Cats are natural scratchers. They will always scratch because it’s an instinctive behavior. Learning why cats scratch and some ways to redirect their scratching can help you to cope with this natural behavior in your home.
My personal belief is that declawing should never be done. If you want an animal that never scratches your walls, furniture, carpet, or other belongings, then a cat is probably not the right pet for your family. I believe that humans must respect the natural behaviors and instincts of our pets in order to have the healthiest and happiest relationship.
Cats scratch to communicate with other cats and animals, including you! Naturally, cats are territorial animals and they have many ways to mark their territory. Even when cats live exclusively indoors, they consider that space their territory.
Scratching the walls, carpet, box spring (my cat’s favorite!), or furniture is your cat’s way of defining their ownership of the space. Cats often scratch to mark their territory even if they are the only animal living in the house. No one knows exactly what cats are communicating with their scratches, but they are probably saying things like: “Stay away, this couch belongs to me!” and “Watch out, I protect this house!” Scent glands in the paws help reinforce these messages.
Cats also scratch to maintain their claws. Have you ever found those thin claw ‘husks’ lying around your home? These thin, opaque, claw shaped shells are shed from your cat’s claws. Scratching helps your cat to remove these claw husks. Scratching also helps to file your cat’s claws. In the wild cat claws must be maintained by scratching against rough surfaces such as trees, otherwise the claw would curve around and poke into the paw pad (which will also happen to domestic cats if their claws are not cut regularly.)
Sometimes cats scratch simply because it’s fun or provides them with good exercise!
Learning why your cat scratches can help you find solutions that benefit both your home and your cat. Soon I will be writing about safe ways to deter your cat from scratching your belongings.