Scratching is natural and cats have a strong instinctual motivation to engage in this behaviour. It is impossible to prevent.
Why do cats need to scratch?
Scratching serves a few purposes, the most basic of which is to maintain a cat’s claws. Another benefit of scratching is the full body stretch it provides to felines.
Cats are territorial and primarily more solitary than social, so they use scratching to mark their territory. Marking helps them feel confident in their environment and reduces stress.
Scratching is beneficial for a cat’s well-being, and we should never try to hinder this behaviour, but since our cats live in our homes, this behaviour can become destructive. It is very important for us to provide a desirable and appropriate place for our cats to scratch, so that they do not decide to scratch our furniture.
There are a variety of surfaces available that are appealing to cats. Sisal rope, corrugated cardboard, carpet or wood are all appropriate surfaces. Cats may have different preferences or choose different surfaces at different times. Giving them multiple options limits the chance they will choose your couch.
Scratchers should be located close to where your cat likes to rest. Rest areas are where cats need to feel the most comfortable and where they tend to mark their territory the most, since resting is a vulnerable state.
Now, let’s get even more scientific about scratching.
Cats leave behind pheromones as they scratch.
Pheromones are natural, chemical signals that act as a form of communication between animals of the same species. Territorial pheromones send messages that reassure cats they are in a safe, familiar place, or indicate “this is mine” and act as a sign to other cats that there is a cat living in the territory. These reassurances relieve stress for cats. These pheromones are released from a few spots on the body including their face and between their toes (released when scratching).
When cats scratch, they leave a visual sign of their territory (scratch marks) as well as the pheromone message. The visual and pheromone messages encourage cats to continue revisiting the same scratching area. This becomes problematic when the favourite scratching area is a piece of your furniture, but these messages can be used to teach cats where to scratch as well.
FELISCRATCH by FELIWAY® is a product that contains territory pheromones and is applied to a scratching post to draw cats to scratch there instead of on furniture. FELISCRATCH also contains catnip as an attractant and is blue in colour to imitate the visual signal of scratch marks.
Appropriate scratching surfaces in the right location, along with FELISCRATCH by FELIWAY®, can help reduce destructive scratching, or prevent it all together, while also improving the well-being of your cat.
Visit your local Global Pet Foods to learn more about scratching, and find all the products you need for your cat.
Also visit FELIWAY® online to learn more about FELISCRATCH and other pheromone products that can help your cat.
Play Behaviours of Domestic Cats
Observing feline playtime can be quite entertaining; a statue still, low crouch followed by a tail swish and a butt wiggle, leading up to a most dramatic pounce! It is adorable and maybe even comical to watch. But what do all these actions mean, and what is their purpose? They are all predatory behaviours – yes, even the cute little butt wiggle is the act of a ravenous hunter!
Hunting Behaviours of Feline Predators
For a successful ambush, a predator lies in wait in a concealed spot that prey are likely to wonder by. They must be perfectly still in order to avoid being detected, and driving prey out of reach. While stalking, a predator follows their prey in a low, silent crawl until they are in the optimal position for attack. In preparation for the pounce, the hunting feline must be sure their targeting is accurate. Sometimes prey are also very still and it is difficult to lock in on their location. A slight tail swish can catch the attention of the prey, causing small movements, giving away their exact position. Next, the feline squares up their hind legs by rocking their weight side to side (the butt wiggle), giving them maximum pouncing power! These behaviours are exhibited by wild cats and domestic house kitties alike. The difference being that our house pets are often going after toys or dust bunnies and not actually hunting their food source.
Why do Well-Fed House Cats Exhibit Hunting Behaviours?
The hunting instinct ingrained in felines is not driven by momentary hunger; rather it has been established by thousands of years of evolution as a mechanism of food acquisition. Felines, as obligate carnivores, have evolved as predator animals, and an important part of a predator’s lifestyle is hunting. Being at the top of the food chain comes with a lot of responsibility. Acquiring food depends on hunting – it is a much more involved process than scavenging for others’ leftovers or grazing across an open plain and it requires a very high level of motivation. But why do we still see this instinct in our domestic house cats? If you give a cat a meal, their hunger will be satisfied, but the urge to hunt still lingers. Why, when the need is eliminated, does the desire persist?
To better understand our pet cats, we should better understand how they became our pets in the first place. The process of domestication involves genetic alterations affecting physiology, appearance and behaviour. The transition from a wild animal to a domesticated animal can result in traits lost or gained, depending on which are beneficial in the domestic lifestyle. The domestication of cats began with humans and cats living symbiotically – in a mutually beneficial scenario. The most common theory of feline domestication involves the stored grains during early agriculture attracting small rodents (prey), which in turn attracted small wild cats (predators). Wild cats that were less wary of humans had access to an abundance of prey, and in turn they provided humans with effective pest control. Early in the domestication process, hunting was still the primary manner of food acquisition, so success of the animals relied on a strong motivation to hunt. Even though our house kitties are fed meals in a bowl and no longer need to hunt for food, the instinct is still present, and we must ensure they receive appropriate stimulation in order to preserve a positive state of well-being.
Enrichment for Indoor Cats
Outdoor cats have the opportunity to hunt real prey – the ultimate stimulation; but for those that live exclusively indoors, we must provide the stimulus. Strings tipped with feathers fly through the air like darting birds; toy mice unknowingly wait to be ambushed; bouncing wires dance like hopping insects. There are so many enriching toys available that are engaging and satisfying for our cats. Perhaps the most satisfying are products that allow felines to actually hunt for their food. Available at Global Pet Foods is the indoor hunting feeder from Doc & Phoebe’s Cat Co. This product allows your cat to hunt for kibble-filled mice that you’ve hidden around the house. It satisfies their instinctual desires, gives them plenty of exercise and mental stimulation, and enhances overall well-being of your beloved feline.
An under stimulated feline may exhibit destructive behavior; frustration may build up and lead to misbehaviours such as going outside the litter box; a lack of physical exercise can lead to unhealthy weight gain; a lack of satisfaction can prevent relaxation and increase stress. When we provide enrichment for our indoor cats, we provide them with an outlet to express all their natural behaviours, satisfying the deeply ingrained urges they maintained through domestication. In doing this, we prevent them searching for other, less desirable outlets, and most importantly, we make them happy.
Visit your local Global Pet Foods to see all the most innovative feline enrichment products available!