The science of scratching

If your cat is scratching everywhere around the house and you are wondering why is it, we are here to decode the feline behaviour of scratching.


Scratching is a feline behaviour that a lot of pet parents find annoying. No pet-parent wants to come home to find his favourite upholstery torn to shreds, after all. Scratching is an instinctive tendency among cats and thus, cannot be prevented.

Why do cats scratch?

All cats scratch, regardless of whether they have claws or not! There are multiple reasons why cats engage in this behaviour. Scratching helps them stretch and exercise their front limbs. It also acts as a stress-buster, helping them relieve their anxiety. Scratching helps keep their nails in shape, as unruly long nails get worn down in the process. Cats are natural predators. Scratching helps them sharpen their claws and stay prepared for hunting. The scent glands under their paw pads are put to good use while scratching as a way of marking territory and asserting dominance.

Tips to effectively manage cat scratching

Scratching is an instinctive urge in cats; it is not intentional misbehaviour on their part. When the urge strikes, cats do not consider which objects are okay to scratch and which aren’t. Their sole focus at that moment is on finding a surface that will help them scratch best and feel good in the process.

However, allowing the destructive behaviour to continue can have disastrous consequences. The solution lies in providing your cat with better scratching alternatives while simultaneously modifying scratching behaviour for the better. Here are some of the ways you can effectively manage your cat’s scratching:

You shouldn’t yell

Never resort to harsh disciplinary methods to tame your cat’s destructive scratching tendencies. It can scare the cat and make her avoid you.

Trim her nails

Regularly trimming your pet’s nails will minimize her urge to file and sharpen them on your furniture or carpet, besides reducing the damage caused to furniture. Take it slow when getting your pet accustomed to having her nails trimmed. Use good quality nail clippers.

Reduce the appeal of off-limits areas

Apply double-sided sticky tape to your pet’s favorite scratching spots to change their texture and make them less pleasing to touch. Cats hate putting their paws on surfaces that stick, so this method works as an excellent deterrent.

l Spritz surfaces with unpleasant scents

Cats have an aversion to citrusy smells and the smell of apple cider vinegar. Spraying fragrances that your pet hates onto her favorite scratching spots will work wonders in keeping her away from them.

Use negative reinforcement

If you happen to catch your pet scratching an inappropriate object, immediately squirt water using a spray bottle. Doing so will condition her not to scratch the surface when you’re around. Most cats hate water and will run away when you squirt them.

Observe scratching pattern

Does your pet like to sink her nails into the plush leather couch where you spend most of your time, or does she prefer sharpening claws on the sturdy legs of the teakwood cot? Does she enjoy scratching vertical surfaces or horizontal? Notice if she has a fondness for the piece of furniture right in the middle of the living room. Closely monitoring her behavior can provide valuable clues about her scratching preferences as far as areas, objects, and materials are concerned. These can help steer her scratching habits towards a better direction.

Figure out her preferences

Scratching preferences differ from cat to cat. Find out your cat’s scratching preferences before you proceed to spend money on expensive products. You want to provide your pet with alternatives that closely match the texture of the inappropriate objects she so loves to scratch. Fortunately, there are budgetfriendly options available for pet-parents that do not take up a lot of space. If you’re unsure what your pet might like, experiment with different scratching materials like sisal rugs, coarse rope, carpeted cat perches, and wooden planks to see what works. Your pet isn’t likely to use a material that does not feel good to scratch. Sturdy objects that do not wobble and allow them to stretch out are usually their favourite.

Train her to use scratching posts

Once you narrow down upon your pet’s favourite scratching preferences, you need to help them make the transition from inappropriate scratching posts to the more appropriate ones. Incorporate the latter into your daily play sessions with the cat to increase familiarity. Make new scratching posts appealing and irresistible to encourage her to scratch on them. You could do this by placing toys or treats on or near the scratching surface. Reward her with a treat every time she scratches the new post. You can also try using cat pheromone products to help direct your pet toward designated scratching surfaces. Make sure the scratching post is well-placed. Once your pet becomes familiar with the new scratching post, move it to the centre of the room or next to their favourite scratching surfaces.

Protect surfaces

If you cannot deter your pet from the scratching area, you could place protective scratching mats or plastic covers over household furnishings. It will allow her to scratch the favorite spot without causing damage.

Go slow

Never force your pet to scratch the new post, as doing so can cause stress. She will begin to associate negative feelings with the new scratching post and might avoid it, which is not what you want. Cats take a long time to warm up to new things. Do not rush the process or get frustrated if your pet ignores the new scratching post for a while.