Our cat scratches on everything! Our furniture, our carpet, even our metal bed frame! Why does he do this and what can we do about it?
Sick of the Scratching in Forest West
Dear Sick of the Scratching,
Scratching on things is a very normal part of being a cat. In the wild, a cat will scratch on trees or the ground in order to mark his territory and sharpen his claws, but our little “lions in the living room” have to make do with what household furnishings have to offer in the way of scratching opportunities. More often than not, this can cause some problems in the home when kitty’s clawing becomes destructive.
First up, let’s explore why cats scratch:
- Scratching keeps cats happy and healthy. Scratching is like “cat yoga” in a way — it just feels good. The same muscles that are used for the scratch-stretch are the ones that cats need to climb and run. Scratch-stretching keeps the muscles from cramping and becoming stiff or painful. Scratching is a good way for a cat to loosen up his muscles after sleep, too. Cats love scratching options that they can grip slightly with their claws to help smooth rough edges and improve circulation to their toes and nail beds and also gain some resistance when they stretch…just like resistance bands for us.
- Cats communicate with other cats through scratching. Whether it’s a way to mark their territory or just communicate, they can leave a “visual calling card” for other cats with the marks left when they scratch, especially on a vertical surface. Cats might choose corners of couches or highly visible zones at cat height–anywhere that would be immediately obvious to an interloper.
- It’s a way to mark where they’ve been and who they are. Pheromones are actually chemicals that carry messages. They are not technically odors since they are perceived by another organ than the nose. Cats can produce a pheromone between their toes that releases when they claw. This chemical leaves invisible messages for other cats. Humans cannot perceive these messages at all. In fact, not even dogs can. Pheromones seem to be species specific.
So while it’s hard to ask your pet cat to stop doing something that he’s innately meant to do, you can offer him more acceptable places to scratch. A scratching post or cat tree is a fabulous place for cats to practice stretching, exercising and scratching. If your cat just can’t get the hang of the cat scratcher and continues to scratch up your furniture, look into having claw covers applied to your cat’s claws to protect your furniture. And please, never consider declawing your cat! It’s an inhumane way to address this issue and only leads to other behavioral problems in the long run.
Have a question for Tabby? Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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