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Owner observations regarding cat scratching behavior: an internet-based survey

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  • Oakland Veterinary Referral Services

Abstract and Figures

To examine aspects of the cat, environment and scratching post that might influence scratching behavior, in an effort to determine how inappropriate scratching behavior might be refocused on acceptable targets. An internet survey, posted on several public websites, gathered details about scratching behavior, as described by owners in their home environments, from 4331 respondents over a 4 month period. Responses from 39 different countries were analyzed, mostly from the USA, Canada and the UK. Owners offered traditionally recommended scratching substrates including rope, cardboard, carpet and wood. Rope was most frequently used when offered, although carpet was offered most frequently. Most owners provided at least one scratching post; cats scratched the preferred substrate more often when the post was a simple upright type or a cat tree with two or more levels and at least 3 ft high. Narrower posts (base width ⩽3 ft) were used more often than wider posts (base width ⩾5 ft). Intact or neutered cats (males and females) were as likely to scratch inappropriately, and inappropriate scratching decreased with age. Geriatric cats between the ages of 10 and 14 years preferred carpet substrate most frequently; all other ages preferred rope first. Inappropriate scratching decreased as the different types/styles of posts increased in the home. Inappropriate scratching did not increase if the number of cats or dogs increased in the household. Declawed cats were preventatively declawed most often to prevent household item destruction. Although cats can have individual preferences, our data provide a starting point for veterinarians recommending scratching posts to clients. © The Author(s) 2015.
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Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery
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DOI: 10.1177/1098612X15594414
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Introduction
The domestic cat is currently the most common pet in
the world, and 30% of US households own at least one
cat.1–3 This may be due, in part, to their small size, rela-
tively low maintenance and space requirements, and
their adaptability to a variety of environments. Indoor
confinement can result in undesirable behaviors, such as
spraying, scratching furniture, etc. Although very rarely
reported to veterinarians, scratching is the second most
common behavioral complaint of pet owners, with 60%
of owners reporting it as problematic.4–7 Consequently,
there is a growing need for veterinarians to provide
counseling on the prevention and management of this
undesirable behavior.
Scratching is a normal feline behavior that serves a
variety of purposes, including chemical and visual
marking, external nail sheath sharpening and removal,
and stretching of the claws and forelimbs, especially
after rest.5,6 Marking behaviors, including scratching,
increase in response to stress, such as social tension with
other cats or changes in the household.5,8 Such destruc-
tive behaviors can frustrate pet owners, who often resort
to punishing the cat. This further increases anxiety,
resulting in an exacerbation of the inappropriate
Owner observations regarding
cat scratching behavior: an
internet-based survey
Colleen Wilson1, Melissa Bain2, Theresa DePorter3,
Alexandra Beck4, Vanessa Grassi4 and Gary Landsberg5
Abstract
Objectives To examine aspects of the cat, environment and scratching post that might influence scratching behavior,
in an effort to determine how inappropriate scratching behavior might be refocused on acceptable targets.
Methods An internet survey, posted on several public websites, gathered details about scratching behavior, as
described by owners in their home environments, from 4331 respondents over a 4 month period. Responses from
39 different countries were analyzed, mostly from the USA, Canada and the UK.
Results Owners offered traditionally recommended scratching substrates including rope, cardboard, carpet and
wood. Rope was most frequently used when offered, although carpet was offered most frequently. Most owners
provided at least one scratching post; cats scratched the preferred substrate more often when the post was a simple
upright type or a cat tree with two or more levels and at least 3 ft high. Narrower posts (base width 3 ft) were used
more often than wider posts (base width 5 ft). Intact or neutered cats (males and females) were as likely to scratch
inappropriately, and inappropriate scratching decreased with age. Geriatric cats between the ages of 10 and
14 years preferred carpet substrate most frequently; all other ages preferred rope first. Inappropriate scratching
decreased as the different types/styles of posts increased in the home. Inappropriate scratching did not increase
if the number of cats or dogs increased in the household. Declawed cats were preventatively declawed most often
to prevent household item destruction.
Conclusions and relevance Although cats can have individual preferences, our data provide a starting point for
veterinarians recommending scratching posts to clients.
