to that gradually move it away till it’s in a spot of your choosing.
Surfaces: Cats infinitely prefer coarse and textured surfaces. They don’t like smooth and sticky surfaces, so cover their favorite scratching places with clingfilm, tinfoil and sticky tape (they HATE that stuff!) Leave plenty of things lying about that you want them to scratch on, and reward them with food treats when they scratch appropriately.
Nails, Darling! Just as we humans keep our nails well-trimmed, neat and short so that they’re useful for all sorts of things, so your cat’s claws need to be in tip-top condition too (OK, maybe nail polish is a bit over the top!) and the best way to do this is to keep them clipped with a veterinary-quality set of clippers. Cats don’t generally enjoy this, so wrap them in soft towels to restrain them or get a cat-fancying friend to help you.
Scolding? No. The cat doesn’t understand, doesn’t associate this loud noise with what they’re doing, and may even learn to fear you. NEVER hit him. Again, the cat just won’t get it and the situation may become worse because he will start to avoid you.
Declawing is cruel, destructive and painful, causing a lot of pain and not necessarily solving the problem. It’s equivalent, in human terms, to having the top joint of your fingers amputated. Just don’t do it. Please!
Why Does my Cat Try to Bury his Food?
Mystifying. Absolutely mystifying, not to mention ungrateful! You provide all this delicious, nutritious food for his capricious tastes and all he wants to do is cover it up! “Is my moggy going mad?” I hear you cry. Definitely not, is the correct answer. You must remember that your cat is only semi-domesticated, and there is still a lot of the wild animal in him. In fact, inside he really thinks he’s a lion! So even though he is a well-fed cat who lives in a loving home, he still retains the survival instincts of a hunter, albeit a very small one. He covers his food so that any larger predators don’t see him as lunch, and so that any prey are not alerted to the fact that he’s on the prowl. Cats don’t bury food for consumption later – in fact, you won’t find them eating any stale food at all, fussy little so-and-sos!
Why Does my Cat Scratch Around his Food?
Another mysterious bit of behavior from your pal Felis Catus! (Domestic cat) This is part of the “burying” behavior discussed above. Everything your cat does, even the things that make no sense to you at all, are geared towards the cat’s survival. This is what has made it one of the most successful predators on the face of the earth for millions of years. In fact, Britain’s nine million domestic cats account for the deaths of ninety-two millions of small animals per year. So you can see that all these strange things that your little moggy does really do make a lot of sense in evolutionary terms.
But if you’re like me, an absolute slave to my tomcat, he can scratch my furniture to tatters. I’ll still love him!