Cats are notorious scratchers. Sometimes, watching your furry friend stretch its paws out on a cat scratching post can be a precious thing. Other times, when your cat is ripping chunks out of your wallpaper with its claws, the behavior is less adorable.
Cats scratch for a range of reasons, to exercise their feet, to keep their claws trim, and even to mark their territory. Unfortunately, you can’t always control where your cat is going to start scratching. Sometimes, various factors can convince your feline friend to start unsheathing their kitty claws where they shouldn’t – which is a nightmare for your nicely decorated house.
Today, we’re going to be answering the question “why does my cat scratch the wall?” and looking into strategies you can use to keep this behavior to a minimum.
Why Do Cat Scratch Walls and Corners?
Cats and scratching go together like strawberries and cream – they’re natural partners. For cats, scratching is a natural behavior, just like breathing or blinking. This means there’s a good chance your cat is scratching your walls just because they feel like it.
Of course, there are things that might increase your cat’s chances of scratching where they shouldn’t too. For instance:
Scratching other Unusual Surfaces
Aside from scratching walls, your cat might also scratch some other unusual surfaces around the house. For instance, you might have noticed your cat scratching at a window when they see something outside or scratching a mirror. This is usually because they’re trying to get through to the other person (or cat) they can see.
Some cats scratch the floor and surrounding walls of the litter box after going to the bathroom. This is usually the case when the litter box is too small, or there isn’t enough litter to cover up the waste. Your cat likes to cover their bathroom habits, not just to be polite, but because they’ve been taught to do this over years of evolution, to stop predators from tracking them.
If your cat scratches the floor or other surfaces around their food, this is an indication they’re burying their “kill” for later. In the wild, cats have a habit of hoarding food for later, just in case they won’t be able to get any prey. If you see your cat burying their food with nothing, it just means they’re done with that food for now.
Training your Cats to Scratch the Right Places
The most effective way to deal with a cat scratching the walls or other unacceptable places around your home, is to train them to scratch the right surfaces instead. Whenever you decide to become a pet parent, one of the first things you’ll need to do is make sure you have all the right cat accessories – this includes investing in a scratching post or scratching mat.
You’ll need to provide a range of objects for scratching that are appealing to your cat. Notably, different cats do have different preferences when it comes to scratching. Some will prefer to use a tall scratching post, while others will like something more horizontal. When choosing the right scratching surfaces for your cat, try to learn from the scratching habits you witness.
Find a scratching post or surface which makes sense based on what you know about your cat and their preferences. Then, cover that scratching post in things to make it more appealing to your cat. You can get basic catnip or catnip sprays to attract your cat to a new scratching post. Another option is to choose a scratching post with toys attached to it, as this will appeal to your cat’s playful instinct.
You can also simply place your cat’s paws on the scratching surface a few times to help them see what it feels like.
Other Ways to Stop a Cat from Scratching the Walls
While you’re training your cat to start scratching more appropriate objects, you’ll need to also take steps to drive them away from the inappropriate objects. A good option is to cover the wall with something your cat is going to find unappealing, like aluminum foil or sticky tape. This might not look particularly attractive, but it’s an important part of warding your cat away.
If you are going to be using covering materials to protect the walls you don’t want your cat to scratch, make sure you keep those materials on the wall for as long as necessary. Only when your cat is consistently using the appropriate object for scratching should you begin to gradually remove the unappealing materials
Here are some other useful tips to help stop your cat from scratching the walls.
Keep your cat’s nails trimmed
As mentioned above, overgrown nails can be a common reason for cats scratching in inappropriate areas. If your cat is having a hard time keeping their nails trimmed themselves, you can always help them out with some trimming. A pair of claw trimmers will allow you to clip your cat’s nails at home.
If you keep the cat’s nails trimmed, they may feel less inclined to scratch your walls. At the same time, if they do decide to continue scratching, there’s a good chance they won’t cause nearly as much damage. If you need extra help trimming your cat’s nails, you can always consider taking them to a groomer, or ask your vet for guidance.
Entertain and exercise your cat
Another common reason for inappropriate scratching among cats is boredom. Although your cat won’t always be bored when they’re scratching (sometimes they just do it to maintain their nails), it’s important to make sure your cat is getting the right stimulation.