Accepted: 9 June 2015
1Wildfern Way, Greely On, K4P-1R4, Canada
2 Department of Veterinary Medicine and Epidemiology, School of
Veterinary Medicine, University of California-Davis, CA, USA, USA
3Oakland Veterinary Referral Services Bloomfield Hills, MI, USA
4Ceva Animal Health, Libourne, France
5North Toronto Veterinary Specialty Clinic, Thornhill, ON, Canada
Corresponding author:
Colleen Wilson BSc, DVM, 1217 Wildfern Way, Greely On, K4P-
1R4, Canada
Email: colleenwilson@rogers.com
594414JFM0010.1177/1098612X15594414Journal of Feline Medicine and SurgeryWilson et al
research-article2015
Original Article
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2 Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery
scratching behavior. Historically, veterinarians have
advised owners to address this problem by any of a
number of methods, including providing scratching
posts, training them to use such posts, clipping nails,
plastic nail coverings or onychectomy. Scratching of fur-
niture is the primary reason that owners choose to
declaw their cats, with 86% presenting their cat for
declaw due to household damage.5,9
Onychectomy is a controversial procedure. It pro-
vides a solution for furniture scratching and clawing
injuries that may save many cats from relinquish-
ment.4,5,10 However, it presents a welfare issue and is ille-
gal in many jurisdictions. While there are no scientific
data showing that declawing contributes to an increase
in undesirable behavior, declawing subjects the cats to
surgery, amputation, discomfort and pain for what is
essentially a normal behavior.4
Most veterinarians will advise owners to provide a
scratching post as an outlet for scratching behavior.11 A
recent study demonstrated that when a scratching post
is present, the cats use it.11 However, research to identify
the most appealing scratching post for the cat is lacking.
Therefore, we examined aspects of the cat, the envi-
ronment, and the scratching post or object itself that
might influence scratching behavior, in an effort to deter-
mine how undesirable scratching behavior might be
refocused onto acceptable targets. By determining what
the most desirable outlets for scratching behavior are,
these findings can improve the welfare of the pet and
strengthen the pet–owner bond, by removing a potential
cause for punishment and onychectomy, and effectively
managing one of the most commonly reported undesir-
able behaviors of owned cats.
Materials and methods
Questionnaire
A multiple choice survey questionnaire was designed for
internet distribution (www.surveymonkey.com/s/cats-
cratch2013). The survey included 27 questions inquiring
about owners’ observations of their cats’ scratching
behaviors. The questions were presented in a multiple
choice format, with options to enter additional comments
for some questions. Pictures were used to clarify types
and styles of posts and substrates. The survey was made
available on the University of California-Davis School of
Veterinary Medicine, Clinical Animal Behavior Service
social media sites, and shared by the authors via social
media (eg, veterinary, humane societies, animal shelters,
journalists, rescue organizations and cat breeders).
Respondents provided demographic information on
their cats, and answered descriptive questions about
their scratching posts, unacceptable objects or areas their
cats scratched in the home and any strategies owners
used to either discourage or encourage any scratching
behavior. See the Supplementary material for the survey.
Exclusion criteria included the following: respond-
ents who were not the primary caregiver of the cat; those
who did not indicate any favored scratching post by
their cat (also including those having no scratching post
at home); and those reporting that their cat was declawed.
Statistical analysis
For each question, the following univariate descriptive
statistics were supplied: number of missing data, abso-
lute and relative frequencies per class. The relationships
between questions were investigated with bivariate
descriptive analysis and proportions were compared by
the two-tailed χ2 test. When necessary, subgroup analy-
ses were performed. P values <0.05 were considered sig-
nificant, and all tests were two-tailed. All statistical tests
were performed using computer software (SAS version
9.3; SAS Institute Inc).
Results
Of the 4164 of surveys returned, 4105 respondents were
included in the analyzed population as meeting inclusion
criteria. Respondents from 36 countries completed the
surveys, with the majority being from the USA (n = 3021;
73.6%), Canada (n = 356; 8.7%) and the UK (n = 91; 2.2%).
Demographics
Most cats were male castrated (n = 2007; 48.8%) or
female spayed (n = 1872; 45.6%), with the remaining
being female intact (n = 120; 2.9%) and male intact
(n = 81; 1.9%). The most common age group was 2–5
years (n = 1433; 34.9%) followed by 6–9 years (n = 1083;
26.4%), 10–13 years (n = 708; 17.2%) and <1 year
(n = 499; 12.2%), and cats 14 years of age comprised
the lowest population of the group (n = 357; 8.7%).
Appropriate scratching (acceptable target) Although all
respondents had at least one scratching post at home in
our analyzed population (n = 4105), most respondents
offered several posts (n = 2709; 83.0%), occasionally
more when owning several cats (Figure 1). Most of the
cats used their preferred post at least daily or multiple
times per day (n = 2987; 89.3%). The amount of time
spent inside the home by cats significantly affected their
frequency of using the post: 75.7% of cats living perma-
nently indoors scratched on their post multiple times per
day vs 69.6% for those having outdoor access (P =
0.0006). Conversely, it made no difference on their inap-
propriate scratching in the home (52.5% of 3004 cats liv-
ing 100% indoors vs 51.5% of 1059 cats living 0–99%
indoors) (P = 0.57).
Substrate information Carpet was the most frequently
offered substrate; cats most often used rope (sisal) when
it was available (Figures 2 and 3). Furthermore, use of
scratching posts and use of rope as the preferred
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Wilson et al 3
substrate increased with an increasing number of posts
in the home.
Cats 9 years old most often preferred a rope sub-
strate (32.5%), followed by carpet (25.1%) and cardboard
(18.2%). Cats >10 years old preferred carpet most often
(24.7%), followed by rope (22.9%) and cardboard (19.6%).
