Why Do Cats Use Scratching Posts

Why Do Cats Use Scratching Posts?

Cats love to scratch! Unfortunately for their human caretakers, though, they don’t always scratch where they’re supposed to.

In order to protect their furniture and sanity, many cat owners opt to purchase a scratching post. These posts, usually made of wood or plastic then covered in a rough carpet-like material, provide the perfect outlet for your cat’s natural scratching instinct.

We know that cats like to scratch, but why do they do it?  Why do cats use scratching posts?

In this article we’ll cover the following:

  • Why Do Cats Use Scratching Posts?
  • What Kind of Scratching Post Do Cats Like?
  • How to Stop Cats from Scratching Furniture
  • How to Stop Kittens from Scratching Furniture

Why Do Cats Use Scratching Posts?

All cats, domesticated or wild, have a natural instinct to scratch.

Cats scratch for many different reasons:

  1. To remove the dead outer layer of their claws and make them sharper
  2. To stretch their feet, toes, and legs
  3. To mark their territory

Every cat, from the majestic mountain lion to the tame tabby, will engage in scratching behavior at some point in their lives.

Because most cat owners don’t want their cats to scratch their furniture which seems to be many cats’ favorite place to scratch, the pet supply market came up with a solution: the scratching post.

Scratching posts are made to be scratched. And while your cat’s propensity for scratching will dictate how long your scratching post lasts, they are an inexpensive and helpful way to curb unwanted scratching in the home.

It’s important to understand why cats scratch.

First of all, cats use their claws as their first line of defense, so they want to make sure their claws are always in fighting form. Your cat will scratch rough or grainy surfaces to peel away the deadened edges of their claws (think of split ends in human hair) to make them sharper.

Cats also scratch to mark their territory. The physical act of scratching leaves behind markings which lets other cats know that this space belongs to them. But even more fascinating is the fact that cats have scent glands on their paws.

These tiny scent glands are activated and release odor during the act of scratching. Cats rely heavily on scent to communicate with other cats and their human caretakers, which is one of the reasons why cats will occasionally pee on clothing.

Lastly, cats scratch because it feels good! Scratching gives your feline friend an opportunity to stretch their front and back legs, spread their paws a bit, and release any tension that has built up around their toes and claws.

Cats dig for similar reasons, but scratching usually poses more of a problem in the home because it’s easier to scratch on a couch than dig in a carpet.

Based on the vigor with which many cats scratch at their scratching post, it’s not hard to imagine that it’s an activity that they really enjoy.

What Kind of Scratching Post Do Cats Like?

It’s important to give your cat an outlet for their urge to scratch. If you fail to do so, your cat will scratch whatever they find appealing, which is often your couch, mattress, or curtains.

Choosing a scratching post can be a little tricky and often involves trial and error. Different cats have different preferences as far as texture, height, and material, so you may need to try a few different models before deciding which one is the best fit for your feline friend.

Generally speaking, you’ll want to look for the following qualities in scratching post:

  1. Durable. You don’t want the scratching post to be torn to shreds in a matter of days! Very cheap models often aren’t durable and will be destroyed easily. Spending a few extra dollars at the onset may save you from having to buy scratching post after scratching post.
  2. Tightly-woven materials. From rope to carpeting to cardboard, scratching posts come in a variety of different materials. Whether it’s rope, cardboard, or something else, your cat needs the material to be close together for it to do its job. The Pioneer Ultimate scratching post is a great example of a scratching post with tightly-woven materials.
  3. Tall. Most cats prefer a scratching post that’s as tall as they can reach, such as the Max and Marlow Tall Scratch Post. These taller varieties give your cat the opportunity to stretch out as they scratch and even allows them to climb on top of the scratching post for some extra fun.

It looks like this owner has simply wrapped a bit of old carpeting on a table leg to create a scratching post. But it looks like the cat loves it!

How to Stop Cats from Scratching Furniture

Buying a scratching post for your cat is a great first step towards protecting your furniture. Some cat owners purchase a scratching post and never have to worry about the issue again.

Other cat owners, however, find that the allure of the couch is too strong for their kitty to resist, and the couch is eventually torn to shreds as the scratching post remains unused.

In these cases, it’s often necessary to make the scratching post more enticing than the furniture. The best way to do this? Catnip.

Some scratching posts come infused with catnip, which is bound to make them irresistible to your feline friend. The Four Paws Super Catnip scratch post offers something even better: not only does it smell like catnip, but it is equipped with a little plush catnip ball for your cat to bat at.

If your cat adamantly refuses to scratch anything but the furniture, you may need to move on to plan B. If your cat simply won’t leave your furniture alone, you may want to invest in plastic couch covers that are specially made to protect your furniture from cat claws, such as the Kitty Cat Protector.

Once you have your couch protected, your cat may turn to the scratching post on their own at that point. To further encourage them to make the transition, place the scratch post right next to their former favorite scratching spot on the sofa.

How to Stop Kittens from Scratching Furniture

Luckily, kittenhood is the perfect time to teach your furry friend how to behave in the house.

If your kitten enthusiastically scratches your furniture, you have a few options when it comes to deterring them:

  1. Spray them with plain water from a spray bottle when you catch them in the act, followed by a sharp, “No!” While the water won’t hurt your kitten, it will surprise and annoy them. If you do this consistently, they should soon get the message that scratching the furniture won’t be tolerated.
  2. Cover your furniture with old bedsheets. Sheets aren’t as fun to scratch as upholstered surfaces, so simply covering your furniture may do the trick.
  3. Spray a cat repellant on your furniture, such as Mindful Pets Deterrent Spray, which is non-toxic and safe for your kitten and your furniture. These sprays contain essential oils and other odors that are offensive to cats and kittens which will deter them from scratching.

Lastly, it’s important to remember to provide your kitten with plenty of opportunities to scratch. If you don’t want them to scratch your furniture but fail to provide them with a scratching post, you’re setting yourself and your kitten up for failure.

Even these tiny kittens are using a scratching post, which is just proof of how strong the instinct is!

So, why do cats use scratching posts?

Cats scratch to sharpen their claws, stretch, and mark their territory. Scratching posts are made with feline behavior in mind, so they are often the perfect texture and height for optimal scratching time.

When shopping for a scratching post for your kitty, make sure to get something that is durable, tall enough for your cat to stretch on, and made of an enticing material, such as the Pioneer Ultimate scratching post.

Does your cat scratch everything but their scratching post? Have you found the perfect scratching post for your feline friend? How did you train your kitten not to scratch the furniture? We want to hear all about your adventures with scratching, so tell us about them in the comments!

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Amanda K.

After moving to New York City from Rome, Italy, I began working in the nonprofit world. Despite my day job, my passion has always been animals, especially dogs and cats, and writing. What better way to combine the two? I've been a pet owner for 15 years, and my menagerie includes dogs, cats, hamsters and the occasional hermit crab. My beloved cat, Mozart, who I found as a newborn kitten, sparked my love for felines and is now nearly 15 years old. I am an enthusiastic volunteer at the local ASPCA, where I enjoy spending time with the cats and cleaning up after the dogs. I've been writing about pet ownership and care for the past five years.

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