Like any animal with nails, cats need a trim every now and then. Dogs have owners to trim theirs; humans have nail clippers, and cats, well, they pretty much use whatever they can get their claws into! Unfortunately, tree bark is of just the right texture and grain to give cats the claw sharpening they need. But cats don't just use trees as sharpening posts. They also use them to mark their territory, and, sadly, this is also done via claw. When cats dig their claws into the bark of a tree, the glands between their toes mark the tree with their scent.
Young trees will not last long if one or more cats constantly scratches at them. Thin-barked trees especially, such as the paper birch and some fruit trees, may not last long under a sustained daily onslaught. If a cat strips away the bark from the entire circumference of a tree, that tree will die. The layer of material beneath the bark, called the cambium layer, transports nutrients and water throughout a tree. Once it is exposed or heavily damaged, the tree will die. If this is happening to your trees, use the following methods to prevent any further damage.
Place Hardware Cloth around Your Tree
Hardware cloth is a flexible wire mesh that can be shaped however you see fit. Create a simple but effective barrier by placing hardware cloth around the trunk. Don't wrap the trunk. Leave a couple of inches between the trunk and the wire mesh, and ensure it is high enough to block any nearby cats from scratching at the bark.
Purchase Some Corrugated Paper Tree Wrap
This material can be purchased both online and in your local garden centre. Corrugated paper tree wrap works much the same way as hardware cloth in that it can be placed around trees in order to protect them from damage.
Place a Scratching Post Near Your Trees
If you have several trees and are fond of the cat culprits despite their claw-sharpening ways, you could place a scratching post near your trees. This will hopefully take their attention off your beloved trees—but be prepared. Unlike dogs, cats can be very unpredictable.
You should also think about having the damage to your tree assessed by a local tree service. What might look like a healthy tree to you may be a completely different story in the eyes of a professional.