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Cats are cute and cuddly — except for those claws that occasionally scratches you, your couch, your curtains, your brand-new pillow… the list goes on, and you get the idea. Why do they scratch so often, much to your chagrin? Read on to find out, and learn how you may mitigate this unwanted behaviour.
Why do cats scratch?
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For starters, scratching is normal, healthy behaviour and instinct for cats. It’s in their nature and a form of communication, so your cat is definitely not scratching to spite you. Depending on the situation, your cat may be scratching to relieve anxiety, exercise, groom its nails, mark territory, play, or to send a message to you!
For example, the scent glands in its paw pads release its scent onto everything they scratch, which is a useful survival behaviour in the wild because it provides both a visual and olfactory way to mark their territory. This behaviour is naturally brought indoors as well, especially since cats are big on feeling secure in their own space.
Also, cats are apex predators, so playtime for them is equivalent to hunting time. Instinctively, their main form of play involves biting and scratching to catch and control their “prey”, so it is up to you, the owner, to teach your cat that your hands are not its plaything!
Cats are also avid groomers, so it’s only natural that they will take the time to file, sharpen, and clean their claws just like how you would clip your nails. Since cats can’t talk, sometimes they show their annoyance by scratching us if we’ve consistently failed to pick up on the other hints that they’ve been dropping us, which includes narrowed eyes and ears pulled back!
Of course, excessive scratching may point to an underlying medical or behavioural issue, such as fleas, ear mites, hormonal imbalance, or hyperesthesia. If your cat is suddenly scratching a lot more than usual, we recommend bringing it to one of the vets in Singapore for a health check-up!
How to minimise or redirect your cat’s scratches
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While you can’t (and shouldn’t) prevent your cat from scratching entirely, you can distance yourself from their scratches and encourage scratching at the right places! The key to it is to be very patient and consistent, and avoiding frightening or punishing your cat (your kitty will simply learn to scratch when you’re not looking!).
– Deter furniture scratching
Cover the area that your kitty likes to scratch with double-sided sticky tape — cats hate feeling that on their paws! Then, provide scratchers of a similar material to the thing that they used to scratch and place them right next to it. Make sure to have one scratching post or mat available in all your kitty’s favourite spots! Once your cat learns that it’s more fun to scratch on the new scratching posts, you may remove the double-sided tape.
– Redirect its attention
Playful biting and scratching of hands or feet often occur because your cat is bored. Make sure it has adequate mental and physical stimulation daily by purchasing interactive toys from the pet store, and direct it to a scratching post or toy if its claws start approaching you! A sprinkle of catnip on the scratchers does wonders for luring your kitty too.
– Trim its claws
As part of your feline’s regular grooming, its nails must be trimmed. Make it a fun experience by offering treats when your cat allows you to touch its paws, and establish a routine so that your cat knows what to expect and can gradually get used to it.
Don’t worry if you’ve tried these methods but are still unable to get your kitty to spare your hands and furniture — simply reach out to your vet or a pet behaviour specialist for professional help!