Why Do Cats Scratch Furniture & Objects?

Black and white kitten scratching a scratching post

Why do cats scratch, and more specifically, why do cats scratch furniture? If you’re starting to get the feeling that your cat just likes to destroy things, especially your expensive furniture, think again. The truth is that your cat doesn’t have an axe to grind with your sofa or table legs — and her behaviour is actually quite normal. Cats scratch furniture (and other objects) for a variety of reasons:

  • They’re marking their scent. Cats are territorial and scratching furniture and other belongings is their way of depositing their scent. Your cat’s scent glands are located on their paws, so when their paws rub along objects in her world, their scent is left behind, including both chemical and visible scent markers.
  • They’re marking over other scents. Furniture absorbs other scents, including the scent of the outdoors, guests that come and go and even your shoes. You may not smell these things, but your cat can, and they may scratch furniture to mark over the foreign scents they detect with their scent.
  • They’re relieving stress. Cats naturally target furniture that is used most often, and there’s a logic behind their choice. For instance, if they frequently target your favourite easy chair, that’s because it makes them feel more at ease to be near this chair. Marking this chair with their scent makes your home feel more like their home.
  • They’re sharpening their claws. Literally, scratching your furniture helps your cat to maintain its sharp claws. While they scratch, they’re shedding claw sheaths, so their claws stay in optimal shape.
  • They’re working out. When your cat scratches your furniture, they are enjoying a full-body workout that stretches both tendons and muscles running from their back through their claws.
  • They’re bored. When your cat is not getting a sufficient amount of mental stimulation, they may take their boredom out on your furniture or other items.

How Do I Stop My Cat From Scratching My Furniture?

When you're wondering how to stop cats from scratching furniture, the number one solution is to give them other things to scratch. If you look at what cats scratch outside — trees and posts — you can see that a scratching post or cat tree is a natural choice for keeping your cat’s claws off your furniture.

Scratching posts and cat trees simulate the exterior environment and what outdoor cats use as an outlet for scratching. When you purchase a cat tree or post, be sure to go for a quality item that is strong and not wobbly. If your cat feels like the post or tree is unstable, they may not use it. It should also be tall enough for them to completely stretch their muscles.

If you’re not keen on purchasing a cat tree or scratching post, there are additional objects that can work just as well. Other alternatives include bark-covered logs, sisal fibres, softwood remnants and fabric offcuts.

Proper Cat Tree or Scratching Post Placement

Because your cat scratches only objects in areas of the home where they feel more relaxed and less stressed, it is important that their cat tree or scratching post is placed in those areas only. Place their tree or post near items that you know they target with their scratching, such as the arm of your couch or your favourite recliner. Because most cats enjoy stretching their muscles upon waking, it can also be a good idea to place a scratching post near their sleeping spot.

If your cat doesn’t take to the new post after a day or two, you may need to dangle a toy from it or add catnip to the post to encourage them to use it. You might also consider placing it in a different, more-favoured spot.

Removing Your Cat’s Scent Markings

When it comes to how to stop cats from scratching furniture, it pays to remove your cat’s scent markings from the furniture in question. Thorough cleaning accomplishes just that. When can smell their marked scents fading from your furniture, they tend to try to top up the scent. A non-toxic solution can be used in the area to keep the cat at bay, just be sure to use it as directed.

Is Your Cat Bored?

Another tip when learning how to stop cats from scratching furniture is to make sure your cat isn’t just doing so because they’re bored. Lack of exercise and boredom account for a lot of furniture scratching, so think about buying your cat or kitten some toys that will keep them busy and engaged and train them to stop scratching your things. From teasers to electronic mice, cat toys are bountiful on today’s market, so it isn’t that difficult to find a few toys that will amuse your cat and distract them from your furniture. You might also consider making them a toy yourself using cat-friendly material you may already have on hand.

Carpet Scratching

Although the main focus of cat scratching may be furniture, your carpet can also be a target for cats who enjoy horizontal (as opposed to vertical) scratching, which can cause damage to your carpet. Scratching mats around the home can give your cat a horizontal alternative, such as a sisal pad or sisal rugs. Again, cat toys can also provide a needed distraction.

When it comes to why cats scratch, remember, your cat's behaviour is common and they are not intentionally harming your items when they scratch things, even if they’re getting a manicure at your expense. With the guidance above and knowledge of how to stop cats from scratching, you should be able to control your cat’s scratching and preserve the look of your furniture. Although there are many reasons why cats scratch if you think your cat’s scratching is more unusual and destructive than normal, reach out to your vet for advice.

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