Cat scratching: Why do they do it?

Scratching with the front feet is a territorial instinct by which cats place their mark and establish their turf. Through scratching, cats mark their domains in two ways:

  1. Visible signs of claw marks.
  2. Their scent: cats’ paws also have scent glands that leave their own special scent on their territory .

Cats that have access to the outdoors tend to do their scratching on trees and wooden fences etc. An indoor cat that is left without a scratching post will take his claws to the next best location: your couch, walls, doors, curtains, carpet, bed covers etc.

So it’s important that indoor cats are offered somewhere appropriate to do their scratching.

Providing scratching posts

There are four benefits from having cat scratch posts/ stations in the home:

  1. Expression of natural behaviour of cats – they get frustrated if they can’t do it
  2. Nail care – regular scratching stops nails from becoming overgrown
  3. Exercise – the stretching and pulling is good exercise: lack of exercise leads to behavioural problems and obesity. Climbing of cat trees is great for getting lazy cats to move or to encourage active behaviour from kittenhood onwards
  4. Sheer pleasure –  cats just love doing this

Your cat won’t use the scratching post?

To get a cat to use a scratching post, take them to it after awakening, rub catnip on the post, and hold treats or toys part-way up the post to encourage stretching and scratching.

Rewards can be given at each step – treats and praise for the cat as it approaches the post, touches it, and scratches it.

Stopping scratching in inappropriate places

If a cat scratches in the wrong place (wall paper, good furniture), how do you stop it?

  • Carpet-fixing tape – sticky on two sides –  is useful. The cat doesn’t like scratching it because their feet get stuck to it.
  • Never yell at or punish the cat.
  • If necessary, the cat can be confined to an area where it has a scratching post or posts and cannot scratch objects that owners consider undesirable.

In some countries eg USA, vets “declaw” cats to stop them damaging furniture. This is illegal in Ireland because it’s cruel – it’s like chopping the tips of the fingers off a person.

Here are some useful and good products:

  • Karlie Plain Scratch board – made of compressed cardboard
  • Karlie Small Post – traditional simple cat scratch post
  • Fit & Fun Kitten Tree – a simple scratch post with a “seat” at the top of it
  • Corner scratching board – a double board that can wrap around a right angled corner – useful for protecting areas of wallpaper that cats like to scratch
  • Scratching board “monkey” – a hand-on-the-wall scratching pad if space is limited
  • Cat scratch carpet – for cats that like to scratch horizontal areas
  • “Miss Stella” Medium Tree – a series of posts and seats about 5 foot high
  • More 4 Cats Rock & Roll Tree – about seven foot high – the de-luxe version
  • Finally, there’s a spray of cat nip that’s useful to make scratching posts attractive to cats

All there products are available from pet shops around the country or from

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Please note that I am unable to answer veterinary questions in comments. If you have questions or concerns about your pet's health it is always better to contact your vet.

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