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One of the functions of scratching is to sharpen the tips of their claws and keep them in good condition. Scratching allows cats to remove this outer sheath which keeps the claws sharp and ready for use when climbing, hunting or in self-defence if needed.
Perhaps the most surprising reason for scratching is its use in communication between cats. Cats deposit scents produced by specialised glands between their toes and on the main pad of their foot when they scratch. These scents can be detected by other cats and we believe that they use this as a way of marking out their territory. The visual marks left by scratching are thought to enable other cats to easily locate the scent mark, which provides them with information about the cat who originally left the scent. Whilst we may take more notice of cats scratching inside, cats also perform this behaviour outside and you may notice scratch marks on fence posts or other prominent areas within the garden.
If we understand why cats scratch, we can more clearly appreciate their need to express this normal behaviour. Instead of trying to prevent scratching behaviour, the focus should be on providing our cats with appropriate opportunities to perform this behaviour. We can do this by providing scratching facilities in the form of scratch posts, scratching mats or boards or more elaborate cat ‘trees’ that also incorporate platforms or enclosed sleeping areas.
Sourced from ISFM newsletter.