Why Do Cats Scratch? Plus Tips To Save Your Furniture

Whether it’s the couch, the curtains, or the door frame, don’t be surprised when your cat turns your house into their favorite scratching post. No one appreciates walking into a room and finding new rips and tears in the furniture, but scratching is something all cats need to do. It’s a natural and instinctual behavior that serves several important purposes. Before you reprimand kitty for sticking their claws where they don’t belong, let’s learn about all the reasons why cats scratch. Only then can we work on protecting our stuff from those kitty claws.

Why Do Cats Scratch?

To Mark Their Territory

cats scratch

Your name might be on the mortgage, but in your cat’s mind, your house is their house. Your cat considers your carpet, the furniture, the walls, basically everything, to be part of their territory. And if your cat is allowed to explore outside, that territory is probably a lot larger than you think. 

Whether they’re outside or inside, cats use their claws to mark their territory. Not only do scratch marks send a clear visual message, scent glands in your kitty’s paws also leave behind an invisible marker. You can’t tell it’s there, but other animals will pick up on your cat’s scent and know what’s going on. 

An outside cat might mark a tree or fence post to tell other animals to stay away. And in your house, they do the same with your furniture, carpet, or whatever else they can get a good grip on.

To Stretch Their Muscles

The physical act of scratching is a great way for cats to stretch the muscles in their paws, legs, and even their backs. Consider it a type of feline Pilates that can unfortunately be rather destructive. 

Stretching often can help prevent muscle injuries and pain. Cats also like to do it for the simple reason that it feels good. They scratch and stretch when they wake up from a good cat nap, before they lay down, and basically any other time during the day.

cats scratch

Because They’re Excited

Besides getting in a healthy stretch, cats scratch because it’s a good way to expend energy. When they get extra excited, you might notice your cat start scratching whatever is closest. Behaviorists believe scratching is a cat’s way of letting out excited energy.

A good example of this is when an inside kitty sees a bird or squirrel out the window. They want to chase it down, but they know they can’t. Instead, they might vocalize their excitement or start scratching. Cats also do this when their favorite humans come home. They see you walk through the door and head right to their favorite scratching spot.

To Take Care of Their Claws

One of the most important reasons why cats scratch is to take care of their claws. Like human fingernails, cat claws are always growing. They need to scratch to remove the claw’s dull outer husk. Without scratching, their claws would become overgrown and painful. 

It’s a common misconception that cats scratch as a way to sharpen their claws. According to the ASPCA, scratching doesn’t actually sharpen the claws in the same way you would sharpen a knife. All it does is remove the duller outer surface of the claw to reveal a new, sharper claw underneath. Either way, it’s an essential part of feline grooming.

Tips For Saving Your Furniture

While cats need to scratch for their health and happiness, you don’t need to sacrifice your furniture. There are ways for your cat to do all the scratching she needs without destroying your expensive possessions. 

Here are some tips.

Get a Good Scratching Post

Cats scratch no matter what, so you need to provide your feline family with appropriate places to act on that instinct. Scratching posts are the obvious answer, but don’t expect your cat to love the first scratching post you bring home.

As we all know, felines can be finicky creatures. Some cats prefer to scratch vertical surfaces, and others only scratch something if it’s horizontal. Some cats like to feel their claws dig into soft fabric, and others are only satisfied with scratching harder surfaces. Offer your cat a few different kind of scratchers to find what they like.

cats scratch

Choose the Right Location

If you want your cat to continue to use the scratching posts, the posts have to be placed in the perfect spots. Put them where you think your cat wants them, not where you want them. If your kitty likes to scratch after a good nap, put their new post next to their favorite sleep spot. Make sure your cat never has to travel far to get in a good scratch.

Discourage Inappropriate Scratching Without Punishment

Punishing your cat for scratching your sofa won’t help your situation. If you scold your cat after you come home to find new tear marks, your cat will have no idea why they’re in trouble. They’ll be confused, and probably scared, by your negative attitude. 

The Humane Society says the only way to discourage a cat from scratching a particular place is to catch them in the act. When you see your cat digging their claws into the side of your sofa, get their attention by clapping your hands, stomping your feet, or making some other kind of loud sound that will get them to stop.

If you’re consistent with this and redirect your cat to an appropriate scratching post, your message will eventually sink in.

Take care of your cat’s claws.

No matter how frustrating it is to find new rips in your expensive furniture, it is never okay to declaw a cat. Declawing a cat isn’t the same as removing a fingernail. Claws are actually an extension of a cat’s toes, and declawing is the equivalent of amputating the tips of your fingers. In most cases, it leads to lifelong pain and subsequent behavior issues. There’s a reason why declawing cats is illegal in several areas.

Instead of declawing, get in the habit of trimming your cat’s nails. You can do it yourself or take your cat to a professional groomer. If you’re still having trouble, there are claw caps that many cat owners find helpful.

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