Why your cat shreds the sofa – and how to get them to stop for good

Why your cat shreds the sofa – and how to get them to stop for good
While you can't change your cat's personality, you can make some adjustments to save your furniture
While you can't change your cat's personality, you can make some adjustments to save your furniture
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While you can't change your cat's personality, you can make some adjustments to save your furniture
While you can't change your cat's personality, you can make some adjustments to save your furniture

If you've ever seen TV cat behavioralist Jackson Galaxy at work, you'll know that while we may (well, many of us) love feline company, there's a lot we don't understand about their needs. Now, a new study delves deep into the domestic lives of cat families to find out just why furniture is being scratched up and how to actually prevent it.

An international team of researchers collected data from 1,211 French households, covering caregiver demographics, environments, behaviors and temperaments. It also assessed frequency and intensity of unwanted scratching behaviors, which was then evaluated using a combined scratching index and the cats divided into groups based on these behaviors.

"No significant difference was observed between purebred and mixed-breed cats, gender, neutering status, body condition score, and actual weight concerning the scratching index," the researchers noted in the report.

What they found was that a leading cause of undesired scratching was the presence of a young child in the house. Scientists believe this could trigger a heightened stress response from the cat, leading to more frequent and intense scratching episodes. Previous studies have shown that the presence of young kids is also one of the leading reasons people return or give up their pets.

"While most studies predominantly concentrate on the well-being and health of the human residents sharing the same household with cats, these findings underscore the significance of evaluating the quality of life for both constituents – humans and pets – to ensure the establishment of a harmonious environment," said the researchers.

The team acknowledges more work needs to be done to examine these findings, such as how children interact with cats in the house, and the age of the kids sharing the space with pets.

Kids are not wholly to blame, however. Other factors such as nocturnal activity, playfulness and other aspects of a cat's individual personality appear to influence their scratching behaviors, with "aggressiveness" and "disruptiveness" being two key traits that correlated with more claws on couches.

While playfulness in itself is not at all bad, long play sessions can raise stress levels in cats due to constant stimulation, causing them to take it out on the arm of the sofa or a seat cushion.

“Here we show that certain factors – such as the presence of children at home, personality traits of cats, and their activity levels – significantly impact the extent of scratching behavior,” said Dr Yasemin Salgirli Demi̇rbas, a veterinary researcher at Ankara University and first author of the study. “Our findings can help caregivers manage and redirect scratching to appropriate materials, which could help foster a more harmonious living environment for both cats and their caregivers.”

The location of scratching posts proved to be a significant influence on cat behavior. The study found that placing posts in high-traffic areas or near favored sleeping spots resulted in the cat redirecting their scratching to the preferable piece of furniture.

“We see a clear link between certain environmental and behavioral factors and increased scratching behavior in cats,” Demi̇rbas said. “Specifically, the presence of children in the home as well as high levels of play and nocturnal activity significantly contribute to increased scratching."

While some of these factors are difficult to change, the researchers believe you can curb the bad behavior with strategic scratch-post placement, pheromones, and being mindful of interactions with kids and overstimulation through play. They suggest short play sessions throughout the day, and acting out scenarios that mimic hunting success.

"Providing safe hiding places, elevated observation spots, and ample play opportunities can also help alleviate stress and engage the cat in more constructive activities," Demirbas said. "Understanding the underlying emotional motivations of scratching behavior, such as frustration, which seem to be linked to personality traits and environmental factors, allows caregivers to address these issues directly."

The study was published in the journal Frontiers in Veterinary Science.

Source: Ankara University via Scimex

Brian M
Not sure if the term 'caregivers' is correct, 'servant' maybe or 'deluded owner' maybe! Cats are cats and most will survive quite well if left to their own devices, they don't really need a caregiver.
Brian M: Problem is,cats left to their own devices face a precarious existence,being the victims of cars and predators,and they kill millions of songbirds yearly.
Wonder why studies such as this are funded in the first place?
Fascinating, and makes a lot of sense.

The truth is, cat's are not actually domesticated. Cohabitating, but not domesticated. They only tolerate us for food and sort of shelter
Veterinarians tell us that cats stretch and pull their claws for both pleasure and exercise. In my opinion, getting a house-bound cat to stop this behaviour is futile - one can only redirect its attention to something that provides the same or better sensation, such as a scratching post.
There must be a humane way to declaw house cats.