You’ve been out all day or at work and finally, come home. Your cat has maybe been asleep and has now wandered into the living room to greet you. Maybe he’s eager to play or just say hello. You turn around for a second, look back and he’s there scratching at your sofa. You stand there exasperated and wonder why do they even scratch things in the first place.
Cats scratch things because they need to work off extra energy, stretch, or remove dead layers off of their claws. They mark their territory, as they have scent pads in their claws. Rather than stop your cat from scratching, try redirecting them to acceptable objects.
It might be frustrating to watch your furniture get ruined due to your cat’s need for scratching, but redirecting your buddy to acceptable objects can save your furniture and your peace of mind. Learn how to do just that below.
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Scratching Objects Is Normal Cat Behavior
It is an instinct for cats to scratch things, and while it might be frustrating to see your new couch torn to shreds, it’s normal behavior. They do it to relieve anxiety or show excitement or stretch and relax. It is also part of their grooming ritual, much like how humans will file or clip their nails.
Still, why do cats feel they need to scratch your furniture? After all, they have your wood door frames, your carpet, and your drapes. When you get a new couch, you want to keep it new for a while before your cat gets to it, but then—the first scratch appears. Try as you might, but you cannot stop that scratch from growing, and before you know it, your new couch is torn to shreds.
Trying to stop cats from scratching objects, like your couch, is like trying to stop humans from caring for their nails. An alternative to your cats scratching your furniture, carpet, and drapes is to provide scratching posts made from rough materials like wood or corrugated cardboard. Cat towers are built for this purpose while providing your cats with places to climb.
They Are Removing the Dead Layer off Their Claws
Cats’ claws shed the outer layers like humans shed hair and dead layers of skin. The dead layer on their claws does not always come off properly, so to get rid of them, a cat will scratch on something until it comes off. To minimize your cat’s scratching to remove the dead layers from their claws, look through their paws while you’re petting and cuddling with your cat.
If your cat allows it, try removing any hanging and loose claw layer. If it doesn’t come off right away, don’t force it, as you might hurt your cat.
Provide ropes, cardboard scratching posts, and wood poles for your cat to scratch and get off the dead layers while also allowing it to mark its territory.
They Need to Work Off Extra Energy
Indoor cats sometimes have extra energy that they don’t use from avoiding predators and chasing their dinners. They scratch things as a way to work off this extra energy when they don’t have the physical stimulation necessary to keep their minds on other things besides your new furniture.
If this is the case for your cat, you might want to incorporate more activity opportunities. A laser pointer is very effective in getting your cat up and running wherever you make the red dot go. Point the red dot up the stairs, then down the stairs to give your cat a good workout.
Get some plastic springs for your cat, as these can give your cat several opportunities to play. The springs entice a cat to play by chasing it, and when it gets its paw stuck in the spring, and it suddenly gets loose, it bounces. Your cat can’t resist chasing it. You can also throw the spring and let your cat chase it and bring it back to you.
Other toys, like mice with crinkly paper, sound like prey, and they will chase it to expend the extra energy. These items encourage your cat to work off its extra energy and discourage it from scratching things.
Scratching Allows Cats to Stretch
Stretching is a way to loosen the muscles and joints and get ready to move or chase things. A cat stretches its back, joints, tendons, and paws whenever they wake up or feel tense. Sometimes, when a cat stretches, it also scratches on a door frame or the carpet. It’s that stretch with a long scratch that feels so good to a cat and causes minor damage to your home.
There’s not much you can do to stop this from happening, but you can provide barriers to your more important furniture. While we will discuss this topic in detail in a bit, you can put sticky materials on your couch or chairs to keep your cat from scratching while stretching. Cats hate sticky materials on their paws and will avoid it.
They Mark Their Territory by Scratching
Cats have scent pads in their paws and claws, so when they scratch things, they are marking their territory and warning other cats to stay away. Visual marks also show other animals and cats that this area belongs to one cat, so wood and furniture are their favorite spots to scratch.
In the wild, cats will scratch trees or shrubs to show that it’s their home turf and that no other animals should come around them. It’s also a way to communicate with other cats since the main way they talk with other cats is through smell.
If you have one cat and it lives indoors full-time, it doesn’t need to communicate with other cats or animals. However, that doesn’t stop your cat from scratching things, as it is an instinctual behavior.
How to Redirect Your Cat to Safe Objects
While you don’t want to have your cat scratching your furniture or carpets, you also don’t want to interfere in their normal behaviors. So, how can you protect your things while letting your cat scratch whenever it likes?
You’ll need to redirect your cat to objects it prefers while staying away from your things. They prefer solid objects like sturdy wooden posts to scratch because they provide a good base to stretch and expend extra energy. Follow these steps to help your kitty learn where it’s appropriate to scratch:
- Place sticky or reflective material on your furniture and other areas your cat scratches, as they don’t like getting their claws stuck in this type of material.
- Find materials like wood or cardboard to mimic what your cat likes to scratch and build a scratching post with those materials.
- Put the post or other materials near where they have scratched before to mark their territory in roughly the same spot they were marking before.
- To entice your cat to scratch the appropriate items, try spraying a little catnip spray on the items.
When your cat decides to scratch the alternative items and shows no more interest in your furniture, you might be able to take the protective materials off the furniture.
Scratching is a normal cat behavior that can be accommodated rather than punished. Cats prefer solid wood objects over flimsy cardboard items, as it is more like a tree in the wild. Plus, solid objects allow cats to fully stretch and dig their claws better than something thin or not sturdy.
Once you set up alternative scratching items and catch your cat scratching your furniture or carpet, don’t punish your cat. Instead, move it to the preferred scratching post. Punishing your cat will make it fearful of you and will accomplish nothing.
- Humane Society: Cats: Destructive Scratching
- Paws: Destructive Scratching–Prevention and Solutions
- International Cat Care: Scratching on Furniture and Carpets
- Purrfect Post: Why Do Cats Scratch Furniture?
- Chewy: Why Do Cats Scratch?
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.