Why Do Cats Scratch Things?

One of the most common questions asked by newbie pet parents is “why do cats scratch things?” You bring home your little bundle of joy, only to find your best sofa being shredded to bits by her claws! Next, your curtains and carpet become fair game! Even your table isn’t exempt as her sharp claws soon leave their mark.

You’ll be glad to hear your feline Edward Scissorhands isn’t deliberately sabotaging your home! She’s not trying to remodel your furniture into a fanciful work of art! Scratching things is what cats do, and it’s essential for their well being. If you shout at your cat she won’t understand, and you’ll only end up scaring her. In addition, don’t squirt water as that can also have a negative effect.

You don’t want a kitty that’s afraid of you, or develops other unwanted behaviour through fear. Instead, always reward good behaviour. From day one you need at least one scratching pole in your home. Ideally, more if you have multiple cats. You don’t need to spend a fortune, in fact you could even make you own.

In this post you’ll discover the real reason cats scratch things, and how you can train your kitty to stop this unwanted behaviour. You don’t need to raise your voice, but instead, use gentle persuasion that’s rewarded. Though many people believe cats can’t be trained, nothing is further from the truth. They are highly intelligent creatures and understand just what you’re saying!

However, as I’ve mentioned before, dogs seem easier to train as they’re keen to please. On the other hand, cats are only motivated if there’s something in it for them!

The real reason cats scratch things

why do cats scratch things? ginger and white cat on sofa

There are several reasons actually, and both are completely natural. Firstly, scratching removes the dead outer sheath of the claw, and secondly, it’s a way used by cats to mark their territory. A cat’s claws are similar to your fingernails and constantly growing. However, unlike your you, they can’t use a nail file! In addition, each newly grown claw is protected by a covering or sheath.

Your cat needs to remove these sheaths by sharpening her claws. This also explains why you sometimes see bits of claw stuck in the carpet or lying next to a scratching post. It’s completely normal and nothing to be concerned over.

Marking territory is how cats communicate with each other, letting other felines know of their presence. This is done by rubbing against an object or scratching it. Both release scent you can’t smell, but other cats can. Scent glands are found in the paws which explains why your cat frequently scratches things.

If your cat feels threatened or challenged by other felines, she may typically scratch places near exits or entrances to the home. However, this can be anywhere she sees as a boundary to her territory. This may not be a very large area, but if she’s competing with other cats, your sofa could be a boundary line!

How you can train your cat to stop scratching everything!

tabby and white cat with scratching post

Firstly, a good way of protecting furniture from your cat’s sharp claws is to invest in some double sided tape. Karaseno Anti Cat Scratch Tape is ideal as it’s easy to apply and doesn’t look unsightly. As it’s clear it will blend in with any fabric and it can also be used in DIY projects:) In addition, this tape is 100% safe as it’s non-toxic. Cats hate sticky surfaces so you’ll find this a great deterrent!

Also, you can get a completely safe training spray which you use to spray on surfaces. This deters your fur baby from sinking her claws into your furniture. Pet mastermind claw withdraw is 100% guaranteed to work! You may find this works better than tape, but you could always try both.

Secondly, invest in a few scratching poles and pads for your kitty. Place them strategically where she’s been tearing your sofa or other areas you want to protect. If you want to make scratching poles more desirable for your feline friend, Feliscratch is an easy to apply solution that mimics scent marks. It’s been clinically proved to work, and recommended by vets.

Thirdly, place a few treats at the base of scratching poles as this will help encourage your kitty to use them. A few toys can help distract her attention as well. Some poles come with small toys that you attach at the top. They swing round as your cat claws at the pole, encouraging her.

How to make your own cat scratching pole

It’s not hard to make your own scratching pole, and if you have the time it can be rewarding and fun to do. You’ll need a 4×4 piece of wood that’s at least 3ft tall, and a pack of sisal rope. This is the best type to use as it feels like tree bark to a cat.

Also, it’s tough and durable, so will last longer than other ropes. Sisal is made from a Mexican plant known as Agave Sisalana. It’s safe for your cat as it’s 100% natural and non-toxic. It’s also biodegradable, and kind to the planet!

Watch the video below as it shows you step by step how to make a scratching pole for your kitty.

You can also make your own scratching mat using corrugated cardboard. Cats love the texture and this provides another form of distraction from your best coffee table, or other piece of furniture you want to keep intact:) Using an empty pizza box, fill with strips of corrugated cardboard cut to length. Use non-toxic glue to fix in place.

