Why do cats scratch?
Cats scratch with their front claws by dragging them downward, either on a horizontal or vertical surface – this action, referred to as stropping, loosens and removes the outer husk of the claw revealing a sharp new surface underneath.
Scratching is also used as a form of territorial communication or marking behaviour. Scent and sweat glands in between the pads of the feet mix to produce a unique smell. When claws are scraped down a surface, the scent is deposited and the combination of the mark, discarded claw husks and the smell provides a strong visual and scent message to other cats.
Evidence of scratching outdoors can often be found on trees, fence posts, sheds and wooden gates, for example, all strategically important locations in a cat populated area. Similar surfaces outside will also be utilised for claw maintenance. Unvarnished woods and tree bark are the most natural surfaces to scratch as they provide a perfect level of resistance to the action and show a strong visual cue when used regularly.
Some of the reasons cats scratch are:
To Mark Their Territory
To cats, scratching is a way to mark the place as their territory. They do so by leaving their signature scratch marks on the post or wherever else they’re scratching. Their scratching also leaves a unique smell produced by the sweat and scent glands in their feet.
Thus, scratching is a way of sending a message to other cats. It’s also a way for the cat to feel at home, like they own the place.
To Maintain Nail Hygiene
Scratching can help bring out a new, sharp claw layer.
When a cat scratches from the top to the bottom of the post, they remove the claw’s outer husk. By that, they make way for the new surface.
Moreover, scratching, specifically on scratching posts, trims cats’ nails. By trimming their nails, your cat is, consciously or unconsciously, doing a check-up for diseases and injuries in the claw area. Moreover, by trimming the nails, your cat’s nails wouldn’t get snagged on surfaces.
To Exercise Their Muscles
Scratching by lying on the floor and pulling their weight along it is a form of exercise for the forelimbs and spine muscles.
This is the reason why you’re always advised to get a scratching post strong enough for your cat’s weight. The stronger the scratching surface is the better the exercise.
To Release Anger
Some cats tend to have behavioral issues. Scratching is a way for them to release any anger, tension, or anxiety they’re feeling. It can also be a way to communicate their irritation to you
How do I know if the amount of scratching my cat does is normal?
If the scratched locations are widespread throughout the home, particularly around doorways and windows, then it is likely that your cat is signalling a general sense of insecurity. Whether the scratching represents claw maintenance, marking or both depends on the dynamics of your cat household, the pattern of locations and various other factors. Even if the level of scratching is normal for your cat, if attractive scratching posts or areas are not provided indoors it is likely that damage will occur to furniture, wallpaper or carpet!
Why Do Cats Run to Scratch Once I Get Home?
You’re probably thinking, “If these are the reasons cats scratch, why do they do it specifically when I arrive home?”
I’ll be honest with you, there aren’t many studies on this particular subject. However, this seems to be a common behavior among cats.
So, it is believed that cats run to the scratching post once you get home in an attempt to communicate something to you.
Think about it: if scratching is a way for cats to release anger, it can probably be a way to express other emotions like excitement. And this is probably how your cat feels when they see you.
After a long day alone, your cat has got to miss its friend. So, when you come along, they want to communicate their feelings to you.
What Can My Cat Be Excited About, Exactly?
Excited to Be Petted
Like most of us, cats sometimes just want to be spoiled and cuddled with by their owners.
Excited to Play
Many cats, like mine, depend on their owner to play with them; they don’t like playing alone. So, by scratching, your cat can really just be asking you to play with them.
Excited to Eat
If their food has run out, your cats’ scratching might be excitement that they’re finally going to get a refill.
Please, though, don’t disregard this reason if you find they still have food. My cat often decides he’s bored with the food he already has, and waits for me to feed him something else.
What Should I Do About the Scratching?
Since it’s happy scratching, you don’t really have to stop it or anything.
All you have to do, however, is give your cat what they want. Cats have a preference on the types of materials they like to scratch.
Try to figure out what that scratching is for, and answer your cats’ wishes as soon as you can. Pet them, play with them, or feed them, whatever it is. All you have to do is show them some love and care.
I recommend, though, that you never ignore your cat’s excitement. All they know in the world is you, and by scratching, they’re trying to show you that.