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Find out more about cats scratching and why they do it. Learn how you can encourage your cat to scratch a post. While scratching is a natural behaviour, you can deter them from ruining your furniture.

Why do cats scratch?

Scratching is a normal and instinctive behaviour for cats. There are two main reasons why cats go for scratching:

  • to keep their claws in good condition
  • to communicate with other cats and leave a reminder for themselves. Scent glands between the paw pads produce a unique smell which is left on surfaces when cats scratch. This scent, combined with the scratch marks and discarded claw husks, leaves a sign for your cat and a message for other felines in the area

Why is my cat scratching indoors?

Whether you have an indoor cat, or they go outside, all cats need a scratching outlet to keep their claws in good condition. If they have limited access to the outdoors, they will have to scratch in your home.

If your cat is scratching in many places in your home, including conflict areas like windows and doors, it is likely that your cat is scratching for communication reasons and feels insecure in these areas. Just as with spraying, the most common cause of scratching indoors is the presence of another cat.

The reasons for cats scratching can change over time.

Why do cats scratch furniture?

In the wild, cats would normally go for a scratch on tree bark or any other similar outlet. For cats, furniture such as a sofa or chair often serves as a good replacement where they can express this behaviour. Cats prefer to scratch objects that are sturdy or tall allowing them to get a good grip and dig their claws in.

Do cats scratch furniture for attention?

Some cats learn that scratching certain objects (for example, your sofa and other items of furniture) means they get more attention. This is why it's important to praise your cat when they scratch a post and ignore them when they scratch inappropriate objects. 

While they learn this, it’s a good idea to protect your furniture from sharp cat claws before all scratching is directed at scratching posts.

Prevent your cat from scratching your furniture

If your cat is scratching indoors to maintain their claws, you can try:

  • protecting furniture from your cat with thick, shiny plastic sheeting (this is unappealing to scratch)
  • placing a scratching post next to the area where they've been scratching
  • choosing a scratching post with a heavy, stable base so it doesn't wobble or topple during use. It should be tall enough for your cat to scratch at full stretch. A vertical weave helps your cat run their claws downwards
  • providing a scratching pad if your cat prefers to scratch horizontally (for example, cats that scratch carpets and stairs)

Once your cat starts using the scratching post or mat, you can gradually move them to a more suitable location and remove the plastic sheeting. Cats often scratch and stretch when they wake up, so you can try placing their scratching post near their bed. Every cat should have their own scratching post, positioned in a different place to avoid conflict.

Some scratch posts are infused with catnip. Alternatively, you can try rubbing quality catnip on the post to entice them, or put a few pieces of cat food on the post.

Playing with your cat little and often throughout the day may help redirect their energy away from scratching.

Scratching caused by anxiety or stress

Is your cat scratching to mark their territory? This could be a sign that your cat is worried, or feels threatened by another cat in the area or in your home.

In addition to trying the advice suggested above, you may need to consider what is worrying your cat in order to permanently stop your cat from scratching your furniture.

Don't just provide another scratching surface without helping them feel more secure and less anxious. You may need help from a qualified behaviourist to uncover the cause of their anxiety.

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