Why Does My Cat Like to Scratch?

There are many different reasons for why a cat scratches.

Created: 01/04/2019 Updated: 27/08/2021 - Shelley Audis-Riddell

behaviour, Behaviour & Training, cats, kitten, training

Do your cats scratch carpets, curtains or wallpaper? This is a natural behaviour, and cats need to scratch to sharpen claws, exercise, stretch their muscles and mark their territory. If you find them scratching somewhere they shouldn't, then use distraction but NO punishment.

Reasons cats like to scratch

  • Pleasure

Some cats enjoy the different textures available to them indoors such as carpets or wallpaper. The shape and angles of certain furniture may also be appealing, and scratching can be a part of excited play.

  • Communication

Scratching for cats is a way of marking their territory by scent and physical appearance. A natural secretion with the cat's own scent is released when scratching, as well as the physical mark. This allows for them to mark their territory with their own scent - to warn other cats of their presence - as well as for security.

  • Security

When cats feel vulnerable in their environment, they scratch in prominent places to help them feel more secure.

  • Provide enough exercise

Increase play times and interaction, introduce toys allowing for hunting behaviours and ensure your cat has a scratching post they can easily access. Ensure there is one scratching post per cat in the household.

Scratching posts for cats

Scratching posts are available in many shapes and sizes. They usually consist of an upright wooden post covered with thick sisal rope or fabric and can have platforms, beds and dangling toys.

It is important the post is secure and rigid to ensure resistance when the cat scratches. It must be tall enough to allow the cat to scratch at full stretch, and you should offer horizontal and vertical surfaces. Check regularly for any loose fixings to ensure the safety of your cat.

Simba the cat using a scratching post

How to encourage use of a scratching post

When introducing a scratching post do not force the cat to use it. Before presenting to the cat you can help them feel more secure by using their own scent. Cats release scent from their cheeks to mark their territory, so wipe a soft clean cloth gently around the cat's cheeks and transfer this to the scratching post.

You can apply cat nip around the post or play games with toys to help make the post a positive experience and encourage scratching through play on the new surface. You could even try placing a small handful of dry food on one of the platforms (especially if it is a tall post) to encourage your cat to jump up and explore.

Do you need further advice?

If you need any further advice, please contact the OSCAR Helpline Team on our freephone number 0800 195 8000 or email helpline@oscars.co.uk.