What Is Cat Scratch?

Disclaimer: The information presented below is for general informational & educational purposes only. Always consult with animal professionals in case of specific concerns.

In this post, we’ll explore the science behind cat scratching and reveal important facts about cat scratch disease, including potential symptoms, transmission risks and preventative steps you can take to reduce your chances of infection.

If you’ve ever owned a cat, you’ve likely noticed their toys strewn about the house or felt the prick of their playful paws. But have you ever noticed markings on your furniture or felt a sudden scratch while petting them and wondered, “what is cat scratch?” It’s almost inevitable that at some point during cat ownership, you’ll encounter some minor scratches from play or grooming gone awry. Whether you’ve just adopted a new furry friend or have had cats for years, this common occurrence often leaves pet parents puzzled about the cause and concern for their cat’s well-being. In this post, we’ll explore what cat scratch is, why cats scratch, typical scratching behavior and body language, factors that influence scratching, and tips for reducing unwanted scratching in your home.

What Is Cat Scratch?

Cat Scratch Disease (CSD), often simply referred to as “Cat Scratch,” is a bacterial infection that can occur when a person is scratched or bitten by a cat. It is caused by the bacterium Bartonella henselae, and while it is generally not serious, it can pose a higher risk to individuals with weakened immune systems. Symptoms often include fever, fatigue, and swollen lymph nodes. In most cases, the disease resolves on its own without treatment, but in severe instances, antibiotics may be required.

Why Do Cats Scratch?

Cats scratch for a variety of reasons, which are essential to their well-being:

  • Marking Territory: Cats have scent glands in their paws which release pheromones when they scratch. This leaves a visual mark as well as a scent to communicate their presence to other cats. 
  • Exercise: Scratching helps cats to stretch their muscles and keep their bodies fit. It’s a whole body workout for them. 
  • Claw Health: Scratching helps cats to shed the outer layer of their claws, keeping them sharp and healthy, and preventing overgrowth.
  • Stress Relief: Cats often scratch when they’re excited, frustrated or anxious. It’s one of their ways to de-stress and express emotions.

Remember, while scratching is a normal behavior for cats, it’s important to provide them with appropriate outlets like scratching posts to prevent damage to furniture or risk of infection like Cat Scratch Disease.

Lucy and the monster scratching post | Lucy looks so tiny ag… | Flickr

How Can I Prevent My Cat From Scratching Furniture?

Preventing cats from scratching furniture requires providing suitable alternatives, and then redirecting your cat’s attention to these. Here are a few strategies to consider:

Provide Scratching Posts: Scratching posts offer a safe and appropriate outlet for your cat’s scratching instincts. Choose sturdy, tall posts that allow your cat to fully stretch its body. Try different materials like sisal, cardboard, or carpet to find your cat’s preference.

Use Deterrents: Make your furniture less appealing by using deterrents like double-sided tape, aluminum foil, or a product like a cat scratch deterrent spray. These make the surface of your furniture unattractive to your cat.

Training: Train your cat to understand that scratching furniture is unacceptable. Whenever you catch them in the act, redirect them to their scratching post. You can also reward your cat with treats when they use the post, reinforcing the behavior.

Regular Claw Trimming: Regularly trimming your cat’s nails can minimize the damage caused by scratching. Be sure to use a special cat nail trimmer and exercise caution to avoid cutting into the quick.

Use Furniture Covers: Protective covers can prevent scratching damage and can easily be removed and washed.

Feliway Spray: This is a synthetic copy of the feline facial pheromone used by cats to mark their territory as safe and secure. Spraying this on furniture can discourage scratching.

Remember, each cat is different, and what works for one may not work for another. It’s worth trying a combination of these methods to find what best suits your kitty.

Should I Declaw My Cat To Prevent Scratching?

Declawing a cat is a controversial and invasive procedure that involves the amputation of the last bone of each toe in a cat’s paw. It is generally discouraged by many veterinarians, animal welfare organizations, and ethical guidelines because of the potential negative consequences and impact on the cat’s well-being. Here are some considerations:

  • Pain and Discomfort: Declawing is a painful procedure that involves the removal of the claws and part of the toe bone. Cats may experience pain during and after the surgery.
  • Behavioral Changes: Declawed cats may exhibit changes in behavior, such as increased aggression, reluctance to use the litter box, or an aversion to being touched.
  • Balance and Mobility Issues: Cats rely on their claws for balance and stability. Declawed cats may experience difficulties with walking and climbing.
  • Defenselessness: Cats use their claws for self-defense. Declawed cats may feel defenseless and may resort to biting as their primary means of protection.
  • Possible Long-Term Consequences: Declawing can lead to long-term complications, including chronic pain, arthritis, and altered gait.

Are There Products To Protect Furniture From Cat Scratching?

