Have you caught your cat sharpening her or his claws against something off limits? Do you feel like your cat is acting up and wonder what has brought about this deviance? Why do cats scratch at furniture and curtains anyway?
Curious pet parents to cats who scratch, take comfort: Feline scratching should not be interpreted as a sign of vindictiveness or cat-titude. In fact, it is a common, innate behavior that is integral to so many aspects of a cat’s identity, routines, health, and comfort. And it shouldn’t be punished. After all, don’t we love and admire cats—at least those out in nature, surviving on fine-tuned instinct—for being stealthy hunters, lithe champions of climbing, and able to hold their own in a fight? Well, this is all thanks to their claws.
What are the reasons cats scratch?
- To get rid of the dead, dull surface layer on their claws. This may be a source of irritation or discomfort so removing it is an important part of maintaining healthy nails.
- To claim and label their turf. The act leaves an imprint of the cat’s marks and odor upon the area, secreted from scent glands in their paws, which could broadcast a particular meaning to other cats.
- To communicate their happiness.
- The urge may overcome them upon waking up.
- It may be part of their play.
- The activity may help them fight off stress and get out their aggressions.
- It may be your cat’s way of saying “Hello” or “Welcome home” to you.
- If they are unable to do something they enjoy, they may resort to scratching.
Since cats typically love digging their claws into tough, textured items, consider turning their attention away from such appealing articles you don’t want destroyed in your home by placing textures they don’t like in the path of these objects. That means surrounding your newly upholstered couch with odors cats don’t like, such as citrus and menthol. You can keep some items out of reach, like putting your embroidered pillows in a no-cat room, or you can avoid unwanted scratching by distracting your cats with an even more tempting object--a scratching post.
Experts agree that declawing, which involves more than just the removal of the nail, should be avoided if at all possible. Speak to your vet about how to address this behavior in positive and constructive ways with your kitty.
More on Cat Behavior
The Benefits of a Playful Cat
Cat Proof Your Breakables
Why Cats Eat Grass