You’ve likely caught your cat scratching something you wish they wouldn’t, and your carpet, furniture, and curtains have caught the brunt of your feline friend’s antics. While you may not be pleased with your cat’s scratching, they must be able to use their claws in a variety of ways. Scratching is an instinctive behavior that cats need to fulfill, and, if not given appropriate opportunities to do so, will find their own places to scratch.

Learn why they feel the urge to scratch by reading our Animal Medical Hospital of Naples team’s guide. Once you know why your feline friend needs to scratch, you can encourage appropriate scratching behavior. 

#1: Scratching is important for your cat’s nail health

Nail care is one of the primary reasons cats scratch. As your cat scratches a textured surface, jagged nails are worn smooth, and fragments break off. Regular scratching helps your cat shed their worn-out claw sheaths, preventing nails from becoming overgrown. By engaging in routine scratching behavior, your cat keeps their nails strong, sharp, and properly shaped for typical feline activities such as climbing, hunting, and self-defense.

#2: Scratching is important for your cat’s mental health

Consider your cat’s daily routine. They likely lay around a lot and snooze in the sun. Let’s face it, the life of a house cat is a far cry from their wild ancestors’ adventures. So, your feline friend can easily become bored if you don’t provide them with adequate environmental enrichment. 

Give your cat plenty of scratching options to help make their days less boring. Offer scratching surfaces in various textures and configurations to determine your cat’s preference. Fabrics and textures on which your cat might enjoy sharpening their claws include sisal, wood, corrugated cardboard, or industrial carpet. Provide horizontal and vertical scratching surfaces, and place them in various spots around your home. Ensure each scratching surface is long enough to allow your cat to stretch out fully, so your feline friend can make the most of their scratching session. 

#3: Scratching is important for your cat’s physical health

Many house cats live sedentary lifestyles and are not particularly active unless they are bribed with toys and treats. However, scratching is an excellent way for your cat to take care of their physical health. By scratching, your cat stretches muscles and joints, keeping them limber and strong. A climbing tower offers your cat a full-body workout as they claw and climb their way to the top. 

#4: Scratching is an important cat communication method

Visual markers and chemical substances (i.e., pheromones) are two important cat communication methods. As your cat scratches, their paws’ special scent glands release pheromones to relay a multitude of information. Pheromones are used to:

  • Mark territory
  • Create familiarity
  • Enhance bonding
  • Identify and learn about other cats
  • Signal emotions (e.g., happiness, stress, fear)

Cats often leave claw marks around door and window frames as a way to mark their territory and warn off intruders through these visual and olfactory means. Your cat may also scratch your furniture to claim the items as theirs, leaving a scent of home.

How to encourage your cat to scratch appropriately

Because scratching is an integral part of feline behavior, you cannot eliminate it. However, you can direct your cat to scratch appropriately by following these tips:

  • Position scratching surfaces in prime locations — Although you may want to put a scratching post in an out-of-the-way spot, your cat will likely ignore it. You should position scratching posts where your cat spends the majority of their time. For example, place a scratching surface next to your cat’s bed so they stretch upon waking, or put a scratching post next to the window so they can sharpen their claws as they gaze out at the bird feeder.
  • Provide combination scratching posts — Products that offer multiple enrichment options, such as scratching, climbing, surveying, or hiding, are guaranteed to draw in your cat. Opt for a scratching post that doubles as a lookout tower. Angled scratch pads offer your cat a hideout underneath.
  • Use pheromones — Spritz pheromones on the item your cat has chosen to scratch, reducing their urge to leave claw and scent marks, as you have already tagged the item  with pheromones.

If you’re frustrated by your cat’s inappropriate scratching, and our tips have been ineffective, your feline friend may have a more severe problem, such as stress or pain. Schedule an appointment with our Animal Medical Hospital of Naples team to get to the bottom of your cat’s unacceptable scratching behavior.