Why Do Cats Scratch Furniture? - Cat Info Detective

Why Do Cats Scratch Furniture?

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Greetings fur-strated humans! Skye Blake here with a head scratcher… why do cats scratch furniture?

It’s a mystery that frustrates many people because they don’t want their sofas, chairs, tables, and other things shredded!

Let’s discover why we felines need to scratch and how to fulfill that need without sacrificing your home!

paw prints coming in from a distance

Who Is Skye Blake?

Skye Blake-updated, white background

Skye Blake, Cat Info Detective, is a curious cat researcher (not a vet or behaviorist) who sniffs out expert, reliable sources about cats, studies their information, then passes it on to you! 

Sometimes there’s not enough evidence for easy answers, so Skye gives you all sides, explains the situation as thoroughly and clearly as possible, and links you to experts on each page.

Sources are at the bottom of each page so you can do more snooping.

Why Does My Cat Scratch Furniture?

cats sitting on furniture - AI

Why do cats have to scratch anyway? It’s so destructive!

Well, there are a few important reasons…

  • Remove the outer layer of claws
  • Sharpen claws
grey kitten at tree trunk
  • Stretch the spine
  • Stay flexible
  • Use excess energy
orange tabby cat scratching rock
  • Leave messages by sight and scent

These motivations are hardwired into every cat, including the one sleeping in your lap!

Sharp & Healthy Claws

white cat paw, claws

Scratching rough surfaces keeps claws healthy and strong.

It removes the outer layer and keeps nails sharp and properly curved.

If they can’t scratch, the outer layer gets thicker and the nails start curling under.

grey, white longhaired cat scratching tree

They can dig into the foot pads and cause infection… ouch!

Keeping their claws sharp helps cats climb safely, catch prey, and balance by gripping surfaces well.

Flexible Spine

tabby stretching by a car

Cats stretch when they scratch trees, chairs or anything else, which feels good and helps them keep a flexible spine.

If you’ve ever seen a cat when they wake up, you’ve seen this in action.

Many are the people who’ve been jealous of a cat’s ability to satisfyingly stretch from head to toe!

Kitty Billboard

Signpost - This is mine

Scratching on trees, posts, furniture, etc., is a way of putting up a kitty billboard.

Visible marks and pheromone scent left by the glands in their paws, along with pee marks say, “I’m here… this is my territory!”

This actually reduces fights because it gives other cats the opportunity to avoid the area.

Blowing Off Steam

tabby kitten playing with a ball

Ever seen a cat do the zoomies?

It’s a way of letting off steam (“displacement behavior”), stopping to do some wild clawing and then zooming off again.

Cats will also suddenly claw things when they’re startled, unsure or worried about something that’s happening.

Bengal cat playing with toy on couch, scratch furniture

It seems to be a way of “righting” themselves… getting their wits back before exiting the area.

Cats are like energy balloons… building up energy while they sleep in order to hunt later.

At some point the balloon has to pop!

cat eagerly looking up to play

Mieshelle Nagelschneider, a leading cat behaviorist, describes it best…

“Cats are masters at destressing. They have many ways to release emotional energy even without a membership at a yoga studio.”

“The Cat Whisperer”, by Mieshelle Nagelschneider, Bantam Books, The Random House Publishing Group, New York NY, 2013, www.bantamdell.com, p. 241

How To Stop Furniture Scratching

Cat playing on arm of sofa

The key to scratch happiness is providing the proper scratching surfaces… give her a “yes” instead of a “no”.

You’re in luck! There are inexpensive things you can do that work well for both us felines and humans.

Here are some ideas…

Playing

Dark tabby kittens playing with mouse toy

Playing with your cat as part of a daily routine is an important part of your cat’s overall health.

Providing proper play gives him an outlet for all that energy and fulfills the hunting instinct.

This includes both having toys and puzzles available he can use himself and wand toys you can use for play sessions together.

Discover more at “Playing with Cats the Right Way!

