Cats are affectionate, playful and independent. But they're also pretty strange. From cats that are scared of cucumbers to ones that play with trash, cats are known for occasionally exhibiting some odd behavior. Some times that odd behavior can be explained, but there are other times where you'll have to do a little detective work to try and figure out what's going on inside your cats brain.
For instance, did you know there are some cats out there that are so obsessed with their scratching posts, they actually lick it?
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What could possibly make a cat want to do this? Let's try to find out.
Understanding why cats scratch
First, we need to figure out the reason cats want to scratch in the first place, which (thankfully) doesn't include a desire to ruin your furniture.
The San Diego Humane Society says scratching is a completely natural behavior. The main reason why they scratch might surprise you though. They don't it because they're trying to sharpen their claws like some might think. Believe it or not, scratching is actually a way your cat marks its territory. Every time your cat scratches, they're leaving behind a scent called a pheromone.
The science behind pheromones
All cats have their own unique pheromone.
Pheromones are odorless to humans, but the chemical which is excreted through glands on a cats face, paws and body, can dive other cats wild. Cats are constantly covering themselves in the pheromone with every grooming session and the scent then gets transferred to anything your cat touches, scratches or rubs its body against — including the scratching post.
A study performed by animal behavior expert and Texas Tech University professor, John McGlone determined that cats prefer a scratching post that has already been used by other cats since it is likely covered in pheromones.
More than just a unique scent, pheromones are a crucial component in how cats communicate. Petcetera Animal Clinic explains that "pheromones have a broad range of purposes that include alarm signaling, mating, social interactions, territory marking, and maternal bonding."
Another way cats bond is by grooming each other.
Cats actually enjoy grooming each other since it gives them a major dose of pheromones. This act is called allogooming and, according to a study published in the Journal of Veterinary Behavior, is one of the primary way cats bond.
Since a cat's scratcher is likely covered in fur, your cat might feel like it is actually grooming another cat when it licks the scratching post. If you are a single cat household, this might be a sign of loneliness. Consider adopting another cat to give yours a companion and see if the licking behavior transfers from the scratching post to his new friend.
If this doesn't help, there could also be a medical reason behind a cats crazy licking habits.
According to Petcetera Animal Clinic pica is the behavioral urge to eat or lick non-edible materials like blankets, rugs and carpet. Since your cats scratching post is likely covered in a layer of carpet or thick rope, it might become a cats new pica obsession.
Veterinarians don't actually have a solid reason why cats might want to lick or eat things that aren't food, but it could be due to things like genetics, stress or boredom. This odd behavior can start as early as three months old, but some cats grow out of it in just a few years.
If you suspect your cat may have pica, try to distract them with stimulating with things like laser pointers and puzzle toys.
The bottom line
Your cat might be giving its scratching post a little extra love because he's attracted to the pheromones on it, because he's longing for a friend or it could be a condition called pica.
Just pay close attention to your cat and take note of any more odd behavior. It could be nothing to worry about. At the end of the day though, if you're concerned it's always best to visit you local veterinarian for a thorough evaluation.