Is your cat slowly shredding up your living room couch or favorite chair?  While frustrating, you are certainly not alone among cat parents.  Keeping your cat from scratching furniture, carpet or window dressings in your home may seem next to impossible at times, but with the right method and attitude, you can help save your household’s look while still fulfilling your cat’s needs.  This article will help you understand why scratching in cats is perfectly natural and healthy, and give you some concrete steps for redirecting their scratching onto surfaces that you approve.   

Understanding Why Cats Scratch

Scratching is a normal behavior in all cats, and cats scratch for a variety of reasons.  Understanding the drivers of scratching can help us design better strategies for getting our cats to stop scratching the things we want them to avoid, and redirect that behavior to a human approved place.  Marking territory, both visually and with their scent, is one reason for scratching.  Cats have scent glands in their front paws, and scratching leaves their scent on their objects of choice.  While not easily detectable for humans, this scent can most certainly be picked up by other cats and animals.  Further, scratch marks provide a visual marker of their presence to other cats and passerby.  This is why cats tend to eschew scratching objects in tucked away places and prefer to showcase their markings on what is centrally located.

Cats also scratch for exercise.  They often love to stretch their backs by reaching their front paws up high to scratch, often after waking up from a nap.  They might also scratch when excited or high energy, allowing them to release some energy and enjoy themselves doing it.  

Scratching also helps keep your cat’s claws from becoming overgrown. The act of scratching enables your cat to naturally slough off the outermost layers of their nails that have died, keeping them sharp and ready for hunting, climbing, defending themselves, or whatever else life might throw their way.  

If we see cats scratching objects that we’d prefer they’d avoid, don’t simply react in the moment and assume they ought to know better.  Scaring your cat into stopping something that is as natural as breathing to them will likely only serve to confuse your cat, and may harm your relationship. 

Steps to Curb Unwanted Scratching

Knowing the rationale behind the behavior, what steps can we now take to curb unwanted scratching, and direct it somewhere else?