Children at home can provoke increased cat scratching

It appears that the presence of a child in the household could potentially contribute to heightened stress levels, thereby leading to more frequent and intense scratching episodes.

Study: ‘Evaluating undesired scratching in domestic cats: a multifactorial approach to understand risk factors.’

The study mentioned, published in the Frontiers website dated 03 July 2024, looked at factors which influenced the reasons why a domestic cat in the home might scratch more than normal.

“We know all about cat behaviour.”
“We know all about cat behaviour.” Image: MikeB
Until September 7th I will give 10 cents to an animal charity for every comment. It is a way to help animal welfare without much effort at no cost. Comments help this website too, which is about animal welfare.

I’ll mention one interesting factor here: the presence of kids in the home.

This is not brand-new information as we’ve known for a long time that cats can be stressed by kids. And when a cat is stressed, they are more likely to scratch something suitable in the home (ideally a large, well-sighted, scratching post) to mark territory as a means to reassure themselves.

Cat scratching is a countermeasure to stress. It is calming as is grooming. Cat scratching deposits scent from the pawpads onto the object scratched to mark territory combined with the scratches which leave a visual mark signalling the cat’s presence. Scratching also exercises the claws’ protractile mechanism and sloughs off the outer cuticle. It also stretches the back.

Another sign that a cat is stressed is that they over-groom as we know to the extent it can cause baldness on easily accessible areas of the body.

The point here, made by these researchers, is that the heightened stress experienced by cats due to the presence of kids increases scratching behaviour.

And children are stressful for cats because of their unpredictable actions and the noise they make.

Cats like predictability and quiet.

This outcome aligns with previous research suggesting that the presence of children, particularly during specific developmental stages, might amplify the likelihood of undesirable scratching incidents within the home

The study researchers led by Yasemin Salgirli Demirbas

The study suggests that further research on children’s interactions with domestic cats would be useful.

No detailed investigation has been conducted regarding children-cat interaction. Specifically, the presence of either the child or the cat at the beginning, as well as the age of the children interacting with the cat, was not examined. Consequently, further research is required to determine whether the cat’s behavior is influenced by the arrival of a new child as a family member or is generally associated with the intrinsic presence of the child.

Study conclusion.

Comment: I think parents can do a lot to improve things for the domestic cat.

I think that children can actually enhance the lives of cats. There are some great relationships between kids and cats but parents need to train their children on how to interact with cats.

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I believe that children need to understand something about cat behaviour and their sensibilities.

This training would also help to minimise cats scratching kids leading to the relinquishment of cats to shelters.

One of the major reasons for placing cats in shelters is scratching kids which is regarded by parents as ‘bad cat behaviour’ when frankly it is bad child behaviour in provoking a defensive reaction from the cat using their weapons.

Link to the study mentioned:

Action to take

Two things come to mind. Firstly, as mentioned, train kids to understand cats better. Secondly, place a large, super-solid cat scratcher in a prominent position in the home. It might be at the place where they are already scratching and/or on the boundary of their home range (near the cat flap if they are allowed outside) or in the center of the ‘den’. Experimentation might be useful.

Declawing is positively not the way to go. Very cruel and very wrong. There are far better alternatives. All of the cat needs to be fully accepted and if it can’t the cat is in the wrong home. Harsh words I know but realistic and fair from the cat’s standpoint.

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