Objects/posts
Most respondents offered cats simple vertical posts or
cat trees with two or more levels (Figure 4). Cats most
often used cat trees with two or more levels and simple
vertical posts. Cat trees with one level and hanging or
mounted on the wall were the least used (Figure 5).
Cats 9 years old most often preferred cat trees
with two or more levels (n = 758; 75.8%) followed by
simple vertical posts (n = 680; 69.0%), simple horizontal
on the floor (n = 497; 49.5%), on the floor at an angle
(n = 247; 24.0%), other (n = 160; 15.8%) and hung or
mounted on the wall (n = 64; 5.8%). Cats >10 years old
preferred the vertical posts most often (n = 155; 21.9%),
followed by cat trees with two or more levels (n = 133;
18.8%), simple horizontal/lies on the floor (n = 120;
16.9%), on the floor and at an angle (n = 61; 8.6%),
other (n = 40; 5.7%) and hung or mounted on the wall
(n= 12; 1.7%).
Cats most often used narrower (3 ft wide; 88.1%),
rather than wider (>3 ft wide; 9.1%) posts (no answer for
2.8%). Similarly, cats most often used shorter (3 ft high;
60.2%) rather than taller (>3 ft high; 36.3%) posts (no
answer for 3.5%).
Inappropriate scratching (unacceptable target) Fifty-two
percent of owners observed inappropriate scratching
from their cat (n = 2125/4105). Among them, 65.0% of
Figure 1 Total number of scratching posts available according to the number of cats in the household
61.20% 57.80%
42.40%
14.90%
3.50%
0.00%
10.00%
20.00%
30.00%
40.00%
50.00%
60.00%
70.00%
Carpet Rope Cardboard Wood Other
%ofcat owners
Figure 2 Substrates on scratching posts present in the home
(n = 4105)
30.20%
36.20%
22.40%
3.90%
7%
0.00%
5.00%
10.00%
15.00%
20.00%
25.00%
30.00%
35.00%
40.00%
Carpet Rope Cardboard Wood Other
%ofcat owners
Figure 3 Most used substrate on scratching posts (n = 3376)
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4 Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery
respondents’ cats (n = 1382) exhibited inappropriate
scratching at least once per day, with 35.4% (n = 752)
exhibiting inappropriate scratching multiple times per
day. Most of these respondents had a scratching post
offered in the same room as the inappropriately scratched
object or area (69.3%). Most often the scratching post or
object was located quite close to that area, with 49.3% of
them located 1–5 ft away from the inappropriately
scratched object or area.
Inappropriate scratching behavior was associated
with the original source of the cat: those obtained from a
breeder (n = 343) reported significantly less inappropri-
ate scratching (38.2%) than those acquired from any
other source (53.6%, n = 3723) (P <0.0001). Conversely,
cats obtained from a shelter or rescue (n = 1699) dis-
played significantly more inappropriate scratching
(55.1%) than cats from any other origin (n = 2367; 50.2%)
(P = 0.0022). This suggests a positive effect the breeder’s
environment may have on the development of the cat
and the potential negative impact a rescue environment
could have on the prevalence of marking behaviors.
Substrates
Inappropriate scratching was reported the least fre-
quently when owners had rope as a substrate on the pre-
ferred scratching post (n = 659; 53.7%), followed by
cardboard (n = 456; 60.2%), carpet (n = 645; 63.1%) and
wood (n = 85; 64.4%), and ‘other’ was chosen least often
(n = 166; 69.7%)
Object/posts
Cat trees with one or more levels were the posts associ-
ated with the least inappropriate scratching reported
(n = 622/1125; 55.3%) compared with any other types (n
= 1389/2219; 62.6%) (P <0.0001), whereas those hung or
mounted on the wall were associated with the most
inappropriate scratching (n = 60/81; 74.1%) (Figure 6).
Unlike appropriate scratching post preferences,
cats exhibited inappropriate scratching significantly
less frequently when the posts offered were >3 ft high
(n = 671/1215; 55.2%) compared with smaller posts
(n = 1301/2012; 64.7%) (P <0.0001) (Figure 7).
Having up to seven posts in the home was associated
with inappropriate scratching in 60.2% of homes
(40.1–64.8%), and having >10 posts was related to inap-
propriate scratching in 32.4% of the cases. Additionally,
frequency of scratching post use did not affect the fre-
quency of inappropriate scratching (P = 0.18).
