close up photo of cat scratching the stool

Why Do Cats Scratch?

Scratching is a healthy and natural component of a cat’s daily routine. Cats in the wild scratch everything. Cats may be drawn to couches and chairs for the same reason that they are attracted to tree trunks in the wild. Scratching for cats is a natural instinct that can be triggered by a variety of factors. It happens to a lot of cat owners. 

Imagine going home from somewhere or getting up in the morning and you will notice that a formerly flawless section of carpeting has been gouged and damaged. And we both know as feline owners that the only family member who could have done that is your cat.

It’s reasonable that humans become a little upset when their feline companions hurt or destroy prized or expensive home goods. After all, it’s difficult to understand why they’d do such a thing. We may believe that our cat has ruined our possessions because they are angry with us or want to punish us for something only our pets know and understand. This article will teach you all you need to know about why cats scratch.

Cats Scratch as A Way to Express Their Emotions

Cats, like humans, can use movement to release energy, stress, and tension. Scratching is a stress-relieving technique. When cats are excited, they scratch as well. Cats can scratch to release some of their pent-up energy if they see or experience something that excites them. Scratching is a natural way for cats to stretch and express their joy. When they wake up and when their human returns home from work, they do it. They also do it when “kneading” with their paws, which, while uncomfortable for you, is also a show of affection.

We often notice scratching behavior in indoor cats when they see something intriguing outside, such as another cat or another animal in general. Your cat may dash from room to room, making sounds, then come to a halt and scratch furiously. This helps your cat burn off some of the energy that builds up when he can see something fascinating but not interact with it. When you consider it from your cat’s perspective, this is actually understandable behavior that needs a wider understanding from us as owners.

Cats Scratch as A Way to Mark Their Territory

In the wild, cats scratch logs and trees to mark their territory. The presence of claw marks indicates that the area has been claimed by a cat. But did you know that there are odor glands between the pads of a cat’s paws? Scratching not only produces scratches, but it also leaves a scent trail, which cats use to establish their territory. There’s a fascinating reason why felines leave their imprints rather than simply battling everybody who enters their territory. Cats scratch to reduce the likelihood of encountering other cats in two ways: by leaving visible indications that can be seen from a distance, or by releasing pheromones from glands in their feet and therefore leaving their scent in the environment. They are, without a doubt, extremely intelligent.

Humans are not aware of this scent because our sense of smell is not as sensitive as cats’. But, of course, other cats are very much aware of it. Cats are very territorial and solitary animals. And for them, scratching is another way of survival. 

Cats Scratch as A Way to Exercise

The act of scratching provides excellent stretching for the muscles, tendons, and joints in a cat’s toes, feet, legs, shoulders, and back.  Scratching regularly can help a cat avoid injury. Stretching, and extending and retracting their claws allows cats to exercise, because they are stretching and strengthening the tiny muscles, tendons, and joints in their toes, feet, legs, shoulders, and back. Scratching also helps cats stay healthy.

Any athlete can tell you that stretching before and after exercise can go a long way toward keeping the body healthy and protecting it from injury during exercise. It also feels good! Cats scratch multiple times during the day, but they almost always scratch when they first wake up, providing a good idea for the placement of scratching posts or pads near favorite napping spots.

Cats Scratch as A Way to Groom

We’ve all seen our cats bathing themselves. In fact, cats have a reputation for being fastidious in their grooming habits. A large part of their time is spent licking their bodies all over, chewing out small mats, and licking their paws and rubbing their faces with them. When we see cats doing these things, it’s easy to identify that they are grooming themselves, but we often fail to notice that there was scratching included in the process. Scratching is sometimes misinterpreted as a cat sharpening their nails, while in reality, our cats are only eliminating the dull surface of their nails, which is another part of their grooming process. 

Scratching at rough surfaces removes the outer husk from a cat’s nails periodically. This process frees the newer, healthier nail beneath. Scratching can remove part of the nails’ outer shell, which reveals the fresher nail underneath. This means that scratching is actually a part of a cat’s regular grooming ritual, which is why cats love textured surfaces. By giving themselves a manicure, cats are improving their hygiene. In the wild, cats need sharp claws to climb, hunt, and protect themselves, so scratching is a hardwired behavior that keeps those claws in shape. Just like our fingernails, cat claws grow regularly and need care.


Given the importance of scratching for cats, we, as pet owners, must create a safe and comfortable environment for our cats to walk around and scratch. Scratching is a primitive instinct. A cat isn’t going to think about whether or not to scratch, but would more likely find a place to do so. While you won’t be able to completely stop your cat from scratching, you can guide it away from your furnishings. Instead of habitually scratching the furniture, we should start training our cats to scratch on scratching pads. You should also pay attention to which pieces of furniture your cat likes to scratch and place scratching posts as close as possible to those areas. The most successful way to urge our cats to scratch in a more acceptable place is to give them a reward for such good behavior. Associating rewards with scratching will more likely encourage them to continue doing so.

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