Why Does My Cat Like to Scratch?

There are many different reasons for why a cat scratches.

Created: 4/1/2019 Updated: 4/16/2024 - Shelley Simmons

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, stretch their muscles, exercise and mark their territory.

Reasons for scratching

Grooming Claws

All cats need to perform this natural behaviour and if you fail to provide a suitable place, they will find an alternative surface. Cats require their claws for climbing, hunting and protection, so keeping them clean and sharp is essential.


Some cats may enjoy the different textures available to them indoors like carpets, wallpaper or soft wood. The shape and angles of certain furniture may also be appealing and scratching can be a part of excited play. This can also become an attention-seeking tool if they have learnt that this behaviour is positively reinforced.


Scratching for cats is a way of marking their territory by scent and physical appearance.

A natural secretion with the cats 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.


When a cat feels vulnerable in their environment they scratch in prominent places to help them feel more secure. Possible causes of stress and vulnerability may be due to stray cats entering the house or the garden, conflict between residential cats or change within the house or fear of something outside.

Provide enough exercise

If your cat has a particular area it is scratching then you will need to find another outlet for the cat to express itself. Increase play times and interaction, introduce toys allowing for hunting behaviours and ensure your cat has a scratching post it can easily access. Ensure there is one scratching post per cat in the household.

Do NOT punish

If you find them scratching somewhere they shouldn't, then use distraction techniques and encourage them to scratch on the surfaces that are provided for them, but NO punishment. Your cat is not doing this to upset you. If the drive is claw maintenance then you punish a natural behaviour that can lead to further issues. If the cat is insecure or anxious then telling them off will add to the stress and make the problem worse.

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. Scratching posts can be free-standing or designed to fix to a wall or floor.

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 the 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 to feel more secure by using your cat's own scent. Cats release scent from their cheeks and under their chin to mark their territory so wipe a soft clean cloth gently around the cat's cheeks and chin and transfer this to the scratching post.

You can apply cat nip around the post or play games with toys making 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, 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.