Rewards vs punishment by owners
Respondents who rewarded their cat by any means
(ie, food treat, verbal praise and/or pet or stroke) were
55% 56.90% 58.40% 60.90% 63.10%
74.10%
40%
45%
50%
55%
60%
65%
70%
75%
80%
Cat tree with
several levels
Cat tree with
one level
On thefloor
at an angle
Simple
upright
vercal
Simple
horizontal
lying on the
floor
Hung or
mounted on
the wall
Type of scratching post mostusedbycatsat home
Figure 6 Incidence of inappropriate scratching compared
with the scratching post most used by cats at home
(n = 3344)
Figure 7 Incidence of inappropriate scratching according to
the height of the post most used by cats at home (n = 3344)
46.446.2
37.4
23.6
17.1
11.9
2.2
0
5
10
15
20
25
30
35
40
45
50
%ofcat owners offering
Hung
Figure 4 Types of scratching posts present in the home
(n = 4105)
28.7 26.8
20.6
9.9
6.6 4.9
2.4
0
5
10
15
20
25
30
35
%ofcatsmostoenusing
Hung
Figure 5 Types of scratching posts used most often
(n = 3344)
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Wilson et al 5
more likely to report that their cat used their preferred
post at least once daily (n = 2366/2942; 80.4%) than
those that were never rewarded for scratching (n =
201/297; 67.7%) (P <0.0001). Conversely, when seeing
their cat scratching on inappropriate objects or areas in
the home, the majority of the respondents verbally repri-
manded, physically removed or redirected their cat, but
rarely reported hitting their cat (Figure 8). None of these
methods appeared to affect the frequency of inappropri-
ate scratching displayed by the cat.
Number of cats in the home
Respondents with a single cat did not differ in the
frequency of reporting inappropriate scratching
than respondents with more than one cat in the home
(n = 625/1115 [56.1%] and n = 1462/2678 [54.6%], respec-
tively [P = 0.41]). Sexual status (intact vs neutered)
was not related to frequency of inappropriate scratching
(P = 0.07).
Declaw status
Three hundred and eighty-six respondents reported that
their cat was declawed: 348 (8.5%) reported their cat was
declawed in the front paws only and 38 (0.9%) reported
their cats were declawed both in the front and back
paws. Those 386 respondents, excluded from the study
analysis, revealed their cats were declawed mostly to
prevent damage to objects in the house (n = 133; 34.5%),
to prevent injury to people (n = 68; 17.6%), to prevent
injury to other pets (n = 43; 11.1%), to prevent unspeci-
fied damage (n = 37; 9.6%) and, lastly, because a previ-
ous cat had caused damage (n = 21; 5.4%). Some
respondents (n = 112; 29.0%) obtained the cat already
declawed.
Discussion
Our study confirms that inappropriate scratching by cats
is recognized by owners and that owners offer tradition-
ally recommended substrates and types and styles of
posts but do not necessarily offer the substrate or style
most commonly preferred by cats. Our results provide
evidence for cats’ substrate and style preferences, which
could affect the advice offered by veterinarians to clients
seeking to alter inappropriate scratching behavior. Our
data also revealed that the reporting of inappropriate
scratching was not negatively associated with an increas-
ing number of posts in the home, and inappropriate
scratching decreased as the width of the post base
increased.
Our findings compliment a previous study demon-
strating that cats use scratching posts when provided for
them.11 Additional findings reveal that most owners
offer scratching posts that are simple upright vertical or
cat trees with two or more levels. In our study, inappro-
priate scratching was reported significantly less often
when cats had access to cat trees with one or more levels
or when scratching posts (any type) were 3 ft or higher
(10% less unwanted scratching). However, even when a
scratching post was provided in the same room as the
location of inappropriate scratching, this unwanted
behavior was still reported by almost 70% of the owners.
This was despite the post being often located quite close
to the inappropriately scratched object or area.
Older cats preferred a softer carpet substrate over a
harder rope substrate. Cats 9 years old and 14 years
old preferred cat trees with one or more levels followed
by simple upright vertical posts, whereas cats between 10
and 13 years of age preferred simple upright vertical first,
followed by cat trees with two or more levels (Figure 9).
Figure 8 Punishment methods for cats’ inappropriate scratching (n = 2125)
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6 Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery
These results are consistent with the possibility that
older cats suffer more frequently with medical issues
such as arthritis. They might also rest more, be less active
and perhaps less agile than younger cats, who are more
exploratory in nature. Older cats are also more likely to
be well established in their homes, which could result
in less of a need to mark the territory visually or
chemically
Animals who are positively rewarded for a behavior
are more likely to repeat the behavior and, if positively
punished, less likely to repeat any behavior.12 This is
consistent with our findings as respondents reported
more frequent use of the appropriate scratching post
when they positively rewarded their cats’ appropriate
scratching behavior. Conversely, neither positive nor
negative punishment (removing the cat from the inap-
propriate object being scratched) made a difference in
the frequency of inappropriate scratching reported in
our study.
With regard to age, sex, neuter status and breed of
cats, and the associations with inappropriate scratching,
our findings were that not only was the scratching
behavior of both neutered males and females similar, but
also, surprisingly, that entire males and females did not
scratch significantly more on inappropriate objects than
neutered cats. Most respondents owned neutered cats
aged between 2 and 5 years of age and the number of
respondents who owned entire cats in general was very
small. This could represent the typical population of cli-
ent-owned cats.
