Anyone that has ever had a cat before knows that they just love to scratch. Did you know that cats don’t just scratch to have something to do? They do it for a reason. While you may feel like they just do it out of vengeance, this isn’t the case. The truth is, there are many different reasons why cats scratch.
Now, to settle the ever popular question – why do cats scratch? Here are seven different reasons why, and some of them may surprise you!
Why Cats Scratch
First and foremost, you should know that cats are instinctive scratchers! Years ago, they had to scratch and claw their way through nature by climbing trees, etc. This is a behavior that has continued on through the years. While it is an instinctive behavior, it does have a purpose! Your cat actually NEEDS to scratch.
It Sharpens and Conditions Their Claws
Your cat’s claws are a lot like your fingernails. They continue to grow. If you didn’t clip your nails from time to time, or at least file them down, they may grow to an outrageous length (just take a look in the world record book). The same is true for cats, but they don’t need to clip their claws. They just scratch to file them down to a manageable length. It also releases conditioners that help to keep the claws conditioned, and it sharpens them to ensure that they are useful for climbing, which is another instinctive behavior for cats.
It Removes Worn Claws
Scratching also helps to get rid of worn out claws. Your cat’s claws will have a built up dead outer layer that must be shed from time to time. Scratching will help to weed out these old claws making way for their new claws to come through. Without the ability to scratch, they wouldn’t have any way to keep up and maintain their claws.
It Helps Them Stretch
Cats are ALWAYS stretching! For a cat to properly stretch, they need to be able to extend their back, arm and shoulder fully. One of the best ways for them to do this is to latch onto something (a scratching post if you are lucky) and arch their back to get a full stretch. Think about the way that you stretch, you stretch out completely, and it feels amazing. Cats are the same way. Many times they will just scratch to aide them with their stretching each day.
It is comforting to them, and it provides them relief from stiffness. After all, many cats lay in uncomfortable positions and sleep for hours on end, and that can really lead to stiffness. Stretching helps, and scratching makes it easier.
It Flexes Their Feet
Sure, scratching can help your cat to stretch their entire body, but how does it go about flexing their feet? When your cat scratches, they will put their paws onto the surface flat, and then their legs will bend. This offers an optimal flex for their feet, giving them relief from the pressure that is sometimes put on their small joints in their feet and paws. This is another ‘feel good’ reason why your cat may be scratching away at things in your home.
It Acts as a Scent Marker
Cats are very territorial, some may even argue that they are more territorial than dogs! The truth is, they like to leave their scent behind to ensure that other cats are put in their place. It is much like setting your things on your favorite chair in your home to ensure that it is saved for only you. Cat’s paws have scent glands that leave a scent behind everywhere that they scratch or knead. Notice the places that your cat scratches the most, and you will likely find that they are the things that your cat is most fond of!
It Leaves a Visual Mark
Lastly, your cat just loves that scratching leaves a visual mark. Sure, leaving behind their scent is one of the best ways to mark their territory, but having something that they can actually see when it is all said and done makes it that much better for them. If your cat is scratching up your favorite couch, they probably LOVE the marks that are left behind! Chances are it is their favorite couch, too.
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Now that you know more about why cats scratch, it is time to consider a few of the things that you can do to train them to not scratch inappropriately. Here are a few tips that will help to train your cat on the proper places to scratch:
- Buy a scratching post that will be an adequate height for your cat to use for stretching
- Encourage your pet to scratch on the post, rather than furniture and other household items
- Look into sprays and other products that will discourage your cat from scratching certain things
- Give your cat a treat when you see them using the scratching post instead of the furniture
- Have multiple posts if you have multiple cats, to help with territorial issues between them
While you probably want to blame your cat for scratching up your newly upholstered sofa, if you didn’t have a post for them to scratch it could actually be yourself that should be to blame. Once you recognize the real need for scratching, you will be able to effectively handle the situation in a way that will end with a win-win. Your cat will be able to scratch, as long as they are just scratching their post, and you don’t have to worry about the safety of your furniture!