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Why Do Cats Scratch? 4 Reasons for This Behavior

cat scratched leather
Image Credit: RJ22, Shutterstock
Last Updated on December 1, 2023 by Catster Editorial Team

Have you lost count of how many times you’ve had to stop your cat from scratching your couch, carpet, or curtains? Has she ever tried to scratch or claw your arms? While cat scratching is nothing new to their owners, you may be left wondering why your feline participates in this damaging (and sometimes downright painful) activity.

Here, we’ll fully explore what cat scratching is, the top reasons behind it, and how to curb your kitty from ripping your prized possessions to shreds.

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What is Cat Scratching?

Also known as stropping, cat scratching is when a feline drags her claws across a vertical or horizontal surface. Many cats will scratch at something that sparks their interest, such as a textured or coarse surface. It’s a normal and healthy behavior that cats often use to mark their territory, clean their paws, or to get physical activity. While cat scratching may be a bothersome behavior, you should never attempt to put an end to it by having your kitty’s claws removed.

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The 4 Reasons Why Cats Scratch

The top reasons behind your cat’s scratching include the following:

1. Honing Their Nails

Cats will scratch to loosen and remove the dead outer husk of their claw and reveal the sharp, new claw beneath.

tabby cat claws
Image Credit: Africa Studio, Shutterstock

2. Exercise

Scratching is a wonderful form of exercise for cats. Do you love stretching out your back and neck when you first wake up? Your kitty certainly does! During a scratching session, your cat can efficiently stretch her back, legs, and paws. Best of all, she can also enjoy some pampering time when she cleans and sharpens her claws.

3. Instinct

 Your fluffy feline friend’s wild ancestors scratch tree trunks to keep their claws fresh and sharp for the hunt. They also do it to disinfect and clean their claws.

All cats have an ingrained urge to scratch. It’s important to cater to these natural instincts by providing your cat with something to scratch, such as a kitty scratching pole.

Cat hunting to toy mouse at home
Image Credit: Viacheslav Lopatin, Shutterstock

4. Territory

A cat will feel most relaxed in a space she can call her own. In order to communicate that your living room is also hers, she’ll scratch at the sofa or carpet in order to mark her scent and presence to other animals.

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Stopping Your Cat from Inappropriate Scratching

While you fully accept your cat’s need to scratch, you may not like it when she does it to your beloved sofa.

cat scratching post
Image Credit: EbneRol, Shutterstock

Here are some tips to keep your kitty from inappropriate scratching:

  • Get a Scratching Post: Cats will put their whole bodies into the act of scratching. In order to encourage your cat to use a scratching post, be sure to purchase one that is at least twice as tall as she is.
  • Consider How She Scratches: Does your cat prefer scratching at a vertical sofa leg or a horizontal carpet? Understanding her preferred scratching method will tempt her even more to use an item that she’s meant to scratch on.
  • Natural Textures: In the wild, cats will use tree trunks and other natural surfaces to scratch on. Choose a scratching post made from natural materials, such as sisal fiber rope, to play to her natural instincts.
  • Make It Unappealing: Make items that you don’t want your cat to scratch unappealing for her. Cover the item with aluminum foil or spray it with a citrus solution to curb clawing.

One of our preferred scratchers, the Hepper Hi-Lo Modern Cat Scratcher, is a surefire way to keep your kitty out of trouble (or at least away from scratching the things they should not!). It's not only stylish, but it's functional as well. It's made of sturdy cardboard with a durable plywood and metal frame and can be set up in three different ways – high, low, or lower. The different positions encourage maximum engagement, exercise and stretching, and of course, intense scratching (they can throw their whole body into it). 

cat in living room playing with hepper hi-lo cat scratcher while in highest position

With the Hepper Hi-Lo, your cat gets to have a blast scratching like a maniac, and you don't have to worry about them causing so much chaos or scratching your stuff. There are even replacement cardboard pieces available, so you really can let your cat go to town on this, and know that it will be long lasting. Click here to learn more about this awesome scratcher.

At Excited Cats, we’ve admired Hepper for many years, and decided to take a controlling ownership interest, so that we could benefit from the outstanding designs of this cool cat company!

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Cat Scratching: The Bottom Line

Scratching is a natural and instinctual behavior for all cats. They do it to exercise, mark their territory, and clean their claws.

If you want to keep your cat from scratching your carpet or furniture, provide an alternative scratcher. Select a scratching post that is twice as tall as your cat and made from natural materials.

Never declaw your cat. This can be a painful and traumatizing experience for her.

Yes, cats scratch. However, you can put an end to unwanted scratching and keep your prized possessions safe while still allowing your cat to indulge her inner urges.

Looking for some cat scratching options? Try our  Best Wall Mounted Cat Scratchers!

Featured Image: RJ22, Shutterstock

About the Author

Christian Adams
Christian Adams
Christian is the Editor-in-Chief of Excited Cats and one of its original and primary contributors. A lifelong cat lover, now based in South East Asia, Christian and his wife are the proud parents of an 11-year-old son and four rescue cats: Trixie, Chloe, Sparky, and Chopper.

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