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Home > Cats > Why Do Cats Scratch? 4 Reasons for This Behavior

Why Do Cats Scratch? 4 Reasons for This Behavior

male shelter cat destroying furniture with front claws

As a cat owner, one of the most aggravating things about your feline companion is that they want to sharpen their claws and scratch everything in the house. You probably can’t count the number of times you’ve stopped your cat from clawing the couch, walls, carpet, or other furniture.

It’s nothing that cat owners haven’t dealt with since the beginning of time, but that doesn’t make it any easier to deal with. Have you ever wondered why your cat scratches? We’ll dive into why cats scratch and give you some tips to stop it below.


What Is Considered Cat Scratching?

Scratching is when a cat takes its claws and drags them over a horizontal or vertical surface. Cat scratching is also called stropping, which is normal for your feline. However, just because it’s normal doesn’t mean that you have to put up with it.

Even though your cat’s scratching can be aggravating, it’s essential to never halt the behavior by having your cat’s claws removed. This is bad for the cat and can end in disaster if your cat gets outside, gets lost, and cannot defend itself.

You don’t want to make your cat stop the behavior altogether. Instead, you need to understand why your cat scratches everything, and then follow the tips below to get your cat to scratch something more appropriate, like a well-made scratching post.

cat claws when kneading
Image Credit: RJ22, Shutterstock

The 4 Reasons Why Cats Scratch

1. Marking Their Territory

Scratching is a quick way for your feline to mark its territory. If you’ve noticed your cat scratching the front door area, the doors into the living room and other areas of the house, or even their favorite sleeping spots, it’s because they somehow feel that their territory is being challenged in those areas, and are marking the site as their own.

For example, if you find the cat clawing the couch in the den, it could be because it’s marking it with its scent.

2. It’s a Form of Exercise

If your cat is comfortable with his surroundings and knows it’s the boss, its scratching could be a form of exercise for the cat, especially if the cat is strictly kept indoors. A scratching session helps your cat to stretch its legs, paws, and back. It’s similar to what people do when they first wake up in the morning or from an afternoon nap.

long haired cat stretching in an outdoor catio
Image Credit: SariMe, Shutterstock

3. Sharpening Their Claws

Scratching is the perfect way for a cat to hone and sharpen its claws. This is how your cat removes the dead outer husk of their claws, helping to reveal the new claw underneath. This is important for your cat’s health, so make sure you have something that the cat can sharpen its claws on without getting into trouble for doing it.

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4. It’s Their Instinct

If your cat lived in the wild, it would be like its ancestors and use trees to sharpen its claws. This was done so that the cat could keep its claws clean and sharp to hunt and defend itself. Every cat has this instinct, so you must help your cat be able to hone their claws, keep them clean, and do what comes naturally to the feline.

close up of a cat's face and claws
Image Credit: Alexandra_Koch, Pixabay

divider-catHow Do You Stop Inappropriate Scratching by Your Feline?

While you now understand why your cat tends to claw everything in your home, you still can’t have the cat tearing up the walls, furniture, and everything else you own, so what do you do? How do you stop your cat’s inappropriate scratching? We’ll give you a few tips to follow in the section below.

Make the Surface Unappealing

If your cat doesn’t like the surface it’s trying to scratch, it won’t use it as a scratching post anymore. You can spray the surface with a citrus scent or cover it with aluminum foil until the cat gives up on scratching that item.

A small gray kitten plays with foil and a ball
Image Credit: Olya Detry, Shutterstock

Get Your Cat a Scratching Post

A scratching post is an excellent solution to your cat’s scratching problem. However, if you’ve noticed that your cat will put its entire body into the scratching, you need to purchase a scratching post that is twice as tall as your cat, or that is sturdily built.

It’s also a good idea to watch how your cat scratches. Does it scratch horizontally or vertically? Once you know how the cat scratches, choose a scratching post that you know it’ll enjoy. You’ll be able to find horizontal and vertical scratching posts almost anywhere scratching posts are sold.


Final Thoughts

Cat scratching is entirely normal behavior for your feline pal, so you don’t want to discourage the cat from doing what comes naturally. However, you don’t want the cat to shred everything in your home. Following the tips above will help you curb cat scratching. However, if the tips don’t work for you, you can ask your vet for recommendations or talk to a cat behavioral specialist.

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Featured Image Credit: Melissa Sue, Shutterstock

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