Destructive Cat Scratching Behaviour, and How To Prevent It

It's important to remember that scratching is a natural, innate feline behaviour, so they should never be reprimanded for doing it, but they can be discouraged from doing it in inappropriate places, and encouraged to use appropriate objects. We cannot suppress our cat's natural, wild instincts!

Firstly, we need to understand that there're many reasons why cats scratch, which includes removal of the layered sheaths which compromise the effectiveness of their claws and also leaves behind an olfactory mark (the scent from their interdigital glands), as well as a visual mark which are communication devices which assists with modulation of social interactions. It's also a good way for the cats to exercise and stretch fully, including the muscles in their back and shoulders, relieve pent up emotions, and displacing of stress, excitement, frustration, and anticipation.

It's useful to take note about the type of objects your cat likes to scratch. What material are they made from? What texture is it? Are they vertical or horizontal? Are they on an incline? How big are they? Or do they prefer variety? Where are they currently scratching? When do they tend to display the behaviour? You want to try to mimic that object when providing an object for them to scratch on, and it's important that the object is about 1.5-2 times the length of the cat, to allow them to stretch fully.

You also should provide a separate scratching post for each cat in the household, as scratching is a confident display, and also informs other cats who was there, and when the area was last scratched.In single cat households, the marks left by scratching provide them with a sense of familiarity and security (one of the many reasons why we recommend home visits for cats).

Never use pheromone based products, such as Feliway, on places where you want to encourage your cat to scratch. Cats don't like to claw mark where they facial mark. You can, however, use pheromone sprays, plugin, or their own scent (capture it on some porous fabric from their faces), on the places where you want them to stop scratching.

To stop cats from scratching inappropriate areas, we need to make them unattractive, using safe deterrence methods. For smaller areas, there's a purpose made double sided sticky tape which can be applied (do not just pick up some double sided tape from a DIY shop!!)-if one corner of your sofa has been scratched-apply it to all corners. For larger areas, you can use plastic sheets, which won't be appealing, and you can even try using something lemon scented, as cats don't tend to like citrus scents.
When choosing a location for a scratching object, you should consider where they're currently scratching, and when-do they do it in excitement when you arrive home? If so, consider putting the object near the door. If they like to scratch when they wake up from a nap, put the objects near to where they like to sleep. Cats are more likely to scratch near the core social area of the home, rather than near the perimeter, so consider having multiple scratching objects in and around where most of the activity takes place, as well as near to where the object you wish them to stop scratching is located.
And one final note-don't surrender one sofa to the cat, but reprimanded them for scratching your new sofa when you replace it. It's best to work on these habits so you and your cat can live harmoniously!

Training: Unnatural & Cruel, Or Valuable Tool?

One of our rescue cats, Leon, showing off his 'high five'!
I've heard a few people in past saying things like they "don't believe in training", as they'd "rather the animal lives a natural life", so I thought I'd do a little blog post and share my thoughts. Firstly, with regards to training being 'unnatural'-unfortunately, our animals have been selectively bred by humans to make them look a certain way, they're living in our centrally heated homes, aren't having to hunt, etc, so there aren't many things about our animal's existences which are particularly 'natural'!

Training can be an incredibly powerful tool, and specifically talking about dogs, with the new dog control laws, if a member of the public feels the slightest bit threatened that your dog could potentially injure them, you could end up with a huge fine, prison (or both), you could be banned from owning an animal, and your dog could be destroyed. So, with that in mind, it is very important that we train our dogs how to behave and interact appropriately in our society.

With regards to training being potentially 'cruel'-if we're using force-free techniques, and positive reinforcement, working on our animal's own terms, allowing them to opt in and out, and listening to their needs, there shouldn't be anything cruel about it.

Training can be used to develop our animal's skills, and make every day tasks become a positive experience for them. As an example, many animals need their nails maintaining, and if they haven't been conditioned to accept that, it can be highly stressful for them (and you). A way to work on that, for the front feet, could be to start training a 'high five', to get them used to the contact, and used to giving their foot, and to gradually accept having their toes touched (always working in their own time).

There are many different types of training, which all have various different benefits. It can offer exercise and enrichment, help to build a stronger bond between you and your animal, and if you look at some types of training, such as 'Real Dog Yoga', it can teach dogs (and other animals) to become calm, to stretch their muscles, make them more body aware and coordinated, etc.

If one approach to training doesn't seem to work, it may be the case that the animal needs to work in a different way. For dogs, I would always recommend taking training classes with a professional trainer, if appropriate for them, and building a relationship with a local, force-free trainer and behaviourist, as it's so useful having their support, should you have any issues or need advice.

All in all, I think there are endless benefits to training with our animals!