Training

cat raising paw for treat - training, scratch furniture

Training your cat using positive reinforcement is a fun and effective way to teach him what’s appropriate and what isn’t.

It’s great for all sorts of situations, like getting in the carrier, walking on a leash, coming when called, being groomed, helping a shy cat gain confidence… the list goes on.

When it comes to scratching furniture, you can train a cat to use a scratching post and let you clip claws.

Discover more at “How to Train a Cat“.

Clipping Claws

clipping cat's claws

Clipping the ends of your cat’s claws regularly is important because it helps keep them from snagging on things, including your skin.

Long claws can scratch you even while a cat’s sitting quietly on your lap, so it helps you as well to keep them trimmed.

Learn more about proper claw clipping at “How to Groom a Cat“.

Nail/Claw Caps

grey fat cat with nail, claw caps lounging, obese, scratch furniture

Another option is putting nail caps on your cat’s front nails. That can be easier said than done and requires monitoring.

As the nails grow, they must be clipped and re-capped every 6-12 weeks.

This method can be too much work for many people and some cats won’t put up with them.

Environmental Enrichment

white cat using scratching post instead of furniture

Providing sturdy scratching surfaces to use instead of the couch, along with incentive to use them, is a crucial step.

They range from basic to stylish (for those who want aesthetically pleasing cat furniture) and come in different angles and materials.

Prices vary according to style and quality. Discover more at “Cat Scratching Post Training.

Is Declawing an Option?

kitten licking paw, toe beans, cats scratch furniture

Declawing cats used to be a commonly accepted practice but is controversial and now considered barbaric.

This is because it’s a serious operation that actually amputates part of each toe, not just claws!

Since cats walk on their toes it can cause a lot of problems.

Tabby, white cat walking on pavement

It really isn’t necessary for the vast majority of cats because there are many other options for keeping your furniture intact and your cat happy.

Discover more at “Declawing Cats – Good or Bad?

Videos

Here are some helpful videos…

“How to Stop your Cat from Scratching Furniture (8 Tips)”, The Cat Butler, April 30, 2022
“How to Stop Your Cats From Scratching Furniture”, February 3, 2014

Moving Forward

cartoon signpost, this way, that way, decision

Now that you know why cats scratch furniture and how to stop it, you can move forward using what you’ve learned.

Discover more about your cat’s inner nature at “Cat Behavior…Is My Cat Nuts?? and scratching posts at “Cat Scratching Post Training“.


Sources

Sources used on this website are either primary or secondary.

Primary sources are always preferable and have the most reliable information because they’re original and directly referenced.

Scientific abstracts and data are good examples of primary sources.

Secondary sources are weaker because they usually consist of opinions or articles that give no sources of their own.

However, sometimes they refer to primary sources.

When I use secondary sources, most are those with some authority, such as veterinarian or cat behaviorist books and articles.

List of Sources

“Decoding Your Cat”, American College of Veterinary Behaviorists, Editors: Meghan E. Herron, DVM, DACVB, Debra F. Horwitz, DVM, DACVB, Carlo Siracusa, DVM, PhD, DACVB, DECAWBM, pp. 202-203, 230-231

“Getting Started Clicker Training for Cats” by Karen Pryor, Waltham, MA, www.clickertraining.com, 2001, pp. 31-32, 60-62

“The Cat Whisperer”, by Mieshelle Nagelschneider, Bantam Books, The Random House Publishing Group, New York NY, 2013, www.bantamdell.com, pp. 240-254

“Think Like a Cat, How to Raise a Well-Adjusted Cat – Not a Sour Puss”, by Pam Johnson-Bennett, Certified Animal Behavior Consultant, Penguin Books, Penguin Group (USA) Inc, New York, NY, 2000, 2011, pp. 180-189

“Total Cat Mojo”, by Jackson Galaxy with Mikel Delgado, PhD, Tarcher Perigree, Penguin Random House, LLC, New York, NY, 2017

Updated January 26, 2024

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