Why Do Cats Scratch?

By Sarah Jeanne Terry

They do it outside, they do it inside, they do it on your favorite piece of furniture, but what exactly is it that makes our cats scratch?

Why Do Cats Scratch?
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One of the biggest complaints about welcoming a new cat into your home is that they scratch inconvenient things. And plenty of cat owners want to figure out how to stop the behavior. But before we can stop it, we have to understand it.

While scratching may seem like a pointless and inconvenient behavior, there are actually many reasons that cats scratch. It's totally normal and natural, and that's important to remember. These are just some of the reasons cats love to scratch.

Why Do Cats Scratch?
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It's instinct.

Even though they sometimes seem smarter than us, cats are still animals. And animals have certain instincts. Cats were made with scratching claws, so of course, they want to use them. And as the proud parent of a fabulous feline, it's just something you have to accept. Training your cat to scratch where you want will work best if you appreciate the power of their natural instincts.

Scratching marks their territory.

One of the main reasons for cats to scratch, instinctually, is that it marks their territory. Out in the wild, cats mark trees and other spots to show other cats, "hey, this is my domain." And in your house, they're doing the same thing. And if they don't have a suitable alternative, your favorite credenza looks a lot like a tree. Plus, cat paws contain pheromones that they leave behind, so cats can mark their space with a smell, too.

It's good for their claws.

Cat nails are constantly growing, so cats need a way to get rid of the old nail to make way for the new. Scratching helps wear down the dead part of the nail, which keeps their nails healthy. Although watch out, because scratching doesn't necessarily dull your cat's nails. In fact, it keeps them nice and sharp.

They're excited.

According to the Humane Society, cats also scratch because they're excited. Maybe you just got home from work and your pet's super excited to see you. Or maybe something exciting is going on at the house. To them, scratching might be an expression of joy. And if they scratch in the right spot, it can be happy for everyone.

Scratching stretches cats out and relieves stress.

Yeah, it's basically kitty yoga. The motions stretch out their backs and shoulders, and as with humans, the physical exertion helps calm them and relieve stress. Ever feel like you need to punch something after a long day? So does your feline friend!

Your cat's scratching is very normal and not something they're ever going to stop.

Why Do Cats Scratch?
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The best way to protect your furniture and your house is to find an appropriate scratching post or toy, where your kitty can go crazy. Here are a few tips, based on an online survey of cat owners:

  • Put the post in a place where your cats frequently hang out. Putting it out of the way means they might not see it.
  • Based on a survey, cats seem to like rope scratching posts best.
  • Cats enjoy both a simple, single post and more elaborate cat trees.
  • Cats like tall posts, at least 3-feet or taller.

Giving your cat a fun way to scratch that doesn't upset should be best for everyone involved. Because our animals will always be happiest when we let them express a little of their wild side.

Are you interested in learning more about what you're reading? Then scroll through this article about what it means when your pet doesn't remember you. Also, like us on Facebook and join our newsletter to learn more about your pet's behavior.