Why Do Cats Scratch? - Understanding the Feline Scratch

Why Do Cats Scratch? - Understanding the Feline Scratch

Picture this: You've just brought home a gorgeous new leather couch. It's sleek, comfortable, and the perfect addition to your living room. Then, in saunters, your cat, and before you know it, the feline is flexing its claws on your new couch. The question we all ask is, why do cats scratch?

Cats are fascinating and complex creatures with instincts and behaviors rooted in their wild ancestry. To fully understand why your cat might choose your furniture, rugs, or curtains as the ideal scratching post, it's necessary to delve into the multifaceted reasons behind this behavior.

It's a Cat's Natural Instinct

At its most basic level, scratching is an instinctual behavior for cats. It serves multiple purposes in their daily life and overall well-being.

Keeping Claws Sharp and Healthy

 One of the common reasons cats scratch is to maintain the health and sharpness of their claws. Cat claws are retractable and layered like a pencil. The outer sheath gets worn out over time, and scratching helps to remove this layer, revealing a sharper foot beneath. By scratching, cats ensure their claws are in the best condition for hunting and self-defense, even if their "hunting" mainly involves stalking imaginary prey around the house!

Stretching and Exercise

Scratching also provides a great form of exercise for cats. It allows them to stretch their bodies, particularly their backs and shoulders. You'll often see your cat reaching up high or stretching out lengthways while they scratch - it's their version of a mini workout!

Territorial Marking

Beyond maintaining their claws and giving their muscles a good stretch, cats also scratch as a form of territorial marking. There're scent glands in cat's paw pads, which release pheromones when they scratch. These pheromones communicate to other cats that the area is claimed. The visible scratch marks left behind also serve as a visual signal to any feline interlopers that may cross their paths.

Stress Relief

Cats often scratch when they're feeling anxious or stressed as a way to relieve these feelings. If you've ever noticed your cat scratching more than usual during periods of change or stress, this is likely why. Scratching can be soothing for cats, providing a healthy outlet for their stress.


In multi-cat households, cats may also use scratching to communicate with each other. Through the pheromones released during scratching, they can convey information such as their presence, reproductive status, and overall well-being.

It's Not Spiteful

Many cat owners mistakenly believe that their pets scratch furniture or other household items out of spite or as a form of retaliation. However, this is a misunderstanding of cat behavior. Remember, cats are not capable of complex human emotions like revenge. When they're scratching your favorite chair or new carpet, they're not doing it to annoy you. They're simply following their natural instincts.

That’s a wrap!

Cats scratch for numerous reasons - from maintaining their claw health, exercising, and marking territory, to relieving stress and communicating. Understanding the motivations behind this behavior can help you better accommodate your feline friend's needs. Providing cat-friendly alternatives like scratching posts or mats and regular claw maintenance can save your furniture and promote a happier, healthier cat.

Remember, scratching is an essential aspect of a cat's life. So, instead of stopping your cat from scratching entirely, aim to redirect this natural behavior towards more suitable outlets. After all, a scratching cat is just being a cat.