Why Do Cats Scratch?

Jun 16 • 2 minute read

For cats, scratching is an instinctual behavior. While this habit is perfectly healthy and can even seem cute at times, it can also cause serious damage to furniture and other household items.

A healthy, happy cat needs to be able to scratch to meet several needs. So, rather than forbidding your cat from scratching entirely, consider how to create an environment where your cat can comfortably scratch and stretch their paws.

Why Cats Scratch

While working to create a feline-friendly home for your cat, it can be helpful to understand the motivations behind their behaviors. Here are a few reasons why cats scratch:

To Mark Their Territory

Cats are very territorial animals, and they often mark their territories with scent. There are scent glands between the pads of your cat’s paws, and these glands allow them to mark their territory by scraping their claws across a surface. Scratching is one of the main ways that cats communicate with each other and stake out their territories.

To Relieve Stress

As territorial creatures, cats often feel more comfortable when their living areas are secure. As such, scratching to deposit their sent is a stress-relieving activity for many cats. Additionally, the act of scratching allows your cat to stretch their limbs, shoulders, and spine, which helps soothe their muscles and keep them primed for activity.

To Maintain Their Claws

When cats drag their nails across a sturdy surface, they loosen and remove the outer nail husks covering new growth on their claws. Similar to filing your fingernails, this activity keeps the claws even and stimulates healthy growth.

To Show Emotion

Some cats scratch when they feel playful, excited, or bored. If your cat still needs to work on their scratching etiquette, they may even scratch inappropriate items to get your attention!

How to Stop Your Cat from Scratching

Since scratching is an important part of your cat’s daily routine, you shouldn’t prevent them from doing so. Instead of forbidding your cat from scratching entirely, provide them with plenty of suitable places to drag their claws. If your cat enjoys scratching a particular piece of furniture or rug, you can get scratchers with a texture similar to the items your cat already loves to scratch.

When you find the perfect scratching post or board, ensure you place it strategically next to the areas your cat likes to scratch. Praise your cat with treats and affection when they use the designated scratching area and redirect them if they return to scratching the furniture. The idea is to show your cat that the scratcher is a far more attractive option. You might also take measures to make your furniture a less comfortable scratching accessory, like sticking double-sided tape to frequently-scratched surfaces.


Scratching helps cats establish their territories, keep their claws in good shape, and feel more comfortable overall. For this reason, it’s important to provide your cat with plenty of suitable places to scratch. Whether your feline friend prefers scratch mats, posts, or boards, there are plenty of available products to choose from. When you create scratch-friendly spaces throughout your home, you can ensure your cat’s needs are met without sacrificing your furniture.

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