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Why Does My Cat Use Me as a Scratching Post? 5 Possible Reasons

scared cat with his owner

Cats have a natural instinct to scratch, but when your pet cat uses you as a scratching post, it’s cause for concern. After all, having a cat scratching on you is distracting and can be painful if they still have their claws. All cats scratch, including cats with no claws, so let’s get to the bottom of why your cat thinks you’re their personal scratching post.

There are several reasons why cats scratch on people. Here are some of the most common reasons for this behavior:

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5 Possible Reasons Why Your Cat Uses You as a Scratching Post

1. They’re Claiming You as Their Own

white cat on owners shoulder

Your cat may be using you as a scratching post to mark their territory and claim you as their property. Many people are surprised to learn that cats have scent glands in their paws, which allow them to leave their scent behind after kneading and scratching on things. Cats are territorial animals that use their scent glands to tell other animals where their boundaries are as a way to survive.

If your cat doesn’t normally use you as a scratching post and has just started this behavior, they may be feeling stressed or anxious. Maybe something has changed in your home to make your cat feel uneasy, like a new family pet or baby. Your cat could also start scratching on you to feel safer. Again, this typical behavior for territory marking is perfectly normal cat behavior.

How to Remedy the Behavior

To get your cat to stop using you as a scratching post, teach them to get down. While cats are not as easy to train as dogs, they can learn. Whenever they start scratching on your body, immediately say, “No. Get down.”

If your cat has claws, get yourself a pair of nail clippers or a nail grinder so you can trim their claws. While this won’t stop your cat from scratching you, it will help save your legs and clothes.


2. They’re Grooming Themselves

A cat’s nails grow similar to an onion—adding layer upon layer of new growth. Scratching is necessary to shed the outer sheaths of the nails. Maybe you’ve noticed bits of nail sheath on your clothing or the floor after your cat has dug their nails into a scratching post. This indicates that they were successful in helping their nails develop and grow properly.

How to Remedy the Behavior

If you suspect that your cat is using you as a scratching post because they’re doing some routine nail maintenance, jump in and play the role of your cat’s nail tech. Inspect your cat’s nails often and trim them down now and then. A nail grinder is an excellent tool for keeping their nails short because it works quickly and keeps them properly groomed.


3. They’re Doing a Bit of Kitty Yoga

Your cat may be using you as a scratching post because they’re trying to stretch their muscles. When cats dig their claws into something and arch their backs, this flexes their spine while stretching various muscles in the body. It’s like getting in a kitty-style yoga session. This behavior is entirely natural and something cats often do. They’re only trying to use you as their own personal prop.

How to Remedy the Behavior

A good way to curb this behavior is to get a cat tree. If your cat has their own place to scratch and stretch, they’ll be less likely to do it on you. You can find all types of cat trees available, so look for one that suits your cat’s activity level.

If your cat continues to use you as a scratching post or a place to stretch once you have the cat tree in place, physically place him on the cat tree instead. If you do this often enough, they’ll learn that the cat tree is where they’re supposed to scratch and stretch!


4. They’re Bored

woman resting with cat in sofa at home
Image Credit: Yuriy Seleznev, Shutterstock

A bored cat is an animal that lacks proper mental stimulation. Maybe your cat is using you as a scratching post because they’re bored to death. They may approach you when feeling bored and dig their claws into your leg as a way to quell the boredom. Cats need mental stimulation just like people do.

While most cat owners provide their cats with food, water, and shelter, some don’t ensure that their cats are mentally stimulated. Cats have a natural desire to explore and enjoy being challenged. Maybe you’re guilty of not caring for your cat’s mental health, even if you do a great job of caring for them physically.

How to Remedy the Behavior

Pay more attention to your furry friend if you think your cat may be scratching you because of boredom. On top of playing more, get them a challenging cat toy, like a treat-dispensing puzzle toy, that will get those gears working inside their head. If you get this type of toy, fill it with your cat’s favorite treats to encourage them to play with it.


5. They’re Marking Over Another Animal’s Scent

Woman carrying a cat close to her face
Image Credit: JensEnemark, Pixabay

Your cat might be scratching you as a way to cover another animal’s scent through the scent glands on his paws. If you do have another cat or a dog, your cat could be trying to establish dominance over the other pet by placing their scent on top of the existing one.

Your cat could also be trying to mask the scent of something they smell on your clothes that makes them feel uneasy. For example, if you regularly stop and pet the neighbor’s dog when you’re out walking, the dog’s scent is likely on your body and clothes. Your cat may be scratching you simply because they want to cover the dog’s scent with their own. This makes them safer and more comfortable.

How to Remedy the Behavior

If you have another pet other than your cat, spend more personal time with your cat to see if they are using you as a scratching post for this reason. If you suspect you’re bringing in threatening scents from outside, there’s not much you can do other than change your clothes when you get home. Another more practical idea is to get your cat a new scratching post and place it near your favorite chair. With any luck, your cat will head to their new scratching post instead of your leg when they get the desire to scratch.

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How to Get Your Cat to Use a Scratching Post

black and white cat scratching on hepper hi lo scratcher

 

If you discover that your cat won’t use their new scratching post, there are some ways to encourage them to use it. First, think about where the scratching post is placed. Your cat probably won’t use it if it’s tucked away in a dark, dusty basement or a spare bedroom. Cats like to scratch and leave their scent on things in parts of the home that are populated by people and other pets.

Another way to get your cat to use a scratching post is to make it more fun. Sometimes, all it takes is attaching a fun and exciting cat toy to the post. You can also place a few treats on the base of the scratching post. Another idea is to put your cat’s food bowl near the scratching post so he knows the area is his. Don’t forget to reward your cat with praise and a tasty treat when you see them use the post.

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Conclusion

There are several reasons why cats may use their humans as scratching posts. Just remember that your cat has a natural instinct for scratching. They aren’t scratching you to anger or hurt you. They’re only doing what comes naturally to them.

Hopefully, you’ll figure out what is causing your cat to use you as a scratching post so you can take action to stop the behavior and save your poor legs!


Featured Image Credit: Jaromir Chalabala, Shutterstock

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