Sort out Scratching

Every cat owner knows the routine - your cat comes into the room, rubs his or her cheek against the door frame, and then proceeds to shred the carpet, hardwood flooring or the arm of the sofa before happily curling into a ball of fluff. You've just witnessed the lion-hearted side of the domestic feline, behavior that creates conflict within the human - cat relationship.

Domestic cats scratch for several reasons First, scratching helps remove old claw material and trim overgrown claws. Homeowners will often find discarded claw sheaths embedded in the fabric of furniture or alongside favorite scratching areas when they sweep or vacuum.

Second, scratching allows a cat to define its territory or its comfort zone. Cats secrete scent from glands in their cheeks and on their paw pads In the wild, lions, tigers and other large cats leave their "signatures" around the perimeter of what they consider their territory. Those signature marks include urine spray, pheromone scent from their cheeks and paw pads and claw marks on tree trunks Marking in this way signals to other cats that they need to respect the primary cat's ownership of the area.

Third, scratching is part of a cat's exercise regime. Scratching, especially on a tall vertical object such as a post or door frame, allows a cat to stretch and elongate the spinal column. Many cats even perform the equivalent of the chiropractor's traction device, scratching and clinging to an area far above the cat's head while the back feet dangle just above the ground. My cat Robbie loved to play "Tarzan" on the living room draperies when she was a kitten. Finally, cats scratch as a means of venting their anger or upset feelings. When my cat George, who is an extremely gentle, loving animal, is mad at me, he races to the bathroom and shreds an entire roll of toilet paper, generally in my presence.