Thursday 4 July 2024

Presence of child can cause cat scratching episodes

Mother's take note. Kids stress cats. Cats scratch more when stressed.
Image: MikeB

This is a cross-post. I have used the same image in the other post. It is an important topic in the world of cat caregiving. It is ultimately about parenting and knowledge. 

Below is a summary of a Harvard study (link to the study) which looked at factors which might lead to increased cat scratching, usual or furniture of a well-sited scratching post. It found that the presence of children can increase scratching behaviour because cats do this to mark territory to reassure themselves when they are kids being noisy or unpredictable in their behaviour (my comment). Or perhaps the children were mishandling the cats in this questionnaire study which are always somewhat subjective. 

Cats mark territory when scratching by (1) a visual mark and (2) depositing scent from the paw pads onto the scratched object.

But despite the weaknesses in the study it confirms perhaps what we know namely that children can cause cats to become more stressed. It is up to parents to educate their kids to understand cat behaviour and how to interact with them to avoid this unnecessary stress.

Aside from stress leading to scratching, mismanaged interactions between cats and kids can lead to the kids receiving a scratch which in turn can, over time, lead to the cat being give up to a shelter for 'bad behaviour' when in fact it is the 'bad' (better described is 'inappropriate') behaviour of the child in their interactions with the family cat causing the cat to become defensively aggressive.

Here is a synopsis of the conclusion of the study, re-written. The undoubted lesson is that parents need to be aware of these issues and take proactive steps to prevent them. 

Cats like quiet and calm. Routine and predictability. Children can alter their behaviour a little to try and meet these feline objectives. Big scratching posts are important too. 

A significant observation is how a child's presence at home can lead to more scratching in pets. It seems that kids might stress out our furry friends, causing them to scratch more often and more intensely. This ties in with earlier studies that found kids can increase the chances of pets scratching at home. 

On the flip side, it's important to note that having kids around is a common reason why pets are given up or returned after adoption. 

While most research focuses on how pets affect human health and happiness, it's just as important to consider our pets' well-being to keep everyone, both two-legged and four-legged, living together happily. Something not looked into in this study is how kids and cats interact. 

The study didn't check if the cat was there before the child or how old the kids were when they played with the cat. So, we need more research to see if a cat's behaviour changes with the arrival of a new child or if it's just about having kids around in general. 

Plus, it'd be interesting to see if how old the kids are makes a difference in how much the cat scratches.
Study title: Evaluating undesired scratching in domestic cats: a multifactorial approach to understand risk factors. Lead author: Yasemin Salgirli Demirbas.


P.S. please forgive the occasional typo. These articles are written at breakneck speed using Dragon Dictate. I have to prepare them in around 20 mins.

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