A ripped up corner of the couch, a freshly-chewed pair of shoes, shredded tissues on the floor – these are all commonplace in the life of a pet owner, right?
We all know that dogs and cats love to chew and scratch, but these behaviors can quickly turn dangerous (and it’s annoying for owners). Learning the reasons behind these instincts is the first step toward finding a solution – and saving your home and property in the process!
The Need to Knead (and Scratch!)
Scratching is a deep need for all cats, and they do so for a variety of reasons. Scratching on a vertical surface is a way to stretch the muscles in their legs and paws. It also helps remove the outer nail sheaths, and it’s an important way to leave scent markings (cats have scent glands in between their paw pads).
Chew on This
The need to chew is hard-wired into most dogs. In the wild, a dog not only explores the world with their mouth, but both the front and back teeth are used to kill and eat prey. The teeth are kept clean and tartar-free by crunching bones, cartilage, and sinew, and working the jaw and neck muscles with lots of chewing helps keep them strong and supple.
Natural Chewing and Scratching Solutions for Pets
The urge to chew and scratch is natural for your pet. Instead of punishing them, redirect their attention in order to curb the behavior.
- Start young – If possible, begin training your pet to chew or scratch only on approved surfaces or toys when they’re young. The ideal time for training is between 6 to 15 weeks of age, but pets of any age can be taught appropriate behavior with consistency and positive reinforcement.
- Scratching surfaces – Provide multiple vertical scratching surfaces for your cat; carpet or cardboard covered scratching posts and ramps work well. Place these near the furniture or other areas your cat likes to scratch (sprinkle catnip nearby to generate interest).
- Chew toys – Experiment with dental chews and toys to find out what your dog likes, then purchase a variety, and rotate them out frequently to keep your pup engaged. Stay away from rawhides, antlers, or bones, as these can be contaminated and may contribute to chipped or broken teeth. Check out our recommendations for safe chew toys.
- The power of exercise – Life inside the same four walls can get dull, causing some pets to chew and scratch out of boredom. Make exercise and playtime a non-negotiable part of each day, and look for ways to safely enrich your pet’s environment.