Why do cats scratch furniture?


Have you ever wondered why your feline friend insists on turning your expensive couch into a scratching post, no matter how many scratching posts you provide? It’s a common frustration for cat owners but understanding why cats scratch furniture is the key to managing this behavior and fostering a harmonious relationship with your pet.

Tabby Kitten getting Belly Scratches on a Ladys Lap | Mieshelle Nagelschneider | Cat Behaviorist

In today’s world, where pet ownership has become a cherished part of many households, the behavior of our furry companions remains a constant source of curiosity and concern. This blog sheds light on the reasons behind this common behavior and provides insights on how to effectively address it.

Q: Why do cats scratch furniture?

A: Cats scratch furniture for a variety of reasons, including natural instincts, communication, and self-maintenance. By understanding these motivations, you can take steps to redirect their behavior and protect your furniture.

Section 1: The Natural Instinct

Scratching is an intrinsic behavior for cats, deeply rooted in their natural instincts. Cats are born with retractable claws designed for climbing, hunting, and self-defense. They need to keep these claws sharp, and furniture scratching is a way to achieve this.

To grasp this instinct better, let’s delve into the details. Cats have scent glands in their paws, and when they scratch, they leave behind a scent mark that is unique to them. This scent marking serves as a way of communication, marking their territory, and asserting their presence. In the wild, this marking is essential for establishing dominance and warding off potential rivals. Your sofa becomes the canvas for their territorial expression.

Scratching also helps cats stretch their muscles, much like yoga for humans. It’s a way for them to relieve stress and tension. Understanding this primal need is crucial for addressing the issue effectively.

It’s also important to note that different cats have varying preferences for the types of surfaces they like to scratch. Some may prefer soft upholstery, while others may favor rougher textures like cardboard or sisal. Providing a variety of appropriate scratching surfaces can help redirect their behavior.

The natural instinct to scratch is deeply ingrained in a cat’s DNA. Recognizing the role it plays in their lives is the first step toward addressing this behavior and keeping your furniture intact.

Section 2: Communication Through Scratching

Apart from sharpening their claws, cats use scratching as a form of communication. When they scratch, they release scent marks that convey various messages to other cats and even to you, their owner.

Cats have scent glands on their paws, and by scratching, they deposit their unique scent on objects around them. This scent serves as a territorial marker, telling other cats that this territory is claimed. It’s their way of saying, “I was here” and establishing their presence.

Interestingly, the height at which your cat scratches can also communicate dominance or submission. Higher scratches signify confidence and dominance, while lower ones may indicate a more submissive posture. Understanding these nuances can help you interpret your cat’s emotional state.

Also, cats may scratch to mark a particular area as safe and secure. In a multi-cat household, this can be especially important, as it helps reduce tension and territorial disputes. By allowing your cat to scratch and claim certain spaces, you’re contributing to their overall well-being and sense of security.

Scratching is a vital mode of communication for cats, allowing them to mark their territory and express themselves. Recognizing the messages behind their scratches can help you better understand and address their behavior.

Section 3: Self-Maintenance and Stress Relief

Cats use scratching not only for communication and maintaining their claws but also as a means of self-maintenance and stress relief. Understanding these aspects is crucial for providing alternatives and preventing your furniture from becoming a casualty.

Mieshelle standing with cat for My Cat from Hell 2 TV Show advertisement | Mieshelle Nagelschneider | Cat Behaviorist | thecatbehaviorclinic.com

When cats scratch, they are not only sharpening their claws but also removing the outer sheath, which can become dull or frayed. This self-maintenance is essential for their comfort and health. Depriving them of this opportunity can lead to discomfort and potential health issues.

Scratching also serves as a stress relief mechanism for cats. Just as humans might engage in stress-relieving activities like squeezing a stress ball or taking a yoga class, cats use scratching to release built-up tension. It’s a way for them to stretch and exercise their muscles, providing mental and physical relief.

To address this aspect of scratching behavior, it’s crucial to provide suitable alternatives. Scratching posts, pads, and boards with various textures can mimic the satisfaction they get from scratching furniture. Placing these alternatives strategically in your home can encourage your cat to choose them over your couch.

Recognizing that scratching serves as self-maintenance and stress relief for cats allows us to provide suitable outlets and preserve our furniture. By offering alternatives, we can maintain a harmonious environment for both pets and owners.


Cats scratch furniture due to their natural instincts, the need for communication, self-maintenance, and stress relief. Recognizing these underlying motivations is essential for addressing the behavior effectively.

Cats are amazing creatures with unique behaviors that may sometimes challenge our understanding. By embracing their need to scratch and providing appropriate outlets, we can maintain a harmonious relationship with our feline companions. Remember, a scratched couch is a small price to pay for the love and companionship they bring to our lives. In conclusion, understanding why cats scratch furniture is crucial for maintaining a peaceful coexistence with your feline friends. Their natural instincts, communication needs, and self-maintenance habits all play a role in this common behavior. By providing appropriate alternatives and recognizing the messages behind their scratching, you can keep both your furniture and your bond with your cat intact.

Cartoon Image of Mieshelle Nagelschneider | Cat Behaviorist