Why does my cat scratch the sofa?


Let's start by saying that scratching is a behavioural need for a cat. A behavioural need is a natural behaviour of the species that an animal needs to be able to express in order to be in balance. It is an indicator of animal welfare.
Cats scratch for several reasons:

- To mark their territory with pheromones from glands in their interdigital spaces.

- To get rid of excess nail debris.

- To stretch their muscles.

When a cat scratches an object, in addition to depositing pheromones from its paws, it adds a visual signal to the object in the form of vertical stripes. The more it scratches the same object, the more both signals (olfactory and visual) are accentuated.

Scratching sites are chosen by the cat along the frequently used territory, especially on the periphery of the territory and next to resting places.

The feline nature of cats means that they avoid having to meet or cross paths with other individuals in the territory, for which they have developed a complex system of olfactory and visual markings, of which claw and urine markings are the most frequent. In this way they leave messages that other cats can read at a later time.
Approximately 15% of behavioural complaints in cats concern scratching of household objects. If the cat does not have a suitable object in its territory to carry out this behaviour, it will do it anywhere it finds available, such as the sofa, curtains, carpets, etc.

The problem is that once a cat has started scratching on an object, it will continue to choose the same object to scratch on again. This can also be an advantage, depending on how you look at it. Therefore, as long as we do not provide a suitable object, the cat will continue to scratch in the same place, no matter how many actions we take to correct it (which, moreover, are not usually appropriate or recommended).

The ideal scratching object should be stable (not moving, otherwise the cat will reject it), sufficiently high (at least 30 cm. and better if it reaches 90 cm.), the direction of the fibre of the scratching fabric should preferably be vertical. If it is a cat that has lived outdoors and has scratched trees, it will probably prefer a wooden scratching post, such as a log. Other cats prefer horizontal surfaces, such as an esparto grass mat or carpet. Cardboard is also a popular choice.

If you have a kitten, it is easy to prevent it from scratching the furniture by using a suitable object in a place where the kitten spends most of its time. If we want to encourage the kitten to scratch that object we can place it in a room where there are no other objects to scratch, put toys on top of it, add catnip, or put it next to another cat that already scratches adequately. We can place several scratching posts with different textures, so that he can choose the one he prefers and continue scratching the same one.

If we have a cat that already scratches in a place that is not suitable for us, things are more complicated, but not impossible. What we will have to do is to prevent access in some way to the scratched object or cover it with some material that is unpleasant to the cat's touch, such as plastic, aluminium foil or sticker paper. Spraying it with pheromones (F3 fraction, Feliway) will prevent it from being scratched, as the two pheromones are incompatible.

Next to it, place the new object, which fulfils all the characteristics mentioned above and if possible, whose material resembles the one already scratched. We can even cover it with a piece of the old material. The new object can be sprayed with catnip to attract the cat to it. If the scratched object is horizontal, a horizontal substrate should be chosen and placed on top of the old one.

Fortunately nowadays we have a pheromone that attracts cats to scratch in a specific place and that we can use to make them scratch the new scratching post we have placed. 
As always we recommend a visit to your veterinary ethologist for advice on everything you need for your cats at home.

In this board of our Pinterest you can find some ideas of do it yourself scratching posts. Make sure it meets the characteristics we have mentioned. And don't worry about the decoration, nowadays there are very modern scratching posts that can go in total harmony with any type of furniture, look here.


cat scratching posts