Even though you love your furry friend to the ends of the earth, many cat behaviors are less than appealing. One of which is scratching things in your home, especially the floor and walls. You just can’t figure out why Fluffy is destroying your carpet!
Cats scratch the floor around their food to mimic covering up their prey in the wild. In nature, this hides food scraps and keeps them safe from predators. Cats also scratch specific patches on floors to mark their territory (leaving behind their scent), trim their nails, and stretch their feet.
If you would like to know more about why your cat scratches different objects in your home and how you can stop this behavior, read on. We will discuss the instincts behind scratching in cats and how you can deter this behavior naturally.
Odd Cat Behaviors and Instincts
Cats have lived alongside humans for 12,000 years, transitioning from completely wild animals to independent housepets. While she may sleep at the foot of your bed, make no mistake about it: your kitty still has a lot of wildcat instincts pumping through her veins.
Felines have a long list of natural behaviors and instincts that inspire them to do unusual things. Their prey drive, territorialism, and need to mate are a few of the most prominent, but that’s only the beginning. Scratching the carpet or wood floor in your home is just another instinct hardwired in your cat’s brain.
Why Do Cats Scratch Things
Cats scratch things for many different reasons. For example, they may be marking their territory by spreading the scent from their paws onto your floors. Scratches are also a visual cue for other animals passing by (humans, cats, dogs, etc.) that this home belongs to a cat. Cats sometimes begin scratching furniture and walls after you bring another pet into your home, a surefire sign they are making their presence known.
They may also scratch things to try and loosen the outer layer of their claws. As with human nails, cat claws can grow too long and eventually break or split. If there are any annoying pulls in your kitty’s nails, she may scratch the floor to try and pull them off. If you notice a cat claw lying around your home, don’t be alarmed; your pet likely yanked or chewed it off on purpose.
Cats may also scratch at things because they have excess energy. A rowdy cat may paw and claw at objects in your home to let loose and mimic a solo play session. You should introduce more exercise into your cat’s daily routine or hang a perch from the window where your cat can watch birds fly by.
Why Cats Scratch the Floor
Where your cat is scratching will clue you into the ‘why.’ If your cat scratches the floor around her food dish, this hints at another instinct that your pet still has. In the wild, cats will bury the remnants of their kill after they’ve had their feed.
Sometimes the animal is planning on returning to indulge in another feast, and sometimes they are merely hiding their tracks. Smaller wildcats may cover their prey because a dead mouse alerts other predators to the cat’s presence. Bigger wildcats may want to hide their last kill to keep future prey from knowing they’re there.
At home, your pet may mimic this behavior to try and ‘cover-up’ her food. She may be saving some of her meal for later and attempting to ‘hide’ it from others in the house. She may also be going through these behaviors without knowing why, especially if she’s been an indoor cat forever.
If your cat is scratching the floor near her litter box, it could be a sign of marking her territory or sometimes a sign of dissatisfaction with her indoor bathroom. Be sure to keep your kitty’s litter clean and avoid extended spells without sanitizing the area.
Ideally, you should do a once-over of the litter box every day.
How To Stop a Cat From Scratching the Floor
To figure out how to stop your cat from scratching the floor, you need to first learn why she’s doing it. Learn about where she’s scratching (a certain part of the room or house) and when (at certain times or after doing particular things).
If she’s scratching after eating, you know this is an instinct that will be harder to stop. If she’s scratching at doorways, she is likely marking her territory’s boundaries. Lastly, if your cat is clawing at the floor in the early mornings and late evenings, she may be getting rid of any pent-up energy or curing her boredom.
When Scratching Near the Food Bowl
A cat who scratches the floor around her food bowl will be hard to change because the behavior stems from survival instincts. You can try the following tricks to limit this action:
- Feed her in her own room or space.
- Put a piece of paper or towel nearby she may cover her food with.
- Remove the food bowl when she is not actively eating.
- Put a mat or carpet under the food bowl that is safe to scratch.
When Scratching in Doorways
A cat that is marking her territory near doorways may stop scratching if you do the following:
- Spray lemon juice or other citrus scents on the floors.
- Install a cat door if your cat is an outdoor cat.
- Clean the floor with a pet-odor cleaner to remove her scent.
- Give her a scratching post near the door that she is allowed to claw.
When Scratching in the Morning or at Night
If your cat is clawing at the floor in the early mornings and late evenings, she is probably a little stir crazy and trying to use up her energy. You can cut these destructive habits by doing the following:
- Introduce more playtime into her routine.
- Get some more interactive treats and toys for her.
- Purchase a cat tower for her to watch outside.
- Adopt another animal for her to interact with.
- Give her more access to the outdoors if she is allowed outside.
How To Limit Scratching Damage
You can lessen the damage by ensuring that your cat’s claws are always trimmed. If you are not comfortable trimming them yourself, you can take her to your neighborhood pet store or groomer for a quick visit once every two weeks.
Another way to lessen the frequency of clawing is to redirect her attention to a toy every time she starts to scratch. If you can grab her attention with a string or treat, she might forget about scratching altogether.
However, your best option is likely to invest in objects and mats that are scratch-friendly. Cats love the feeling of digging their claws into the carpet and spreading their scent, so if you can pick up a few medium-pile rugs and place them in her high-traffic areas, they may naturally be drawn to these instead of your floor.
Cats scratch at the floor for a variety of reasons, most of which stem from age-old instincts. Your furry friend might be marking her territory by scratching at entryways around the home. She may be defending her food by ‘burying’ the remnants of her dinner, or she might be restless and trying to expel some of her energy.
While clawing at the floor might be annoying, it is not a harmful trait for your kitty, so don’t worry too much.
- Smithsonian Mag: A Brief History of House Cats
- Paws: Destructive Scratching
- Humane Society: Destructive Scratching
- ASPCA: Common Cat Behavior Issues: Scratching
Pam is a self-confessed cat lover and has experience of working with cats and owning cats for as long as she can remember. This website is where she gets to share her knowledge and interact with other cat lovers.