Zhang, L., McGlone, J. J. 2020. Scratcher preferences of adult in-home cats and effects of olfactory supplements on cat scratching. Applied Animal Behaviour Science 227, 104997.
Preferences for scratchers in adult cats have not yet been explored. Thirty-six adult cats were the subjects in three experiments to evaluate adult cat in-home preferences for scratchers, scratching materials, and the use of scratchers with added olfactory stimuli. Scratchers compared in each of the first two experiments were presented to cats at the same time with randomized sequences of how scratchers lined up together among homes. Cats had access to scratchers for a one-week video-recorded observation period. Frequency and duration of daily scratching and interactions, as well as calculated preference indexes (PIs) of these measurements were compared among scratchers. In Exp. 1, laying, S-shaped cardboard and standing cardboard scratchers were compared. The PIs were higher (n = 7 houses, 18 cats, P < 0.01) for the standing cardboard compared with the S-shaped cardboard. This preference for the standing cardboard was significant with neutered male (NM) cats (n = 6, P ≤ 0.05) but not with spayed females (SF, n = 12, P > 0.10). In Exp. 2, preferences of scratchers covered with rope, cardboard, sofa fabric, and carpet were observed (n = 14 houses, 25 cats, P ≤ 0.05). Scratchers covered with rope and cardboard had higher (P ≤ 0.05) behavioral interactions than scratchers with sofa fabric. In Exp. 3, the effects of feline interdigital semiochemicals (FIS), powdered catnip (CN), and silver vine (SV) on the use of scratchers were investigated. Each treatment was delivered in a sock hung on a standing cardboard scratcher and compared to a control scratcher with an untreated sock for two days. Catnip increased the scratching duration (n = 7 houses, W = 14, P = 0.02), and the interaction duration (n = 7 houses, W = 14, P = 0.02) and frequency (n = 7 houses, W = 14, P = 0.02) compa red to control. Silver vine also increased the duration (n = 7 houses, W = 14, P = 0.02) and frequency (n = 7 houses, W = 14, P = 0.02) of the interactions. Both CN- and SV-treated scratchers had higher (n = 7 houses, 20 cats, P ≤ 0.05) PIs of scratching and interaction related measurements compared to the FIS-treated scratcher. Scratchers in an upright form covered with cardboard or rope may be suitable for adult household cats and the application of CN or SV can be helpful in increasing the use of scratchers.