Cats and Scratching: A Match Made in Heaven?

Cat ownership offers plenty of little joys: you get a cute and entertaining snuggle buddy and playmate whose behavior is endlessly fascinating, with the added bonus of having a dedicated pest control specialist living in your home.

But if your pet starts scratching up your furniture, you might find yourself thinking that cat ownership isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. After all, repairing and replacing ruined chairs and sofas can get expensive in a hurry.

So why does your cat scratch things around the house? Does she do it to spite you when she’s upset about you changing her food or not petting her when she wants attention? Not hardly. Read on to discover the real reason behind why cats love to scratch so much.

Why Cats Scratch

Cats have no idea how much your curtains cost; they just know that they want to scratch something. And there are several reasons why cats scratch.

  • First, scratching helps your feline friend keep his or her claws nice and sharp. When cats scratch, it helps them remove the dead outer layer of their claws.
  • Cats also scratch to mark their territory, both visually and with scent. Cats actually have scent glands in their paw pads, and if your cat spends time outdoors, his or her favorite scratching sites can serve as warning signs to other cats that might be considering encroaching on your cat’s domain.
  • As you may have noticed, cats like to stretch when they scratch things. Sinking their claws into a nicely textured surface lets them get a nice, full stretch through their front legs, shoulders, and midsection.
  • Some cats also like to scratch when they’re happy or excited. Regardless of the reason, scratching is an innate part of natural feline behavior.

You Can’t Make Your Cat Stop Scratching

Unfortunately for frustrated cat owners, there’s no humane way to get a cat to stop scratching. But there are plenty of effective measures that can redirect scratching behavior to a more appropriate setting.

  • First, be sure to provide an alternative outlet for your cat’s scratching urges. If your cat doesn’t have a scratching post or something similar, then it’s really no wonder that your furniture is taking a beating.

Scratching posts should be at least as tall as the cat is long, and should provide prone and upright scratching options.

  • Second, put your cat’s scratching posts in areas where the cat likes to spend time. If acceptable options are too far out of reach, then you’ll have a difficult time persuading your cat to modify its habits.
  • Third, make undesirable scratching areas as unappealing as possible for your cat. You can do this by sticking double-sided tape or aluminum foil to chair legs, or by applying citrus scents or perfume to areas where they won’t damage the furniture.
  • Fourth, reward your pet for scratching where intended with treats, praise, or affection. Your cat will come to associate scratching his or her scratching post with positive reinforcement.

If you want to punish your cat for scratching inappropriate objects, loud noises and spray bottles can be very effective tools. Just make sure you catch and punish them in the act. If you mete out punishment after the fact, the cat won’t connect the punishment to the scratching behavior, and may scratch more out of confusion or frustration.

Don’t Declaw Your Cat

Declawing is one possible solution for problem scratching, but it’s not one that we’d recommend. Your cat’s claws serve many purposes: they help her balance, climb, and defend herself from other animals.

Even if yours is an indoor cat, there’s always the chance that she might make a break for the great outdoors. While outside, a declawed cat is extremely vulnerable to attack.

The declawing process can also be associated with complications such as permanent nerve damage, scar tissue formation, bone chips, and difficulty walking.

Healthy Cats Have Healthy Claws

Your cat’s scratching doesn’t have to be a source of costly frustration. You just have to provide acceptable alternatives and coach for desirable behavior. With a little effort, you can help your cat exercise her claws and her instincts without ruining your furniture, and that’s a win-win situation for all parties involved.