Why does my cat scratch and how can I stop it?

If your furniture is in shreds and your wooden floor has a new pattern etched into it, you’re probably feeling exasperated with your cats need to stretch out and drag their claws across almost every surface!

This behaviour, however frustrating, is a natural and instinctive behaviour that makes a cat a cat. And trying to train them not to do something instinctive won’t end well.

But why do they do it? And how can we redirect it to a less impacting area?
(And keep your furniture in one piece!)

Reasons a cat scratches

cat with his head through the bannisters

• To condition their claws – claws shed layers just as our nails grow. Think of your couch as their nail file, useful for removing excess nail, but not so useful for your antique sofa.

• For exercise and stretching – your cat’s back and shoulder muscles can only be fully stretched when reaching right out in front, where their claws are then in contact with the floor. And well, we all know how that ends…

• It relieves stress – it’s common for cats to scratch to help release some built up emotions!

• As a territorial marker – a cat will also use scratching to rub their scent around the house as the pads on their paws have scent glands which allow them to mark their territory. You might find that scratching occurs on chair arms closest to a doorway, this is strategic to increase their feeling of security.

Alternatives to scratching

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Now let’s look at a few ways you can try to redirect your cats’ scratching in a positive way that also saves your furniture and flooring!

• A tall scratching post – for full stretches, this is an appropriate alternative to your furniture and will allow your cat to continue its natural behaviour. If you have more than one cat, you’ll actually need more than one scratching post. Read more considerations when it comes to multi-cat homes here.

• Catnip – try sprinkling the surfaces you want them to scratch with catnip! Then try sprinkling their new scratching post with catnip too to attract them towards it and encourage them to use their paws to rub their scent on it.

• Provide them with exercise – try playing with your cat more regularly and provide toys which appeal to their hunting instincts (such as our FroliCat® POUNCE™) to distract their behaviour from scratching.

• Change their focus – try making the place they’ve been scratching unattractive by positioning physical or scent related deterrents near the area that has been scratched. Citrus or menthol smells are repellent to cats so soak cotton balls and place them in areas you want left alone.

• Trim your cat’s claws – keep an eye on your cat’s claws! Left untrimmed they can cause some ailments, so trimming them is a good way of reducing scratching. For more information about cutting your cat’s claws read ‘Trimming a cat’s claws’.

For more toys that will engage your cat, check out our FroliCat® range of cat toys.

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