Why Do Cats Scratch?

Scratching. It’s an inevitable part of having a cat. But why do cats scratch?

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cats scratch

Reasons Why Cats Scratch

Maintaining Claws

Cats actually need to scratch. Having the retractable claws that they do, it means they have some work to do.  There is a sheath within those paws into which the claws retract.  Those sheaths must be shed on a regular basis so that new claws can grow. Hence, the scratching. It’s like part of the job description for being a cat.

Marking Territory

Of course, that is not the only reason they need to scratch.  Chalk another reason for seemingly endless scratching up to those scent glands located in their paw pads.  Being territorial creatures, when cats scratch at something, those scent glands are activated, thereby leaving a signature scent behind on whatever thing they scratched. It’s like saying, “Mine. Back off!”


And if you think cats aren’t into daily fitness routines, think again.  Scratching is a way to exercise their paws, and in the process, it affords them a full body stretch.  Many people don’t think a declawed cat needs a scratcher, but even though they’ve been declawed, the act of scratching is great exercise for them, and can be a good source of stress relief, too.

Ending Destructive Scratching

Here is the tricky part…how do you keep your cat from scratching everything? Yes, those scratching posts or kitty condos are quite popular and seem to do the trick. It’s a good idea to put those adjacent to your cat’s bed, as cats love a good stretch upon awakening. That scratching post will get continued use throughout the day, too, as cats will make multiple visits to the post.

Location, Location, Location

Certain cats simply require more options, so consider placing multiple scratching posts in different places in your home. Try different types of scratching posts, such as cardboard or carpet.  Add a bit of catnip on it to encourage scratching or dangle a toy from it.  Two popular scratchers are the Scratch Lounge and the SmartCat Ultimate Scratching Post, both available through Amazon.com.

Observe Your Cat’s Scratching Style

Observe your cat’s scratching “style,”  does he tend to stand on his back legs and scratch with his front paws, or does he prefer all four paws on the floor when he scratches?  Look for scratchers that match his preferred scratch style.

Scratching Surface Preference

It’s frustrating to buy a new scratcher only to have your cat ignore it. Observe what material he seems to prefer.  Marty will only use the heavy cardboard scratchers that he can also sit or lay on.  I’ve tried sisal, but he simply ignores it.  Since I know what his preference is, I stick with it so it’s not money wasted, and provides Marty with the scratching spot that works best for him.

Preventative Measures

To stop your cat from continually scratching a particular piece of furniture, cover it with a sheet of plastic or even some double-sided tape where your cats scratch it the most.  Cats typically dislike the feel of such textures, they will most likely discontinue scratching in those areas.

Place a scratching post next to the furniture, or directly in front of where he scratched it, and give him the option to continue scratching in that general area, but on the actual post itself.


Remember!  Scratching is normal for cats.  Sometimes, it just a way to de-stress, releasing pent-up emotions.  You can do your job by focusing on where he CAN scratch vs. where he CAN’T. Now, if only they could scratch your back when you get that difficult-to-reach itch!








Written by Ann Butenas

Ann Butenas

An internationally-recognized author and writer, Ann began her professional writing career at age 12 and began speaking while in college. She has been published thousands of times over the past three decades in all media forms, was former editor and publisher of KC Metro Woman magazine, and has also hosted three talk radio shows in the Kansas City area.