Why Does My Cat Scratch?

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

Why does a cat choose to scratch at various objects around the house? Does this behavior serve a purpose, or is it merely a whimsical pastime for our whiskered friends?

Cats are fascinating and often mysterious companions whose behaviors can both delight and perplex their human caretakers. One common behavior that tends to baffle and sometimes frustrate cat owners is their instinctual need to scratch. This document delves into the answer of ‘why does my cat scratch?‘, exploring the various reasons ranging from territory marking and claw maintenance to stretching and stress relief. Understanding the underlying motivations for scratching can help cat owners provide appropriate outlets for this natural behavior, ensuring a happy coexistence between human and feline.

Why Does My Cat Scratch Furniture And Other Surfaces?

Understanding why cats scratch furniture and surfaces is crucial for cat owners. Here is a comprehensive list of reasons:

  • Territorial Behavior: Your cat uses scratching as a way to claim its space. This behavior is a means of communicating to other cats about their presence.
  • Nail Health: Regular scratching helps cats shed the outer nail layer, keeping their claws sharp and clean.
  • Stretching Muscles: Cats love a good stretch. Scratching allows them to stretch and strengthen their body, especially the muscles of their paws, legs, and back.
  • Stress Management: Just like humans, cats can experience stress and anxiety. Scratching is a natural way for them to relieve stress and feel more relaxed.
  • Attention Seeking: If your cat scratches to get your attention, it might have learned that this behavior is rewarded with interaction or play.
  • Instinctual Drive: Cats are hardwired to scratch. It’s a behavior that’s ingrained in them, much like hunting and grooming.

By recognizing these motivating factors, cat owners can better understand their feline friends and find ways to redirect their scratching to more appropriate outlets.

HD wallpaper: himalayan cat scratching on post, british shorthair,  kratzbaum | Wallpaper Flare

Should I Declaw My Cat To Prevent Scratching?

Declawing your cat may seem like a straightforward solution to prevent scratching, but it is a highly controversial procedure that is widely discouraged by veterinarians and animal welfare organizations. Declawing is not merely a nail trim but a surgical procedure that amputates the last bone of each toe from which the claw grows. This can lead to long-term physical problems, such as shaking paws, difficulty walking, and behavioral issues due to the inability to express natural scratching instincts. Instead of declawing, owners should focus on humane alternatives that protect both their furniture and their cat’s wellbeing. Patience, appropriate training, and providing suitable scratching surfaces can effectively manage scratching behavior without resorting to such an extreme measure.

Why Does My Cat Scratch After Using The Litter Box?

Cats exhibit a variety of behaviors linked to their instinctual habits, and scratching after using the litter box is one such commonly observed behavior. If you’ve ever puzzled over this particular activity, here are some potential reasons:

Covering Their Tracks: Cats naturally strive to cover their waste after elimination to hide their scent from predators and other cats, which is a survival mechanism.

Cleanliness: Scratching around the litter box can be a sign of your cat’s desire for cleanliness, as they may be trying to clear away debris to create a tidy space for future use.

Marking Territory: Similar to scratching furniture, scratching in and around the litter box can help cats mark their territory with scent glands located in their paws.

Communication: In multi-cat households, this scratching can serve as a signal to other cats about the use of the litter box.

Instinctive Behavior: Even if cats are domesticated, they retain instinctive behaviors, and this scratching ritual is one deeply rooted in their natural inclinations.

Dislike for the Litter Box Location: Sometimes excessive scratching post-elimination can indicate a cat’s dissatisfaction with the placement of the litter box.

Type of Litter Material: A cat’s response to the litter may vary; some may not like the feel or smell of certain types of litter and will scratch more if they are uncomfortable. 

Understanding these behaviors can help cat owners better accommodate their feline friends’ needs and ensure a harmonious living situation for all.

Is There A Difference Between Scratching And Kneading?

Yes, there is a distinct difference between a cat’s scratching and kneading behaviors, though they both involve the use of their paws. Scratching is an activity where a cat drags its claws across a surface, which is often driven by the reasons mentioned above, such as territory marking and maintaining nail health. Kneading, on the other hand, is a gentler, rhythmic pressing motion that cats make with their paws, alternately pushing them in and out against a soft surface like a pillow, blanket, or their owner’s lap. This comforting behavior stems from kittenhood when they kneaded their mother’s belly to stimulate milk flow. In adult cats, kneading is typically associated with feelings of contentment and affection, and it may also be accompanied by purring. It’s a sign that your cat is relaxed and happy, and although it might be slightly uncomfortable if they knead on you with their sharp claws, it’s their way of showing love and trust.

How Can I Prevent My Cat From Scratching Furniture?

To prevent your cat from scratching furniture, consider the following strategies:

  • Provide Scratching Posts and Pads: Offer various scratching surfaces, such as posts, pads, and boards, in multiple locations around your home.
  • Use Feline Pheromone Products: These can help to soothe your cat and reduce the stress-related scratching.
  • Regular Nail Trimming: Keeping your cat’s nails trimmed can lessen the damage to furniture.
  • Furniture Protectors: Use scratch guards and furniture tape on favored scratching areas to deter your cat.
  • Double-Sided Tape: Cats dislike the sticky feeling on their paws, so applying this to furniture can be a deterrent.
  • Attractive Alternatives: Make the scratching posts more appealing by using catnip or toys.
  • Positive Reinforcement: Reward your cat for using scratching posts with treats or praise.
  • Discourage Unwanted Scratching: Use a spray bottle with water or make a loud noise when your cat begins to scratch inappropriately.
  • Ensure Plenty of Exercise: Engage your cat in regular play to reduce excess energy and stress that might lead to scratching.
  • Furniture Placement: Sometimes, rearranging furniture can break the habit of scratching a particular object.
  • Consult a Veterinarian: If scratching persists, consult a vet to rule out any underlying medical issues or to seek further behavioral advice.

Remember, patience and consistency are key when redirecting your cat’s scratching habits.

How Can I Choose The Right Scratching Post For My Cat?

When selecting the perfect scratching post for your feline friend, consider various factors to ensure it meets their needs and preferences. Here’s a helpful list:

  • Height and Stability: Choose a post that is tall enough for your cat to fully extend their body, offering a satisfying scratch. The post should also be sturdy to avoid tipping over.
  • Material Variety: Cats have individual preferences, so consider scratching posts made of different materials like sisal rope, corrugated cardboard, or carpet.
  • Multiple Styles: Offer both vertical and horizontal options, as some cats prefer to scratch in different orientations.
  • Location: Place scratching posts near your cat’s favorite resting spots, as they often like to stretch and scratch upon waking.
  • Visual Appeal: While your cat’s preference is paramount, consider how the scratching post looks in your home – after all, you’ll be looking at it every day.
  • Incorporate Play: Choose posts with built-in toys or hanging objects to encourage playful scratching.

By closely observing your cat’s behavior, you can tailor your scratching post selection to their specific habits, which in turn will help protect your furniture and keep your cat happy.

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


In conclusion, understanding why does cats scratch as a natural and essential behavior – it helps them to keep their claws sharp, mark their territory with visual signs and scent glands in their paws, stretch their bodies and flex their feet and claws. Understanding this instinctual activity is crucial for cat owners, who can provide appropriate scratching posts and pads to satisfy their cats’ needs while protecting their furniture. Regular nail trims can also lessen the damage to household items. Through empathy and proactive care, owners can ensure that their feline friends enjoy a fulfilling environment that caters to their inherent scratching instincts.