In the wild, scratching is an important cat behaviour to help mark their territory and signal to others. Cats will commonly mark trees or other territorial boundaries both with scent and scratch marks.
Cat scratching behaviour is also important to keep claws short and sharp, and to stretch muscles.
On saying that, although it's natural and necessary, it sure doesn't help when your cat decides the new sofa is the best thing to scratch or tears holes in your curtains.
Fortunately there are some strategies we can use to minimise or divert the behaviour.
Make the home comfortable
The first step in keeping any cat happy is making them feel at home and comfortable in their environment. As discussed for anxiety issues, all cats should have separate areas for sleeping, eating and the litter tray, and these should always be accessible. Animal behaviourists also suggest that each cat should have their own separate litter tray and bed, although I do find that many cats are happy to share. There are a great selection of litter trays here.
One great option for the sleeping area in Hong Kong is having a cat tree or bed near a window with a view – cats will often be amused for hours as they watch the world go by.
Enriching the environment
Environmental enrichment can also be very useful for cats who scratch furniture – try giving them scratching posts or cardboard scratching mats. Rubbing a small amount of catnip on the post will encourage the cat to scratch in the approved area. Vetopia has a great selection of cat scratchers and trees here.
At the same time, some people also put double-sided adhesive tape, foil or cellophane over furniture to deter cats from scratching in unwanted areas. Trimming nails can also help as it still allows the cat to scratch but limits any damage – however to be effective nails need to be trimmed every fortnight. Good nail trimmers make a big difference.
Another solution that can be very effective for all of these issues is a product called Feliway. Feliway an odourless colourless pheromone solution, available as either a spray or a plug-in diffuser. It is the same chemical as cats produce when they rub their chin against furniture or people, and is used as a natural signal to other cats that they are happy and they feel safe. Feliway is a pheromone, not a pharmaceutical drug and is completely non-toxic and safe for pets and people.
By using Feliway the whole house can be made to feel like a safe, protected area and all cats in the house will feel relaxed and contented. It is surprisingly effective and and will greatly help the vast majority of behavioural issues. Feliway is one of our most effective products for helping with cat anxiety, and one we use with our own cats. It’s available as a spray or diffuser from vetopia.com.hk and is highly recommended for all cats with anxiety or behavioural issues.
Royal Canin Calm Cat food.
There is also a cat food produced by Royal Canin named 'Calm' which is designed to help stabilise emotional balance in cats. The food contains the proteins casein and tryptophan which have been shown to help calm anxious animals.
There are also a number of cat treats and supplements, such as MicrocynAH Cat Calming treats, Nutrazyl and Vet Expert Kalmvet that have natural calming bioceuticals. These are safe, non-toxic and a gentle aid for anxious pets.
Consult your Veterinarian.
If the above measures are not enough, we will sometimes also consider using medication such as Clomicalm. Clomicalm is an anti-anxiety anti-depressant tablet and is very safe and can have excellent results, but we would generally reserve it for more severe cases if necessary. You may wish to discuss this with your veterinarian.