If you tend to be away at work for most of the day, you might find it helpful to leave some interactive toys around for your kitty to play with. When you’re around to give your cat attention, play with them using teaser wands and mouse toys. Scheduling regular playtime will also help to keep your cat happy, and ensure they sleep well (rather than running around all night).
Bunting is the name for when your cat rubs his or her face against you to leave a scent. This is another form of territorial marking, though it’s a lot less destructive than the scratching or spraying alternatives. If you’re trying to encourage your cat to avoid scratching, then it might be helpful to introduce them to another, more acceptable form of marking.
You won’t always be able to drive your kitty away from scratching using this method but applying pheromone sprays to various objects around the home will encourage your cat to sniff, then mark with their face, rather than their claws in some cases.
Rule out pests
Most of the time, inappropriate scratching will have nothing to do with your house. However, if you ever hear scratching, rustling, or unusual sounds coming from inside of the walls, rather than your cat, it’s a good sign there’s something problematic going on.
Consider reaching out to a pest control expert for advice on how you can lure out and remove any pests which may be living in the walls. Obviously, you’ll need to consider any strategies for getting rid of pests carefully, with your cat’s health in mind. Conventional mouse-traps are a no-go because they could end up hurting your cat.
Speak to a vet
If you notice other signs of distress or unusual behavior in your cat, it could be a good idea to talk to a vet. Sometimes, excessive scratching, spraying, destructive behavior, and other symptoms can be a sign there’s something wrong with your cat’s health.
Your cat could be acting out because they don’t feel their best, or because they’re suffering from excessive amounts of stress. Either way, your vet will be able to examine your kitty and check to see if everything is okay. If there is a problem, your vet can offer some tailored advice and ideas on how to get on top of the problem, to minimize the risk of further scratching.
Should Cats be Punished for Scratching?
Punishing your cat rarely makes a lot of sense. Cats don’t respond well to negative reinforcement. They’re more likely to end up getting aggressive, stressed, or becoming withdrawn. If you hold your cat down, strike them (even softly) or shout at them, the increased stress will likely cause them to engage in more bad behavior.
It’s also worth noting your cat doesn’t scratch your surfaces out of malice. This activity isn’t something your cat plans to do for hours at a time. Unless you’re lucky enough to catch the cat in the act of scratching (at which point you can direct them to the acceptable scratching surface), you’ll be shouting at them after the fact.
Shouting at your cat for scratching something several hours ago will just confuse them. Your cat will have no idea why you’re punishing them. In fact, they may end up becoming afraid of you or their environment if you engage in regular punishment.
If you do catch your cat in the act of scratching something inappropriate, you can make a loud noise to deter them, or simply move the cat over to the other scratching surface to encourage them to use that instead. This might take a while to have any impact on your cat’s behavior but be patient.
Should I declaw my cat?
The simple answer is absolutely not!
Scratching from your cat can be a frustrating thing, particularly when it hurts you or your family members, or causes damage to your belongings. However, cats need to scratch to stay healthy – it’s an important part of their day-to-day activities.
Declawing a cat is a horrible thing to do, because it’s not just “clipping” your cat’s nails. When you have a cat declawed, you’re literally chopping off a part of their toes. It’s similar to cutting your fingers off at the first knuckle. Your cat will be unable to use their claws and paws as normal and may suffer from crippling pain and discomfort following the procedure.
The better option is to simply trim your cat’s claws regularly. You can do this with a pair of clippers at home, making sure you don’t clip too close to the quick (the pink part of the nail). It helps to get your cat used to having their feet handled before you start clipping, so consider stroking their paws and practicing pressing the pad gently to extend the claws.
There are various types of claw trimmer on the market, each with their own benefits for cats. You can also speak to a groomer or a vet if you need help mastering the clipping action.
If clipping doesn’t work for you on it’s own, you can also try using claw caps. Caps cover the sharp part of the claw safely, without causing any damage to your cat. The caps will stop your kitty from doing too much lasting damage to your walls if they continue their destructive scratching.
Managing Cats Who Scratch Walls
A cat that scratches your walls can be a really frustrating furry friend to have. As much as you might love your kitty, it’s exhausting to continue repairing your walls and other necessary items around your home. However, it’s important to remember your cat isn’t scratching to upset you.
The best thing you can do is work through some of the tips above one at a time to see whether they can help you to reduce the scratching behavior and encourage a healthier alternative. Good luck protecting your walls, and keeping your kitty happy!
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