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Chinese elm

Q: My elm trees are not doing well. My cat has been known to scratch the bark from time to time. Would that cause any problems?

Q:  My elm trees are not doing well.  I am seeing some limbs die at the top.  My cat has been known to scratch the bark from time to time.  Would that cause any problems?

A:   Elms, crape myrtles, fruit trees and several others are thin barked trees and therefore easily susceptible to trunk damage.  Hardwood trees develop their vascular systems and growth tissue a ring just inside the bark.  When this bark is damaged it permanently diminishes the trees ability to produce new tissue and transport water, minerals and food to other parts of the tree.  However, the tree may be able to survive on the remaining undamaged tissue.  If enough damage has been done, especially if it has occurred completely around the tree, it is possible to lose the whole tree.  Nothing can be done to the tree that has already been damaged but if this is a habit of “Fluffy’s” then protecting this and other trees from further damage is important.  We do not recommend you use any pruning paint or attempt to cover the scratches as this may seal in fungal spores and cause even more damage.  Take a “wait and see” attitude and hope for the best.  Maybe “Fluffy” could use an outdoor scratching post made of carpet as a substitute tree as this scratching behavior is innate.