Why Do Cat's Scratch? | PetFirst
Pet Care & Health

Why Do Cat’s Scratch?

by PetFirst Pet Insurance
2 years ago

If you’re a long-time cat owner or if you’re a first-time cat owner, you may wonder why do cats scratch? Do they scratch your furniture because they are somehow “angry” with you? Do they claw the carpet or your curtains because they’re bored? Maybe, but probably not.

Cats scratch because it’s an instinctual behavior. Sure, a cat may scratch inappropriate items like the curtains or the sofa, but they can be trained to scratch items that are cat-friendly and that won’t destroy your belongings.

Why Do Cats Scratch?

Before you can redirect your cat’s scratching, you should understand why they do it.

Scratching is natural behavior. If you want to protect your belongings, remember cats claw up your belongings, not because he is mad or out of spite, but because it’s instinct.

Cats scratch because they cannot stop themselves. You can channel the scratching from the furniture to a scratching post. Yes, cats can be trained!

  1. Cats scratch as a form of exercise. When they scratch, they stretch. When your cat stretches, he is pulling, and working his muscles. Scratching is his form of a home gym workout and kitty yoga.
  2. Cats scratch to mark their territory. If you have more than one cat in the house or if you’ve recently introduced a new cat, your first cat may be scratching areas she didn’t scratch previously. She is doing that to assert to the new cat that, “This is my territory. Stay away.” When a cat scratches, she secretes a special odor from scent glands in her paws and that scent stays on the item she has scratched. A new cat, or other change in the home, may lead to your cat “marking her territory” through scratching.
  3. Cats scratch because it just feels good. Your cat loves the feel of the material beneath her claws, the feeling of the material on his paws. It is a way cats take joy in their daily life – the tactile feeling of scratching.

Don’t punish a cat for scratching

Your cat will not understand physical punishment. Don’t tap her on the nose or butt with a paper or your hands. Don’t holler. Don’t shake a bottle of pennies or spray her in the face with a spray bottle. Cats don’t understand punishment and will not equate what you’re doing with her scratching. You will not teach your cat not to scratch when you punish her, in fact you may make the situation worse.

What your punishment for scratching may do is lead to bigger behavior issues like litter box avoidance. She may even begin to avoid you because of the punishments you’re meting out that she simply doesn’t understand.

Here are ways to redirect your cat’s scratching

In our house, we have a wooden kitchen chair that is more than twenty years old. For whatever reason, every cat we have ever owned has scratched that particular chair and because of that we have taken that beaten and scratched up chair with us every time we have moved. Although our cats do scratch their scratching posts, this chair has been, and remains a popular scratching post for them.

If you don’t have a chair your cats can scratch, here are other ways to redirect the scratching.

  1. If he’s scratching the same area on the couch, put a scratching post next to the couch. When your cat starts to scratch the couch, take his paws and place them on the scratching post. You’re showing your cat you don’t want him to scratch the couch and offering him an alternative.
  2. Sprinkle some catnip on a scratching post or cat tree that you’d like the cat to scratch. Once you’ve sprinkled the catnip, or have put their favorite treat on the cat tree or by the scratching post, place their paws on the post to show this, too, is an appropriate place to scratch.
  3. Reward her with praise, pets and treats when she scratches the scratching post. Let her know she’s doing what you want her to do by your praise. Cats crave praise and attention just as dogs do.
  4. Incorporate the scratching post or cat tree with a game. Let her chase a laser pointer to the tree. Grab a feather toy or another toy she likes and place that in or near the scratching post and play with her there.

When choosing a scratching post, you may want to offer a variety.

Not all cats will want to scratch a carpet covered scratching post, nor will they all want to scratch a vertical post.

  1. Provide vertical scratching posts.
  2. Provide scratching posts of various materials: corrugated cardboard, sisal rope, carpet, sandpaper. Remember, cats are tactile and one material may feel better and give her the pleasurable feeling from scratching she is seeking.
  3. Provide horizontal scratching posts.
  4. Scatter scratching posts throughout the house, mainly in those areas where your cats have been scratching that you want to redirect their attention from.
  5. Feed your cats next to the new scratching posts so they equate dinner with scratching post – two pleasurable experiences.

When you’re playing with your cat and working with her to get her to scratch on a scratching post you’re also helping to keep her safe and happy. An obese cat is one who is prone to other health issues that may require more frequent veterinarian visits. If you have cat health insurance you can rest easy that your cat can receive the care she needs, but you may be able to avoid vet visits by keeping your cat healthy and active. Get a quote today. 

Robbi Hess is a full-time pet blogger and multi-published author. She shares her life with a diva Poodle, a goofy Goldendoodle, two Devon Rex, a senior ginger kitty and three reptiles!

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