As reported by several previous studies, owners
choose to declaw their cats most frequently to prevent
household damage.5,11,13
Some respondents omitted some answers in their sur-
vey. It is our opinion that it would be reasonable to
include answers/data from any question, even if the
same respondent omitted answers to other questions in
their particular survey and that the information they did
provide was valuable. Different subpopulations were
considered as being more logical and preventing too
many missing data: mostly the 3344 respondents with
cats having a preferred post and the 2125 respondents
with inappropriate scratching for related questions,
respectively. Statistical analysis accommodated for any
discrepancies giving a percentage and frequency num-
ber for true comparison in each case.
Using an internet-based survey to reach out to pet
owners who have a special interest in cats is a conveni-
ent sample and thus less randomized; however, it would
be reasonable to generalize the information gathered to
all cat owners. Additional drawbacks to internet-based
surveys could include respondents who are biased
towards their own personal preferences, skipped ques-
tions or gave dishonest answers. In our survey we
included pictures in order to clarify substrates and types
or styles of posts, but these could not represent every
possibility available. When using an internet survey it is
not possible to address any questions from a respondent.
Internet-based surveys are convenient, inexpensive and
can have a high response rate leading to the accumula-
tion of data in a short period of time.
Conclusions
The ideal scratching post to recommend to a cat owner
to help prevent inappropriate scratching is one that
includes rope as a substrate, is upright vertical, 3 ft or
higher, has two or more levels and a base width of
between 1 and 3 ft. Although cats can have individual
preferences, our data provide a starting point for veteri-
narians to recommend specific scratching posts to cli-
ents as a first best choice. However, our results also
illustrate that if offering a particular type of post is not
related to a decrease in inappropriate scratching behav-
ior, other types and styles should be explored or consid-
ered. Owners who reward their cat for scratching the
desired post, or motivate their cat with natural supple-
ments, can increase their cat’s use of the appropriate
target.
Figure 9 Preferred scratching post types according to cats’ ages
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Wilson et al 7
Supplementary material Cat scratching survey 2013.
Acknowledgements Thanks to Adam Smythe who contrib-
uted significantly to the data analysis, and to Dr Mark Rishniw
for his advice and guidance in editing and article submission.
Conicts of interest The authors do not have any potential
conflicts of interest to declare.
Funding This research received no specific grant from any
funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sec-
tor, except for the data analysis which was done at CEVA Santé
Animale.
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... When performed in the home on the owner's furniture, this behaviour can be highly destructive and can be a cause of great frustration for owners. This can happen either on vertical (wall, door frame, chair,...) or horizontal surfaces (carpet, sofa, bed,...) as cats may choose to scratch any surface, whether considered "appropriate" or acceptable to their owner (vertical or horizontal scratching posts) (3) or not (4). Owner responses may range from physically removing the cat so as to interrupt the sequence and redirect it to another location, to yelling or hitting the cat. ...
... According to a survey, 60% of the owners report problem scratching from their pet cats (3). Scratching furniture is also associated with an increased risk of relinquishment (5). ...
... A 2015 survey conducted of over 4000 cat owners demonstrated that while most of them recognized their cats need for a scratching post, the traditional types offered were not usually the types preferred by the cats. The study also demonstrated that when cats were rewarded for appropriate scratching behaviour, they were more likely to use their scratching posts (3). These data suggest that deeper knowledge about cat preference in a scratching post and more information about how to encourage cats to use scratching posts, could prevent many unnecessary surgeries and improve feline welfare. ...
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These proceedings contain oral and poster presentations from various experts on animal behaviour and animal welfare in veterinary medicine presented at the conference.
... According to data collected from a US veterinary hospital, approximately 21% of cats are declawed [12]. In one online survey examining the influence of external factors (such as the environment, scratching posts provided, and cat demographics) on inappropriate scratching, 34.5% of 386 owners of declawed cats reported they elected to declaw their cats to prevent damage to household items [13]. Other consequences of prolonged scratching issues in homes include euthanasia and shelter surrender [14][15][16], with a previous study indicating that scratching behavior problems are associated with an increased risk of relinquishment, and declawing cats decreases the risk of relinquishment to shelters [16]. ...
... Cats in the home have opportunities to scratch a variety of surfaces including those provided for enrichment and off-limit items, such as furniture. Research suggests that cats have preferences toward different substrates, include chenille fabric [17], cardboard, rope, and carpet [13,18,19]. Provisioning of scratching materials (e.g., rope, cardboard, carpet, wood surfaces, vertical and flat/horizontal scratching posts) to cats is widely recommended to encourage appropriate scratching and reduce damage to household items [13,[19][20][21]. ...
... Research suggests that cats have preferences toward different substrates, include chenille fabric [17], cardboard, rope, and carpet [13,18,19]. Provisioning of scratching materials (e.g., rope, cardboard, carpet, wood surfaces, vertical and flat/horizontal scratching posts) to cats is widely recommended to encourage appropriate scratching and reduce damage to household items [13,[19][20][21]. In addition, placing the cat near an appropriate scratching surface has been found to promote appropriate scratching [7,21], while punishment-based methods, such as physical and verbal scratching interruption, has not been effective [7,13]. ...
