Source: Phys Org (Extract)
Posted: July 03, 2024

Many cat owners are well-acquainted with torn cushions, carpets, and couches. The innate instinct of cats to scratch is natural, yet it’s often perceived as a behavioral issue by cat owners, sometimes prompting interventions that may not align with the needs of cats.

An international team of researchers has explored the factors influencing unwanted scratching behavior in domestic cats. Their findings, published in Frontiers in Veterinary Science, highlight the impact of factors like the presence of children at home, the personality traits of cats, and their activity levels on the frequency of scratching behavior.

Dr. Yasemin Salgirli Demi̇rbas, a veterinary researcher at Ankara University and the study’s first author, stated, “Our study demonstrates that these factors significantly influence scratching behavior. Understanding these influences can assist caregivers in effectively managing and redirecting scratching towards appropriate materials, promoting a more harmonious coexistence between cats and their caregivers.”

Kids, play and personality

The researchers surveyed over 1,200 cat owners in France, gathering insights into their cats’ daily routines, characteristics, and undesired scratching behaviors.

Their findings revealed several factors influencing cats’ scratching behavior. Dr. Yasemin Salgirli Demirbas elaborated, stating, “We observed a clear correlation between certain environmental and behavioral factors and increased scratching among cats. Specifically, having children in the household, high levels of play and nocturnal activity were associated with more frequent scratching. Additionally, cats described as aggressive or disruptive also showed heightened levels of scratching.”

The researchers identified stress as a primary cause of undesired scratching behavior in cats. For instance, the presence of young children, which can amplify stress levels, may contribute to stress-related scratching in felines. However, the exact connection between increased scratching and children in the household requires further investigation. Additionally, playfulness was identified as another factor potentially linked to stress. Prolonged play sessions can elevate a cat’s stress levels due to continuous stimulation.

Cat-friendly scratching interventions

While some factors that encourage scratching behavior in cats, such as their personality or the presence of children, may not be alterable, others can be addressed, according to the researchers. Placing scratch posts in areas where cats frequently pass or near their favorite resting spots, and using pheromones, for example, can help reduce cats’ inclination to scratch furniture.

“Creating safe hiding spots, elevated perches for observation, and providing ample play opportunities can also help alleviate stress and encourage cats to engage in more constructive behaviors,” Salgirli Demirbas emphasized.

The key strategy involves incorporating multiple short play sessions that simulate successful hunting scenarios. These sessions are designed to sustain a cat’s interest and minimize stress, thereby reducing excessive scratching of furniture. Additionally, they can strengthen the bond between cats and their caregivers, the researchers noted.

“Recognizing the emotional motivations behind scratching behavior, such as frustration linked to personality traits and environmental factors, enables caregivers to tackle these issues directly,” explained Salgirli Demirbas.

Despite relying on self-reported data, which can be subjective, the researchers have gained valuable insights into cats’ scratching behavior. Their aim, both with this study and future research, is to devise more effective strategies for managing this behavior. Ultimately, they seek to improve the bond and harmony between cats and their caregivers.