Why do cats scratch things?

cat scratching post

There are a number of reasons why cats scratch things.

Many people think cats scratch things to sharpen their claws.  In the past cats scratched on tree trunks to sharpen their claws. A cat needs sharp claws to help them climb trees when escaping predators and also for catching and killing their prey.  Sharp claws help the cat win battles against other cats. Without a full set of sharp claws a cat is seriously disadvantaged in the wild. For this reason cats all have the primal instinct to sharpen their claws often.  After all a cat literally lives or dies in the wild by the sharpness of its claws.

Cats use scratching as a means of communication. Scratching lets other cats know where they are and what they are up to. When a cat scratches things he leaves an odour which is released from sweat glands in their paw pad. Jaspurr using scratching to communicate to me his displeasure. He scratches at the mats at the door when he wants me to open the door and let him out on the deck. Sometimes he runs up to his scratch pole and scratches furiously, I know there is something bothering him but hardly ever find out what it is, and being a cat he is distracted from his mood very easily.

Cats often damage furniture or carpets through their basic scratching instincts.  Jaspurr discovered how much fun it was to scratch at our wool loop pile carpet and because he was indoors all the time the carpet was ruined in a very short time. Once we replaced the loop pile with a plush pile carpet he was no longer able to scratch at the carpet.  Because this behaviour  is instinctual it is incorrect to label it as bad or mischievous. Changing this behaviour is difficult but not impossible.  We found getting a couple of cat scratch poles and leaving them spread throughout the house.  We also got some cheap loop pile mats which we leave at the doors so we know when he wants to go out on the deck or come back in.

We found Jaspurr’s scratching to be very destructive to our furniture especially in the first year.  Has any-one else had problems with their cat scratching objects? What strategies have you used to discourage the scratching and did it work?

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