The Science of Scratching: Why Cats Do It and How to Save Your Furniture

Finding a cat that doesn’t scratch is like discovering a unicorn grazing in the lost city of Atlantis: it only happens in fairytales.

Scratching is a perfectly natural and healthy habit for your cat and often necessary for its survival.

However, that doesn’t mean you should let your cat dig his claws into the living room sofa. Here are reasons why your cat needs to scratch and ways you can save your furniture while letting him do it.

Cats Need to Scratch

When your cat digs into your favorite comforter or chair, he’s not doing it to tick you off; in fact, it has nothing to do with you at all. Cats use scratching for a myriad of reasons, the primary one of course being to sharpen their claws. Whether for their own protection or to shed frayed edges from old claws, scratching is an integral part of keeping their paws healthy and useful.

Of course, sharpening those claws is only one reason for the scratching. Cats also use scratching as a way to vent. When your cat is overly excited, frustrated, anxious or just plain happy to see you, he sometime reaches a point where those emotions build up and he needs to find a way to expel them quickly. Thus, scratching the nearest item becomes an enticing option.

Scratching also serves as a way to stretch their paws and bodies, leave their scent as warning for other cats (they have scent glands in their paws) and as a tool to mark their territory.

Punishment Doesn’t Work

Yelling at your cat won’t get him to stop. It’s an instinctive part of a cat’s nature and no amount of punishment can curb his desire to claw at some sort of post. That’s why the only solution to save your furniture is to provide a safe alternative.

Scratching posts and cat towers are great tools for convincing your feline friend to give your couch a break. Cats prefer to scratch in areas where they’re most comfortable, so place one of these in his favorite room where he spends the most time.

In order to deter your cat from scratching the furniture, try placing strips of double-sided tape, sand paper, or aluminum foil over the surface he’d normally scratch. You can also try adding scents like citrus to the areas, which cats don’t like. You’ll have to leave these in place until your cat has accepted the new scratching post as the only acceptable place to lay his claws, which could take weeks or months.

Declawing Isn’t a Natural Solution

While it might be tempting to declaw your cat to make the scratching stop, it’s actually unfair to him. His claws are his main line of defense against an attacker, whether a wild animal or the family dog, and taking them away makes him helpless. No cat should feel like they’re at the mercy of every creature around them.

Keeping your cat from scratching the furniture might take a little time, but it’s perfectly doable and allows you to keep your cat intact the way nature designed him to be. A little persistence and ingenuity will help keep both you and your cat living in harmony and your home looking great.

Meet the Author: Ben Kerns

Ben Kerns is a freelance writer, photographer and outdoor adventurer based out of San Diego. When he’s not busy working you can find him hopping across the world looking for new places to climb big rocks. He’s also fanatically obsessed with funding his outdoor obsessions for as little money as possible. This stuff gets expensive.

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