Yes, there are numerous products available in the market to protect your furniture from cat scratching. These include:

  • Furniture Covers: These are designed to protect your furniture from scratches and can be easily removed and washed. They are typically made from durable materials that can withstand your cat’s claws.
  • Scratch Guards: These are transparent protectors that you can stick onto the surfaces of your furniture where your cat tends to scratch. They are usually adhesive and do not damage your furniture.
  • Anti-Scratch Tapes: These tapes are designed to deter your cat from scratching. They have a sticky surface that cats dislike, discouraging them from scratching the area.

Remember, while these products can be an effective solution, training your cat to use a scratching post is still the most beneficial method for both your cat and your furniture.

Should I Punish My Cat For Scratching Furniture?

While it may be frustrating to find your furniture damaged by your cat’s scratching, it’s important to remember that punishment is not an effective solution. Cats do not understand the concept of punishment and may associate the negative experience with you, rather than with their unwanted behavior. Instead, focus on encouraging the use of a scratching post and providing positive reinforcement when your cat uses it. This approach fosters trust and understanding, promoting a stronger bond between you and your feline friend.

What Are Some Signs That My Cat May Need A Scratching Post?

There are a number of signs that your cat may need a scratching post. Paying attention to these signs will help ensure your cat is happy, healthy, and the relationship between you and your feline friend remains strong. Here are some indications to look out for:

Furniture Damage: If your cat has been scratching your furniture, it’s a clear sign that a scratching post is needed. This will help to redirect their natural scratching behavior to a more appropriate outlet.

Scratching After Waking Up: Cats often have a tendency to scratch when they first wake up. If you notice this behavior, placing a scratching post near your cat’s sleeping area can be beneficial.

Increased Agitation: If your cat seems more agitated or restless than usual, they may be in need of a scratching post. Scratching helps cats relieve stress and boredom.

Lack of Exercise: Cats are natural hunters and need physical activity. If your cat seems lethargic or overweight, scratching posts can provide the needed exercise and stimulation.

Lack of Practical Surfaces: If you live in an environment that doesn’t have many surfaces suitable for scratching, such as an apartment, your cat may need a scratching post to satisfy their natural instinct.

Physical Signs: Look for physical signs on your cat such as overgrown or sharp claws, as these are indications that your cat needs to scratch.

Boredom: If your cat is spending a lot of time alone without much to do, a scratching post can provide much-needed entertainment. 

How Can I Train My Cat To Use A Scratching Post?

Training your cat to use a scratching post involves a mix of patience, encouragement, and positive reinforcement. Here are some steps to follow:

  • Choose the Right Post: Find a scratching post that is tall enough for your cat to fully stretch its body, and sturdy enough that it doesn’t wobble when used. Cats often prefer sisal fabric, but testing out different materials can help you find your cat’s preference.
  • Placement Matters: Place the scratching post near the area where your cat has been scratching. Cats often scratch after waking from a nap, so consider placing a post near your cat’s sleeping area as well.
  • Introduce Your Cat to the Post: Bring your cat to the post and encourage exploration. You can do this by rubbing some catnip on the post or hanging toys from the top to make it more enticing.
  • Lead by Example: Use your own fingers to mimic a scratching motion on the post, showing your cat what to do. Cats are observant and often learn through imitation.
  • Positive Reinforcement: Whenever your cat uses the post, reward them with a treat or praise. This will associate the action of scratching the post with a positive outcome.
  • Discourage Unwanted Scratching: If your cat scratches an inappropriate object, promptly interrupt them and move them to the post. Consistency is key.
  • Don’t Force Your Cat: Never force your cat’s paws onto the post. This can create negative associations with the post and make training more difficult.

What Should I Do If My Cat Continues To Scratch Furniture Despite Having A Scratching Post?

If your cat continues to scratch furniture despite having a scratching post, there are several steps you can take to address this issue:

  • Re-evaluate the Post: Consider if the scratching post fits your cat’s preferences. Does it wobble, is it tall enough, and does it have the right material? If not, you might need to replace it.
  • Multiple Posts: Sometimes, one scratching post isn’t enough. Consider adding more posts in different areas of your home.
  • Reposition the Post: Try moving the post closer to the furniture your cat has been scratching. This will encourage them to use the post instead.
  • Use Deterrents: Consider applying some cat-friendly deterrents to your furniture. These can be in the form of sticky tapes, sprays, or even aluminum foil.
  • Cover Furniture: Temporarily cover the scratched furniture with a sheet or blanket. This can deter your cat from scratching it further while they grow accustomed to using the post.
  • Praise and Reward: Continue to encourage your cat when they use the post. Reward them with cat treats or praise.

Read more: How To Save Your Leather From Cat Scratches?


In conclusion, it is clear that cat scratch is a common and potentially dangerous health issue for both cats and humans. Through understanding the causes, symptoms, and treatment of cat scratch, we can take necessary precautions to prevent infection and ensure the wellbeing of our feline companions. Whether you are a cat owner or simply someone interested in learning more about this topic, I hope this blog post has provided valuable insight and raised awareness about the importance of proper cat care. Remember to always seek medical attention if you experience any concerning symptoms after being scratched by a cat, and to regularly trim your cat’s nails to reduce the risk of scratches. Let’s work together to keep our furry friends healthy and safe from any potential harm.