I often write about play should be designed for feline enrichment and how it is essential for all indoor cats. But so is allowing them the opportunity to scratch. This doesn’t mean that we should allow our cats to destroy our furniture, but rather that we should supply acceptable locations in our homes where a cat can indulge in this very important instinctual behavior.
So let’s talk about why scratching is vital to a cat’s emotional and physical well-being. First of all, it is an important way in which they communicate. Scratching is a cat's way of texting. It is how they speak to each other using both scent and visual clues. Allowing cats to communicate in their native tongue is important to their happiness and promotes wellbeing. It is a natural, normal, and healthy way for them to express themselves.
This is one of the main reasons I am against declawing. It essentially stops them from speaking naturally and makes them mute. Why would anyone intentionally do something like that to their cat?
Another reason scratching is so vital is that it simply feels good. It’s a form of exercise because it engages the cat’s muscles and allows them to stretch. Just like us humans, cats love a good stretch after a nap. And like play, it is a necessary component to keeping them healthy.
Scratching, like playing, should be part of every cat's daily routine. So I like to provide my cats with a variety of scratchers. If you only have one cat, or cats with similar preferences, you may be able to quickly figure out what type of scratcher they prefer. Some like horizontal scratchers and some prefer vertical ones. Others might like a curved or slanted one. Most, however, like a variation of posts in which to indulge in.
If you don’t want to spend too much money figuring it out, look at how your cat typically stretches or scratches. If he likes to sit on the arm of your couch and dig his claws in, he’ll probably prefer a horizontal scratcher. If she reaches up walls to stretch, she might like a scratching post or incline scratcher. But, the best rule of thumb, is to provide your cat with a good variety of posts made from different substrates and placed in multiple areas around your house.
Use positive reinforcement to encourage your cat to use their new scratcher, like dangling a toy over it or sprinkling it with catnip or silver vine. However, if you have purchased the right post for your cat, you won't really have to do anything to entice kitty to scratch on it. Good scratchers that appeal to your cat's preferred method of communication will attract your feline to it instantaneously.
Scratching is good for cats! It contributes to their health and wellbeing and should be encouraged. Cats that scratch often do so because it feels good and it is the most natural way for them to express themselves in our homes. If you want your cats to be happy and healthy, let them scratch!