In addition, you can buy cat scratching mats with unusual and fun designs for keeping your cat’s claws off the furniture. Catify scratcher pad has an attractive contemporary design which would look good with most decor. It also comes with catnip and a couple of toys.

Bringing trees indoors!

cat tree

Whether your cat spends most of her time outdoors, or loves the indoor life, providing a cat tree, helps keep her kitty mind occupied:) You can get some wonderful cat trees and condos that will keep your kitty entertained for hours. Not only will she have her own space to play and sleep, but sharpen her claws as well.

Protecting your home from kitty’s claws

Now you know the answer to “why do cats scratch things?” I hope you understand a little more about this destructive behaviour. As you’ve learnt, it’s not a deliberate ploy to destroy your home! Your cat acts out of instinct and doesn’t see furniture in the same way you do. The arm of your sofa could well be a boundary line that marks her territory.

There’s nothing worse than entertaining visitors in your home surrounded by shreds, or torn curtains with claw marks all the way down them! Training your cat to use scratching poles, or the trees outside isn’t hard.

Once your kitty gets into good habits you should be ok. However, introducing new furniture into your home will arouse curiosity. She’ll definitely spend time sniffing and rubbing her head against it. Always protect new furniture just to be on the safe side.

She may view your dining table legs as handy tree trunks for sharpening her claws! Your carpet is fair game to, as your cat sees it as the perfect place to stretch and sharpen those kitty talons! By providing scratching posts and pads around your home, as well as a few enticing bribes, you can train your feline friend to stop inappropriate scratching.

If you’ve enjoyed this post please share:) Also, if you have any questions, or would like to share your experiences, please leave a comment below.

Wishing you a purrfect day:)

12 thoughts on “Why Do Cats Scratch Things?”

  1. Hey,

    My friend would love this article because her cat scratches everything it sees. Furniture, cupboards, wadrobes, people…everything.

    I have passed this article onto her and encouraged her to leave a comment. If she has any questions then she will get in touch. Hopefully she can use some of the techniques you recommend and help her cat to stop scratching things, including me 🙂

    Thank you for sharing and keep up the great work on your site.

    All the best,


    • Thank you Tom:) I’m sure your friend will find this post useful, and thanks for passing it on:) Glad you enjoy my site:)

  2. Hey Kathy, Our Siamese is 11 years old and does she have some claws. Yes, we do cut them regular though but would seem not often enough.

    We have a couple of scratch poles and put them in places where she scratches the carpet.

    Some great ideas and I like the video showing you how to make your own scratch pole, in fact that is exactly what I will be doing shortly, seeing its near to replacing them.

    Great post, thanks for sharing

    • Thank you Mick:) Yes, trimming claws isn’t an easy task! I’m glad you liked the video I included, and hope it helps. I’ve never been much good at DIY, but the guy does a great job of explaining and showing you step by step:)

  3. Great post as always. It does makes sense that they do this as they are notoriously territorial animals. I would love to know why they’re able to identify the most sentimental or expensive piece of furniture/household items and scratch those as opposed to their scratch pole. Maybe they just have expensive taste!

    • Thank you Sharon:) Yes, it never ceases to amaze me either the way our furry friends always seem to pick on the most expensive items to scratch:) Glad you enjoyed my post:)

  4. Hi Kathy
    Thanks for this. I have had numerous scratching poles but for some reason the cats just prefer the furniture! Good to know that there is something you can put on there to make it more attractive. I’ve found the same with anything that has been specifically bought for them like a bed. They will go in the box the bed came in, just not the bed. The joy of cats lol.
    Looking forward to more articles.
    Many thanks,

    • Thank you Jean:)I have to agree, cats seem to prefer your best furniture to a scratching pole! It can be hard to persuade some cats to adopt better habits, but rewarding good behaviour works in most cases. Of course, you’ll always get the rebellious kitty that takes pleasure in destroying your furniture:) Ha ha! Yes, my cat always prefers the box as well! 🙂

  5. Hi Kathy,
    Great article! I had some idea why our cats scratched, and you’ve confirmed it for me.
    We are down to one right now, so there’s less scratching at the moment, lol. Probably because there’s less competition.
    We have a cat scratching pole but she still prefers the couch… :(. I guess I need to spend more time encouraging her, eh?
    I wonder if the saying “can’t teach an old dog new tricks” applies to cats as well, haha.
    Thanks again,

    • Thank you Suzanne:)Isn’t it odd how our cats still prefer the furniture to scratching poles lol! Yes, you may be right that the saying applies to cats as well!


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