Why Do Cats Like to Scratch?

Aren’t cats the cutest? Some may think they are among the most adorable things on this planet! It’s amazing how a cat can melt your stress away by watching them. They look so innocent and harmless as they keep scratching household items with their nails. Why do their scratching behaviors exist?

Cats scratch because it allows them to mark their territory, keep their nails sharp, help deter other cats from the marked area, and exercise to maintain a healthy body. This scratching behavior is the process cats use on household objects and other things.

Why Do Cats Scratch Furniture?

If you are a cat parent, then you know how annoying and destructive their scratching can be. As humans, we see and label this as inappropriate behavior. However, we should also remember that animals are full of instincts and no matter how responsible we are as pet owners, how much we try to domesticate them, some of their primal instincts stick with them.

Some are even difficult to deter. Our best option is to understand why they act in a certain way and eventually learn how to deal with it properly.

Whether you have a kitten or a senior cat, make sure you quickly identify potential problems, take proper steps in emergency situations, better understand diagnoses and treatment options, and communicate more effectively with your veterinarian.

Why Do Cats Scratch Humans?

cat's paw on human hand
Cats can love humans by play scratching

When a human gets in a cat's area, sometimes this can be an invasion of space. From kitty to adult, cats are withdrawn animals, needing their own area. If a cat is becoming overwhelmed by stimulation, it can cause a cat to scratch.

Cats often use their paws as a method of play; while some people may think a cat is always being aggressive when scratching, sometimes it is cat behavior of playing.

Also, when it comes to their territory, their paws put off a scent that can remain on humans, this scent is used as a way to mask areas in their home.

Cats Like to Mark Their Territory

Did you know that the paw pads of your feline friend have tiny scent glands that secrete a chemical they use to mark their territories? We, humans, cannot smell them, but your cat and the other cats around can detect this unique scent.

a cat staring at a camera with intense eyes
this cat is telling you to stay away right now

When they scratch, it's a marked territory, which will let any other cat know that they don’t have business in that marked location.

Do Cats Scratch on Purpose?

Unlike dogs, cats take advantage of two sensory cues. One is olfactory; they mark territory by using the chemical secreted from their paw pads, and the other is visual; cats often leave scratch marks to warn other cats to stay away or face the consequence.

Yes, those scratched objects and/or ruined door frame of yours is a warning for other cats to not mess with the resident cat—your cat.

In a way, your cat scratching is protecting you from uninvited cats! Your cat loves you so much it makes an effort to mark its territory and prevent other cats from entering—or worse, thieving—your home.

The scratch marks are quite an eyesore, but if you think about it, it’s an expression of love from your pet! Isn’t that lovely?

Scratches Keep a Cat's Nails Sharp

Aside from territorial marking, this behavior is for hygienic purposes, too. Now, cats can be adorable and may seem harmless, but underneath those soft, furry, tiny paws are sharp claws! And how do they keep them that way? You’re right! They scratch all over the place to keep their claws sharp.

A Cat's Scratching Habits Help Them Age Well

Your cat marks territory and sharpens its claws on a daily basis to deter other cats. But aside from those defense mechanism-like reasons, this behavior has another important purpose which is to maintain a top shape! Scratching is a form of stretching exercise that helps strengthen and improve your pet’s flexibility.

Why Cats Need a Scratching Post

Cats may not be as rational as humans are, but believe it or not, there is a reason why cats scratch objects and why cats love scratching posts.

Looking for a scratching post? We also have an article on best cat scratching posts

When a cat is scratching, it is a primal instinct of a cat to claim territories, sharpen claws, and maintain their healthy bodies. Perhaps, some cats have forgotten it through years of domestication. Others don’t have it at all as the instinct was not passed along by their parents.

However, if your cat does have this behavior, then your furniture and other home furnishings are at risk of getting damaged relentlessly by this lovely creature. If you don’t do something about it, then most likely you will end up pissed, and your relationship with your feline friend might also be at stake, although we are talking about worse the case scenario here. But let’s not get there.

Why Do Cats Scratch Corrugated Cardboard?

A cat scratching is not always a bad thing, they just need a place to do it. It just so happens that corrugated cardboard is the perfect material to satisfy their paws. Carpet and furniture are other objects that really help the scratching urge.

Other than cardboard or carpet, having a cat scratching post is essential for a happy, healthy kitty

Can You Teach a Cat Not to Scratch?

As a responsible pet parent, your best move here is to understand this from a cat point of view. We have already established that scratching is one of their primal instincts and discouraging such may lead to more frustrations. One of the best ways to deal with this is to channel their scratching cravings to more appropriate scratch objects in our homes.

Do Cats Scratch When They Are Happy?

Sometimes you will see a cat scratch because they are happy to see their pet owner. When they have been away from contact, it can be an expression of joy.

A Cat Scratches Because They Are Excited

Scratching posts are a great way to channel a cat’s urge and instinct to scratch. Like humans, your cat probably has a favorite object to scratch at home—door frame, carpet, or upholstery. So to encourage your cat to scratch the post instead of the valuable object, place the scratching post near it and, as much as possible, use a scratching post with the same material (like sisal rope) as their favorite object to scratch.

You can also place a scratching post in each of your cat’s favorite scratching spot to further help divert the behavior to the post. This way, you don’t hinder your cat’s instinct, and you get to keep your stuff free from scratches. Also, part of why cats love scratching posts (besides their little kitty natural instincts) is the health factor to them.

Do Cats Scratch When Stressed?

Yes, they can scratch when stressed. Whether a cat is scratching objects, furniture, or humans with the claws on their paws, it may be an indication of a stressful environment. Scratching is a natural behavior, but if the cat scratching seems abnormal, our advice is to keep an eye and monitor them.

How to Change Scratching Cat Behavior

If your cat still favors its favorite object over the scratching post, then you may need another method to channel its behavior. If you can’t encourage it to scratch the post, then discourage it from scratching its favorite object.

You can try placing strips of double sided sticky tape on its target object. Cats don’t like the sticky feeling of the adhesive tape on their paws, and this will discourage them from scratching that item. And as initially planned, make sure that the scratching post is adjacent to that object so that your cat can find a convenient thing to lay its paws on and not get frustrated. A frustrated cat is the last thing you want to deal with.

A Responsibility as Cat Owners

As a cat parent, it is your duty to understand the underlying reasons behind a cat’s behavior—good or bad. If you are among those who take their time to learn why a cat scratches and likes scratching posts; we salute you for having a big heart.

Is the Process of Declawing an Option?

Getting rid of a cat's claws is one of the worst things that can happen to a cat. This can ruin their lives in areas we cannot imagine as humans. Not only does this cause pain for any cat, it's inhumane.

our advice is to never consider declawing as an option.

May our cats live longer than Pinky and our furniture scratch-free.