Whether your cats scratch something that's theirs or something that’s yours (like your favorite piece of furniture)… chances are your cats love scratching! Cats have a natural instinct to scratch. Not only is it part of their DNA, but it is also good for their health.
Unfortunately, scratching furniture is often the reason that people are hesitant to adopt a cat, relinquish a cat they already have, or declaw. Understanding why cats like to scratch can help us have more compassion when they do scratch something they shouldn't. It can also help us learn how to redirect and relocate cat scratching to cat-friendly surfaces rather than your furniture.
Why do cats like to scratch furniture? Here are 5 common causes:
1. To Stretch and Exercise
Standing on their hind legs, stretching, and extending and retracting their claws allows cats to exercise. They are stretching and strengthening the tiny muscles, tendons, and joints in their toes, feet, legs, shoulders, and back. Bella, my orange tabby, was constantly using the loveseat to stretch and scratch. Now, she absolutely loves her rectangular scratching pad right next to it, which is such a relief.
2. To Remove the Dead Outer Layer of Nail
Cats love textured surfaces. Scratching something rough allows cats to remove the dull, dead outer surface of their nails to make way for new, healthy nails to grow. By giving themselves a manicure, cats are improving their hygiene.
3. To Mark their Territory Visually
In the wild, cats scratch logs and trees to claim their territory. Claw marks create a visual signpost that a cat has claimed the area.
4. To Mark their Territory with Scent
Did you know cats have scent glands between the pads in their paws? When cats scratch, they leave their scent behind, another way of marking their territory. This scent is undetectable to humans but very obvious to other cats.
5. To Release Energy and Anxiety
Like us, cats can release excitement, energy, stress, and anxiety through activity. Scratching is a form of stress release. When I open the door, Bella runs to her cornerstone scratcher and scratches out of excitement. I then pick her up and give her plenty of praise.
Scratching is a natural and healthy part of everyday cat life. In the wild, cats have all sorts of things to scratch. At home, cats may be drawn to couches and chairs for the same reasons that tree trunks appeal to them in the wild. Both trees and furniture are big, solid, and can be marked.
Teach cats to use a scratching pad rather than scratch furniture. Knowing that it is important for cats to scratch, it is our responsibility to provide indoor cats with safe, cat-friendly furniture of their own to scratch.
We intentionally designed Americat Company scratching pads to appeal to cats' natural instincts. They are extra-large, textured, and cats are drawn to the tree-like scent and surface of cardboard. Cats can stretch, exercise, file their nails, and mark their territory on a place of their own. Bella's favorite scratching pad is rectangular, and Penny's favorite is in the shape of a heart.
Now that you know why cats scratch, learn how to teach your cat to scratch a scratching pad rather than your furniture. We give 5 tips in our next blog post.