3 Reasons for Cat Scratching

Find out why your cat feels compelled to claw at scratchers, posts (and sofas and pants ...).

People often say their cats scratch to sharpen their claws, and it is true that cats scratch to remove the dead outer layer of their claws but there are other reasons your cat needs to scratch.

1. Marking Cats’ Territory
Whether your cat scratches on a strategically placed scratching post or the arm of your sofa, your cat might be marking and claiming his territory.

Cats have scent glands in their paws so when they scratch a surface they leave their scent. This method of communication lets other cats know this is their territory. Your cat most likely will choose a few favorite places in the home to scratch and keep returning to the same places. 

2. Stretching and Flexing
Your cat scratches to get a good stretch and also to flex her paws and claws. Your cat might prefer to scratch on vertical or horizontal surfaces so it is important to provide enticing scratching posts that satisfy both types of scratching.

Eddie is a vertical scratcher.  He loves to stretch up and scratch away on the Cat Power Tower and the top of an Imperial Cat scratcher we have placed in the living room.  Annie prefers to scratch on a horizontal surface.  I have a Kong scratcher in my office where Annie runs to scratch whenever she is excited.

3. Relieving Frustration or Excitement
When Paul comes home from work, our cat Annie greets him at the door and then darts into the office to scratch away her excitement. Sometimes after the cats have been playing a good game of chase through the house, they will each go to their favorite scratcher and give it all they’ve got.

Scratching Is Instinctive Behavior
Remember: scratching is an instinctive behavior. Instead of discouraging your cat from scratching, redirect your cat to scratch to surfaces you want them to scratch. 

Place posts around your house near spots you don’t want your cat to scratch to help direct your cat to the right place.  If your cat is scratching the arm of your sofa, place a scratching post beside the sofa to encourage your cat to scratch the post and not the sofa.  Rubbing a little catnip on the scratcher also can entice your cat to start using a new scratcher.

I worried that it would be difficult to train the kittens to scratch on the appropriate surfaces but they took to the provided scratchers without any guidance. Perhaps because I left these scratching posts in place after we lost Gracey, so they knew from her scent that this was a good place to scratch. I for one am grateful because we had a shredded sofa a few years ago before I learned more about cat behavior and knew how to redirect Gracey to scratch were we wanted her to scratch.

Big Cats Scratch, Too!
Wild cats also scratch on trees to mark their territory. Tigers mark their territory by scratching on tree trunks and will sometimes scratch the ground to leave their mark as they patrol their range. This type of marking lets other tigers know that this area is occupied.

Last winter, we are fairly certain we had a bobcat visit our yard. We found a pugmark that measured the appropriate size for a bobcat, some scat and some deep scratches on a tree at the end of our property.  This winter, I will be on the lookout to see if she returns.

Read On
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