Your feline friend may exhibit behaviors that can prompt curious questions. Naturally, as a cat owner, you want your furry family member to be happy and healthy. Each pet is different and their reaction to any situation or environment is unique to their personality. As a new cat owner, you may find questioning certain cat behaviors like –why do cats scratch? We sat down with Trupanion veterinarian Dr. Caroline Wilde to learn more about cat scratching and tips for the overall wellness of your furry friend.
The answer to why do cats scratch
Why do cats scratch?
There are a variety of reasons why a cat may want to scratch. Whether you have a kitten or a curious adult cat, behaviors such as scratching can start from necessity, play, or something more. Wilde weighs in on the origin of cat scratching.
“Scratching is a very normal thing for a cat to do. For example, whether they want to sharpen their claws, mark their territory both visually and with their scent (there are scent glands on the paws), and to help them stretch their bodies and their paws. Also, cats can scratch due to fear, anxiety, or aggression (the latter of which is usually a sign of fear or anxiety). Sometimes, cats scratch as part of play.”
Just because your furry friend is scratching, doesn’t mean there is anything to be concerned about. For instance, they could just be playing or sharpening their claws. Consider what is going on in their environment and reach out to your veterinarian if you have any concerns.
When does cat scratching start to
become a behavioral concern?
A kitten is learning, growing, and is certainly curious about their new home. All pets react differently to a change in environment, and a cat is no exception.
In essence, “cat scratching becomes a behavioral concern when it is problematic to the owner, due to damage to property or injury. For instance, if a cat is scratching because of fear or aggression, that is concerning as we always want to minimize these issues in our pets. If efforts to decrease fear or aggression are unsuccessful, there are veterinary behaviorists who can diagnose the cat’s condition, and make appropriate recommendations, sometimes through behavior modification and pharmacotherapy,” points out Wilde.
If at any point your cat’s scratching is causing harm to you, your family, or property you should seek medical care. Further, under the expertise and guidance of your veterinarian, they can determine a proper treatment plan that fits your cat’s needs.
Tips to prevent cat scratching
furniture, pets, or people
A kitten is often unpredictable and it may be hard to tell if your growing kitten will be more or less inclined to scratch. For example, even though a cat may scratch, it might not become a behavior pattern or a concern.
Consider the following tips to
prevent excessive cat scratching:
Firstly, if your cat will allow, is regular nail trims to limit the ability to cause damage or injury. There are also things called “Soft Paws” which are basically caps that are glued to the nails and thereby prevent damage caused by the cat’s claws. They are not painful but do require periodic re-application.
Spraying pheromone spray, such as Feliway, onto surfaces that you do not wish to be scratched can sometimes help deter scratching.
Place a scratching post where your cat likes to scratch.
can have individual scratching substrate preferences, such as carpet, sisal, or
in the case of my own personal cat, a welcome mat, so it may be beneficial to
try different types of scratching posts.
Applying a substrate that your cat is averse to — like tin foil or double-sided tape — to the place where your cat likes to scratch may be helpful.
If your cat is scratching because of play, redirect focus to an appropriate toy.
When cats scratch people, it is usually due to anxiety or fear. Pay close attention to a cat’s behavioral cues, such as crouching or flattening ears. In addition, give them space when they exhibit these cues to help prevent scratches.
not punish your cat for scratching, as that can cause fear and anxiety, and
actually worsen the behavior.
Benefits of cat enrichment and cat
If a cat is stressed, anxious, or overly scratching it may be beneficial to redirect this behavior with cat enrichment. Alternatively, by providing enriching toys and interactive play for your feline friend, it can help curb unwanted behaviors.
For example, “environmental enrichment for cats can provide a safe and comfortable space for cats, and thereby minimize destructive or unwanted behaviors,” cites Wilde. Also, interactive play is a wonderful way to bond with your cat. Without a doubt, your feline friend will appreciate the extra attention.
Every cat is unique and displays
Whether you have a new kitten or a growing cat, it is essential to be mindful of new behaviors. Further, by providing cat enrichment and keeping your veterinarian up-to-date with your cat’s development, your furry friend can find optimum wellness.
is a digital content writer and editor for Trupanion. She spends her workday writing for the Trupanion blog. She loves writing about pets, being inspired by pets, and luckily gets to hang out with her rescue dogs all day long. In her free time, she enjoys exploring and traveling with her family. Her work has been featured on the DOGTV blog, KitNipBox blog, Get Your Pet blog, Fansided, among many others.