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Why Do Cats Like Scratching Posts? 4 Possible Reasons

grey cat sleeping on cat tree with scratching post

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Dr. Paola Cuevas

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If you own a cat, you are intimately familiar with how much they love to scratch. Your furniture and carpets are also probably familiar with how much they love to scratch.

Owning a cat means stocking up on all kinds of scratching posts in the hopes of directing them away from our belongings and onto something designed for their claws.

But why do cats love scratching so much, anyway? They certainly seem to spend a great deal of time engaged in this rather destructive activity!

Here, we examine this question and give you the answer, along with a few methods that you can use to help reduce your furniture’s appeal to your cat.

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The 4 Main Reasons Why Cats Like Scratching Posts

1. Sharpening Those Claws

cat scratching post
Image Credit: EbneRol, Shutterstock

It is a natural and normal instinct for all cats to scratch. One reason is to sharpen their claws.

Since cats’ claws are retractable, they don’t get worn down while walking, like dogs’ claws do. These retractable claws grow in layers, so when cats drag their claws down a surface, it helps loosen and remove the outer husk of each claw, which reveals a new and sharper surface beneath. You’ve probably found these little claw shells lying around the house.

Cats need their claws to escape predators by climbing trees or hunting prey when in the wild. While indoor cats don’t necessarily need sharp claws for hunting or escaping predators, the instinct is still there. They also come in handy for getting away for a much-needed break from pesky dogs and humans.


2. Scent Marking

cat scratching
Image Credit: Daga_Roszkowska, Pixabay

The second reason that cats scratch is scent marking. There are sweat and scent glands between the pads of your cat’s paws that produce a scent that is quite unique to your cat.

While scratching, the cat is depositing this unique scent and leaving those little claw husks behind, which gives other cats both a visual and scented greeting card.

But why does your indoor cat care about scent marking when there aren’t any other cats around? Inside or out, cats like to claim territory and leave their scent on everything for their own comfort and to say hello.


3. Exercising Those Muscles

Scottish little cat playing on scratching post
Image Credit: Anatoly Cherkas, Shutterstock

Scratching gives cats the opportunity to stretch their muscles. Their legs and spines get a great stretch during the scratching process, which can also help them remain limber.

It’s essential for cats to get exercise, including stretching, as it will help them maintain a healthy weight and remain excellent hunters and climbers.

Since the surfaces that they choose to scratch on don’t move, it allows them to dig in and use their body weight to get a good scratch going.


4.  Emotional Release

british shorthair cat scratching the post
Image Credit: Alexas_Fotos, Pixabay

Have you ever noticed your cat frantically scratching after a bout of the zoomies? Sometimes, cats scratch as a way to express stress or excitement.

Think of it like how you want to punch your pillow when frustrated or dance when happy and excited. There’s no question that our cats can be a little wild at times, and what better way to show us that side of themselves than by a good, frenzied scratching session!

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What If Your Cat Doesn’t Use the Scratching Post?

Not all cats like scratching posts and prefer your favorite chair. So, what are the best ways to get your cat off your chair and onto the scratching post?

Finding the Right Scratching Post

black and white cat scratching on hepper hi lo scratcher

It starts by purchasing the right scratching post for your cat. If your cat doesn’t like the post based on the material or position, it’s not going to get used.

Horizontal or Vertical

The first step is to ensure that you get the right kind of scratching post for your cat. Watch your cat while they are in the process of scratching. Does your kitty tend to stretch up on the couch while scratching, or is it a horizontal scratch on the carpet?

Aim for a scratching surface that is in the same position as what your cat seems to prefer. There are many horizontal scratching pads in addition to the usual posts, so aim for the one that your cat will be more likely to use.

Height and Length

Similar to the horizontal or vertical option, you need to ensure that you have a long enough scratching surface for your cat. The longer the cat, the longer the scratching post needs to be.

Since cats like to stretch while they’re scratching, if you have a short post, it’s likely that your cat won’t get the same satisfaction that they do from your tall chair.

Material

Scratching posts come in many different materials, with sisal rope, carpet, and cardboard being the most common. Research shows that the ideal scratching post for cats is sisal rope, but cats that are 10 years or older seem to prefer carpet scratchers.

Basically, you might need to do a bit of experimenting. If you have a sisal rope post and your cat doesn’t seem that interested in it, try a carpet or cardboard one.

Sturdiness

Cats enjoy throwing their weight into their scratching, so if the post wobbles, they might be too scared of it falling over to use it. You can either invest in a large and sturdy cat tree that includes long scratching posts or find a post with a large and heavy base. Certain pots can be attached to the wall, so there won’t be any wobbling issues with those.

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Making the Scratching Post More Appealing

white cat on scratching post
Image Credit: Piqsels

Now that you have the right kind of scratching post, you still might need to entice your cat to use it. Your cat might take to it, no questions asked, but if not, here are a few tips.

Since most scratching posts are tall furniture, cats are more likely to use them because they also enjoy lounging in high places.

Also, scratching posts that are at least 3 feet in length are more likely to encourage cats to use them.

Having more than one scratching post gives your cat a choice and prevents them from getting bored. This is even more important if you have multiple cats.

Finally, one trick is putting catnip on the scratching post,which might draw your cat to it.

Make Your Furniture Less Appealing

If your cat seems to still prefer your furniture over a cat tree, you might need to make your furniture less appealing.

One way is to use deterrents. There are sprays that are safe to use around cats (avoid anything with undiluted essential oils, as they are quite dangerous for cats).

You can spray it directly on your furniture (check the label in case it isn’t safe for fabric) or near your cat when they start scratching inappropriately. Most of these sprays have a scent that cats won’t find appealing.

You can also put sticky, double-sided tape on the scratch zones. Cats hate anything sticky on their paws, so the moment that they try to scratch, they won’t want to continue.

Eventually, your cat might begin to associate unpleasant smells or stickiness with their favorite chair and might go for the now more appealing scratching post.

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Conclusion

Scratching is quite important for cats. It’s such an innate and strong instinct, so punishing your cat for scratching something inappropriate won’t work. Positive reinforcement is the right way to go, in addition to using deterrents if your cat is a little on the stubborn side.

Use treats, praise, and pets every time your cat uses the scratching post, and as long as the post itself is the right one for your kitty, you might just save your furniture!


Featured Image Credit: husnerova, Pixabay

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