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Why Do Cats Scratch My Sofa?

We call it scratching, cats call it art. The world is their canvas and we are just too primitive to understand the beauty behind it – well, at least that is the cat’s perception of it.

We must understand that scratching for cats is normal, instinctive behaviour and so it should not be discouraged. We need to provide our moggie with enough places that are good enough for them to dig their claws in, that way they can learn not to make the Zorro mark on your leather sofa.

Why do they scratch?

Scratching is like nail trimming for cats. By digging their claws into rope or textures akin, they remove the dead outer layer of their claws and remove any dirt that may be underneath. It also keeps their nails sharp which is a great form of defence for your cat if it needs to get out of a scuffle.

When a cat scratches it stretches and flexes the muscles of the forelimbs and spine, circulating the blood and keeping their body in top condition to be ready for a hunt. That is why you would normally see a cat do this after they have just woken up.

My personal favourite reason for scratching is excitement. This usually happens with my cat when I’m about to give him a friendly chase. As soon as he hears the words, “Daddy’s gonna eat your belly!” come out of my mouth, he rushes to the nearest scratching post to get ready for play.

Finally, like most cat behaviours, scratching is a form of communication. It communicates that this is their territory and through leaving a mark, it is their version of planting the flag.

Their paws have sweat and scent glands, so when they are scratching as a result of territorial behaviour, the downward motion of the scratch would leave bits of claw, a distinctive smell and the obvious scratch mark that should be enough of a visual and scent message to say to any other cat, “hey buddy this is mine, and the human that comes with it”.

inventor cat scratching

How do they do it?

Cats would tend to scratch in a downward motion. This way lets them remove the dead outer husks and unveil the shiny, new, sharp claws underneath.

There are three ways that cats tend to scratch:

  • Vertically – cats would stand and stick their front paws on the post using their upper body weight to pull those husks down.

  • Horizontally – This is usually done on the floor mat. They would stick their butts in the air, like they just don’t care (sorry couldn’t help myself) and use the stretch to reverse the pelvis and pull those claws.

  • The Lazy Boy – I have never personally seen this but I bet it would make me laugh. Here the cat would be lying down completely and they would pull their body weight backwards using the force of their weight to pluck those old nails and leave their mark.

Poor little sofa…He was a good sofa

More and more cats these days have limited or no access to the outdoors in order to promote their safety and wellbeing. This is completely fine, though if it is possible, you should provide some supervised outdoor time.

Again, keeping your cat completely indoors is fine, though you must make sure that your cat has enough mental stimulation if not it will lead to boredom and one of the behaviours that results from boredom is inappropriate scratching.

This is usually an attention-seeking approach by the cat. It is easily fixable if you make sure that you play with him little and often throughout the day, doing this will help stop this behaviour. Check out the ways to keep your cat entertained.

Also do not give him attention when he scratches the sofa, chair etc. and give him praise and attention when he scratches the correct post.

In addition you need to make sure that your cat has enough scratching posts around the house. We have 4 scratching posts, the latest was bought only a few weeks ago to stop my cat scratching the kitchen chair. We placed it near the chair and it worked a charm. Cats have routines so if you notice your cat scratching something inappropriate it may simply be because there isn’t a post/mat available for them to scratch in that room.

If your cat is scratching widespread across the house and it doesn’t seem to be the same items that he is scratching then this may be a sign of insecurity, thus the scratching will be more towards territorial markings.

If this is new, then it is likely that a change in their environment or their routine is causing this behaviour. An immediate solution is the Feliway dispensers that leave a scent that cats produce when they are comfortable so it might help them relax a bit. However the long term solution would be to speak to a cat behaviourist.



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