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Why Do Cats Scratch?

Posted by Dr. Roth on March 14, 2022

Training & Behavior
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Pet parents with cats know the frustration that often comes with dealing with their cat’s claws. They walk into a living room, only to find their cat shredding the side of the sofa or tearing up the curtains. They stop them and go about their day, only to find their cat back at it again later. Why do cats scratch? 

In most cases, scratching isn't a malicious act. While annoying, it's perfectly natural. Here are a few reasons why cats scratch and what pet parents can do to keep their cats from destroying their home. 

Why Do Cats Scratch?

While it may not be a cat's most endearing habit, scratching is usually a very normal thing. Here are some of the most common reasons why cats scratch:

To Clean and Buff Their Nails

One of the main reasons why cats scratch is to remove the dead outer layers of their nails. Scratching also helps to buff, sharpen, and trim the nails, keeping them from getting too long. 

‌For Exercise and Mental Stimulation

Like humans, cats enjoy a good stretch in the morning. Part of stretching for cats involves scratching. When a cat scratches, they stretch their back, legs, and paws. Scratching also helps them to burn off energy and stimulates their mind. 

To Mark Their Territory

Cats have scent glands in various locations on their bodies, including their paws. In some cases, scratching is a way for a cat to mark what's theirs. It signals their presence to other animals (whether there are any other animals in the house or not) and can help them to feel more secure in their home. 


In many cases, cats scratch out of instinct. It feels good, and it's natural for them. For them, this is reason enough to keep doing it. 

Feeling Frustrated

Occasionally, a cat may scratch because they’re mad. They’re venting their frustrations in one of the few ways they know how, by destroying furniture. 

What to Do to Curb Destructive Cat Scratching

Scratching may be natural for cats, but that doesn't make it any less frustrating. Fortunately, there are plenty of things pet parents can do to keep their furniture and sanity intact. 

  • Provide alternatives. Offer scratching posts, scratch mats, and similar objects. Set them in strategic locations, such as near the cat's bed and typical scratching targets. Pet parents can make these items more enticing by using catnip and praising the cat for using them. 

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  • Interrupt unacceptable scratching. If a pet parent catches their cat scratching the sofa or other unacceptable surfaces, they should interrupt them and redirect them to appropriate scratching surfaces. 

  • Use a deterrent. Pet parents can use deterrents such as a spray that contains scents unappealing to cats. Double-sided tape can also discourage scratching on unacceptable surfaces. 

  • Trim their claws. Trimming a cat's claws can help to minimize the damage they might do if they decide to scratch something they shouldn't. 

While irritating, pet parents should avoid punishing their cat for something natural to them. Punishment could harm the relationship between them. Redirecting them to an acceptable surface and praising them for using it often yields good results. It may take some time and patience, but the results will be well worth the effort. 

Need More Ideas? Consult With a Fuzzy Vet

Scratching may be a normal habit for cats, but it can irritate their pet parents to no end. If pet parents have tried it all and nothing seems to work, they can consult with a Fuzzy vet through their 24/7 Live Vet Chat. The Fuzzy vet team can help with all issues- big or small.

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