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Despite scratching behavior in owned domestic cats being a self-motivated and natural behavior, it is commonly reported as a behavior problem by owners when it results in damage to household items. The objectives of this study were to use a cross-sectional survey targeting cat owners within the United States and Canada, to explore perspectives on cat scratching behavior and management strategies, as well as identify factors that influence the performance of inappropriate scratching behavior in the household. A total of 2465 cat owners participated in the survey and three mixed logistic regression models were generated to explore associations between (1) cat demographic factors, (2) provisions of enrichment, and (3) owner demographic and management factors with owner reports of problematic scratching. In this convenience sample, inappropriate scratching was reported by 58% of cat owners. Owner perspectives and management strategies aligned with current recommendations as they preferred to use appropriate surfaces (e.g., cat trees) and training to manage scratching as opposed to surrendering, euthanizing, or declawing. Logistic regression results found fewer reports of unwanted scratching behavior if owners provide enrichment (flat scratching surfaces (p = 0.037), sisal rope (p < 0.0001), and outdoor access (p = 0.01)), reward the use of appropriate scratching objects (p = 0.007), apply attractant to preferred items (p < 0.0001), restrict access to unwanted items (p < 0.0001), provide additional scratching posts (p < 0.0001), and if their cat is 7 years of age or older (p < 0.00001). Whereas if owners use verbal (p < 0.0001) or physical correction (p = 0.007) there were higher reports of unwanted scratching. Results suggest that damage to household items from scratching behavior is related to management strategies owners employ, and these findings can be used to support owner education in mitigation and prevention of inappropriate scratching.
... The procedure is generally requested by cat owners with the intention of avoiding damage to their property or personal injury from cat scratches. [1][2][3] However, evidence suggests elective onychectomy can be associated with lameness, acute and chronic pain, as well as an increased risk of back pain, house-soiling, increased biting behavior and barbering in cats. 2,[4][5][6] Pain, lameness and changes in behavior can also be present in cats regardless of the method of amputation or anesthetic and analgesic protocols. ...
... In our study population, there was no statistically significant increase in cats relinquished to the provincial shelter system for destructive scratching behavior following the implementation of the ban. These findings support those by Wilson et al, 3 who reported that most owners who declawed their cat did so for prevention of, rather than in response to, destructive scratching behavior. If owners were resorting to onychectomy mostly in response to unmanageable scratching behavior, or if it were the only viable alternative to relinquishment, an increase in surrenders could have been expected following the ban on the elective procedure. ...
Article
Objectives The aim of this study was to determine whether there was an increase in cat relinquishment for destructive scratching behavior, a change in overall feline surrender intake and euthanasia, or a change in average length of stay in a British Columbia shelter system after provincial legislation banning elective onychectomy. Methods Records of cats admitted to the British Columbia Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in the 36 months prior to (1 May 2015–30 April 2018, n = 41,157) and after (1 May 2018–30 April 2021, n = 33,430) the provincial ban on elective onychectomy were reviewed. Total intake numbers, euthanasia and length of stay were descriptively compared between periods. Proportions of cats and kittens surrendered for destructive scratching, as well as the proportion of cats and kittens surrendered with an owner request for euthanasia, were compared using two-sample z-tests of proportions. Results Destructive behavior was found to be an uncommon reason for surrender (0.18% of surrendered cats) during the study period. There was no statistically significant difference in the number of cats surrendered for destructive scratching behavior ( z = −1.89, P >0.05) after the provincial ban on elective onychectomy. On the contrary, the proportion of owner-requested euthanasias decreased after the ban ( z = 3.90, P <0.001). The total number of cats surrendered, the shelter live release rate and average length of stay all remained stable or improved following the ban, though causation could not be determined. Conclusions and relevance The findings in this study suggest that legislation banning elective onychectomy does not increase the risk of feline shelter relinquishment – for destructive behavior or overall – and is unlikely to have a significant effect on shelter euthanasia or length of stay.
... One study revealed that rope was most frequently used when offered, although carpet was offered more commonly. 52 Cats scratched the preferred substrate more often when the post was a simple upright type or a cat tree with two or more levels and at least 3 ft high. Narrower posts (base width less than or equal to 3 ft) were used more often than wider posts (base width greater than or equal to 5 ft). ...
... All other ages preferred rope. 52 The preference of older cats for carpet may be due to age-related musculoskeletal changes or because these cats may not have had the opportunity to use the range of substrates as kittens. "Claw Counseling: Helping Clients Live Alongside Cats with Claws" 51 is one of several resources in the AAFP Claw Friendly Educational Toolkit. ...
