Scratching is normal and healthy behaviour for cats. Not only can cats sharpen their claws, shed the outer sheath of the nail, exercise the muscles of the forelimbs and spine and facilitate stretching, it is also a means to communicate with other cats. Pheromones from the interdigital glands are deposited, and visible scratch marks allow the presence of other cats to be known.
Destructive scratching in the home is the second most common behaviour problem reported by cat owners. Historically, cat owners and veterinarians have resorted to declawing cats to prevent or stop the destruction of furniture. Declawing (amputation from the third joint of each digit) has become a controversial procedure and is banned in several countries and provinces. We no longer declaw cats at North Hill Animal Hospital, as it is a surgery that causes unnecessary acute pain and can lead to chronic pain and stress for the cat.
Destructive scratching can be prevented by providing appropriate and attractive scratching areas for cats. It is best to provide multiple scratching areas and substrates to determine which your cat prefers. Typically, cats prefer sisal rope or carpet on a multi-level cat tree that is at least three feet high. The scratching post or tree should be placed in a desirable area by a window, or where the cat likes to sleep. If there is more than one cat in the house, multiple areas for scratching should be provided.
Feliway products use pheromones to improve cat behaviour. The newest product Feliscratch is the pheromone isolated from the cat’s interdigital gland. It is meant to be applied where you want your cat to scratch, for example, on a scratching post. It’s supplied in pipettes; one pipette is applied to the scratching post daily for week 1, then weekly two more times on weeks 3 and 4. A blue line is created when the product is applied, which mimics the visual message, as well as giving a pheromone message. This tells the cat that the scratching post is the appropriate place to scratch.
Feliscratch can be used in conjunction with Feliway CLASSIC. Feliway CLASSIC is a feline pheromone isolated from the scent glands of the cheeks. Cats rub their face on a surface to deposit pheromone; this is thought to be a form of relaxed and happy scent marking. Feliway classic comes in a spray which can be sprayed on areas where scratching is undesirable, e.g. the corner of your couch. The surface is washed with water, then eight pumps of spray are applied daily for 30 days.
Written by North Hill Animal Hospital