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The guidelines, authored by a Task Force of experts in feline clinical medicine, are an update and extension of the AAFP–AAHA Feline Life Stage Guidelines published in 2010. The guidelines are published simultaneously in the Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery (volume 23, issue 3, pages 211–233, DOI: 10.1177/1098612X21993657) and the Journal of the American Animal Hospital Association (volume 57, issue 2, pages 51–72, DOI: 10.5326/JAAHA-MS-7189). A noteworthy change from the earlier guidelines is the division of the cat’s lifespan into a five-stage grouping with four distinct age-related stages (kitten, young adult, mature adult, and senior) as well as an end-of-life stage, instead of the previous six. This simplified grouping is consistent with how pet owners generally perceive their cat’s maturation and aging process, and provides a readily understood basis for an evolving, individualized, lifelong feline healthcare strategy. The guidelines include a comprehensive table on the components of a feline wellness visit that provides a framework for systematically implementing an individualized life stage approach to feline healthcare. Included are recommendations for managing the most critical health-related factors in relation to a cat’s life stage. These recommendations are further explained in the following categories: behavior and environmental needs; elimination; life stage nutrition and weight management; oral health; parasite control; vaccination; zoonoses and human safety; and recommended diagnostics based on life stage. A discussion on overcoming barriers to veterinary visits by cat owners offers practical advice on one of the most challenging aspects of delivering regular feline healthcare.
... One study revealed that rope was most frequently used when offered, although carpet was offered more commonly. 52 Cats scratched the preferred substrate more often when the post was a simple upright type or a cat tree with two or more levels and at least 3 ft high. Narrower posts (base width less than or equal to 3 ft) were used more often than wider posts (base width greater than or equal to 5 ft). ...
... All other ages preferred rope. 52 The preference of older cats for carpet may be due to age-related musculoskeletal changes or because these cats may not have had the opportunity to use the range of substrates as kittens. "Claw Counseling: Helping Clients Live Alongside Cats with Claws" 51 is one of several resources in the AAFP Claw Friendly Educational Toolkit. ...
Article
Full-text available
The guidelines, authored by a Task Force of experts in feline clinical medicine, are an update and extension of the AAFP–AAHA Feline Life Stage Guidelines published in 2010. The guidelines are published simultaneously in the Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery (volume 23, issue 3, pages 211–233, DOI: 10.1177/1098612X21993657) and the Journal of the American Animal Hospital Association (volume 57, issue 2, pages 51–72, DOI: 10.5326/JAAHA-MS-7189). A noteworthy change from the earlier guidelines is the division of the cat’s lifespan into a five-stage grouping with four distinct age-related stages (kitten, young adult, mature adult, and senior) as well as an end-of-life stage, instead of the previous six. This simplified grouping is consistent with how pet owners generally perceive their cat’s maturation and aging process, and provides a readily understood basis for an evolving, individualized, lifelong feline healthcare strategy. The guidelines include a comprehensive table on the components of a feline wellness visit that provides a framework for systematically implementing an individualized life stage approach to feline healthcare. Included are recommendations for managing the most critical health-related factors in relation to a cat’s life stage. These recommendations are further explained in the following categories: behavior and environmental needs; elimination; life stage nutrition and weight management; oral health; parasite control; vaccination; zoonoses and human safety; and recommended diagnostics based on life stage. A discussion on overcoming barriers to veterinary visits by cat owners offers practical advice on one of the most challenging aspects of delivering regular feline healthcare.
... The second stage was characterized by a group that used the FGMS, and it included a questionnaire with nine multiple-choice questions. The Survey Monkey electronic platform (www.surveymonkey.com.br) was used as a survey tool, being validated for human and animal research in the medical field, and enabling single responses (Raphael et al., 2018;Wilson et al., 2016). As each veterinarian could mark more than one response per question, the number of responses to each question varied. ...
Article
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This study aimed to understand the perception of veterinarians regarding monitoring blood and interstitial glucose levels in cats with diabetes mellitus and/or diabetic ketoacidosis, with emphasis on the flash glucose monitoring system (FGMS) (FreeStyle Libre, Abbott, Brazil). This research consisted of two stages. In all, 516 response forms were obtained, and of these, 480 (93%) were considered valid. In total, 333 (69.4%) veterinarians did not use the FGMS, while 147 (30.6%) did. The cost of the FGMS (116, 78%) was the greatest deterrent to acceptability. Veterinarians who use the device consider it indispensable in the hospital monitoring of diabetic ketoacidosis and a facilitator in the accurate monitoring of measurements. In addition, the preferred location for application of the sensor is the cranial lateral wall of the chest and it is quite tolerable. Monitoring a diabetic cat requires commitment from the owner and the veterinary team to ensure feline-friendly management.
... We made three similar scratching structures; each one was used to evaluate the preference responses of grouped cats in each NGO. These structures were individually composed of four fabric coated removable cylinders (~1 m high each, based on the preference of cats for this height to scratch; Wilson et al., 2016) fixed on a wooden base (~40 × 180 cm) ( Figure 2). Each scratching post was made of PVC pipe embedded in a wooden support attached to the wooden base ( Figure 2). ...
Article
Preference responses of cats for scratching fabrics commonly used on furniture were evaluated during four consecutive days in three Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) that rescue companion animals. Cats were grouped and their choices were registered at a group level (no individual identification). Daily choices for chenille, suede, synthetic leather, or waterproof grosgrain fabrics were evaluated for the cats' groups. A preference for chenille and non-preference for synthetic leather and waterproof grosgrain was found, independent of the NGO. In conclusion, although not using chenille does not assure that cats stop scratching furniture-especially if no other option to scratch is available-synthetic leather and waterproof grosgrain seem to be less attractive fabrics for these animals. Further studies are needed to investigate whether these findings apply to cats in a home scenario, when just one or a few individuals are usually present and only one type of fabric covering furniture is commonly available. Although we did not investigate the effect of providing scratching posts for these animals, we recommend such posts are available in the environment as scratching behavior is important to cats.
Chapter
This chapter addresses ethical concerns in companion animal practice including shelter medicine, outdoor cats, overpopulation, neutering/gonadectomy, conformational disorders/brachycephaly, convenience surgeries/declawing/onychectomy, behavioral medicine, referrals, futile intervention, obesity, and access to veterinary care. Modern animal shelters provide an array of services with population control and animal welfare at the forefront. Sterilization programs have been an integral part of shelter missions to control overpopulation and stop the influx of unwanted animals into shelters. Some shelters have stopped taking in unsocialized cats and euthanizing them. Instead, these cats are now being sterilized, vaccinated, and returned to field. The dog and cat overpopulation crisis in the 1970s coincided with surgical sterilizations becoming routine in private clinics. Neutering involves the surgical removal of gonads. It is performed primarily to prevent companion animal overpopulation. Conformational disorders occur when an animal's shape and structure negatively impact its health and welfare.
Chapter
Separation from what is familiar coupled with exposure to an unfamiliar environment makes shelters particularly stressful for cats. Environmental enrichment can improve a cat's perception of their environment, resulting in a reduced stress response and improved well‐being. Careful consideration of how to employ enrichment effectively and efficiently is key to the success of any enrichment program. A standard program of enrichment should be provided for all cats, while a more diverse range of enrichment opportunities may be prioritized to meet the needs of individuals expressing certain behaviors or health concerns or that have longer projected lengths of stay. It is also key to assess the impact of enrichment efforts so as to continually optimize the quality of the program overall and its impact on the well‐being of each individual. Placing as many appropriate cats in foster homes as possible is likely to be the most effective enrichment strategy.
Chapter
Cats are unique amongst domestic species in that they have evolved from a solitary ancestral species to become one of the most beloved household pets today. Interestingly the cat's physical appearance and sensory systems remain almost identical to their wild counterparts. Recognition of the perceptual parameters allows us to better understand how the domestic cat responds to environment and communicates with social partners. Sociality is unequivocally the aspect of feline life most affected by the domestication process. Cats can display a wide range of social behaviors, and evidence indicates that early exposure to a variety of social and environmental stimuli is the most important postnatal factor for a well‐adjusted life in a domestic setting and resiliency to basic stressors. By gaining an understanding of feline natural behavior, communication, learning, and cognition, shelter staff can provide cats with an ideal environment, change unwanted behaviors, and improve the welfare of our cats.
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Scratching behaviour in cats is described as a normal expression of the feline ethogram having different possible purposes related to visual and chemical communication. During behavioural consultations owners often mention scratching as an additional problem. This preliminary study aimed to understand the characteristics of this complex behaviour by examining the variables displayed by a sample of the Italian feline population using multiple correspondence analysis. One hundred and twenty-eight cats were screened by means of a questionnaire to identify features of their scratching behaviour. Our data showed the importance of both the presence/absence of a scratching post in the cat's living area and its relationship to marking. When a scratching post is present in a cat's living area, the cat appears to use it. Some aspects related to sex, neutering, age and environmental characteristics may modify the expression of scratching as a marking behaviour. Research has led to increased knowledge of this behaviour and may help veterinarians in describing to owners why it is important for cats to express scratching behaviour in their environment. Such information could help veterinarians and owners to recognise normal and problematic scratching behaviours.
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A survey of a computer group interested in pets was conducted to determine the incidence of behavior problems in cats and whether it varied with the sex of the cat, with declawing, or with the number of cats in the household. In addition, information on the brand of cat food and litter was obtained, along with details of litter hygiene. Sixty owners of a mean of two cats responded. The percentages of cats exhibiting behavior problems were: jumping on counters or tables, 60%; scratching furniture, 42%; eating house plants, 36%; acting aggressively toward other cats, 25%; stealing food, 25%; house soiling, 16%; inappropriate vocalizing, 16%; acting aggressively toward people, 12%; chewing fabric, 7%; hissing at people, 5%. A significantly greater percentage of declawed cats, as compared to intact cats, was reported to jump on counters or tables. There was significantly more meowing and also more jumping on counters among cats in single-cat homes than among those in multiple-cat homes. There was no difference between the sexes in the proportion exhibiting the various behaviors. This information can be used to advise owners as to the type of misbehaviors cats may display. It also indicates that declawed cats are not prone to have more problems than do clawed cats.
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