One of a cat’s natural instincts is to scratch. Unfortunately, this can mean they scratch your carpet, furniture and even the walls. When they do this, don’t tell them off as they are only doing what comes naturally to them. Scratching gets rid of the outer coating of their claws and also helps stretch their muscles to keep them in good hunting condition.

Why do cats scratch?

There are a few reasons why a cat will scratch the carpet or furniture, and if you can understand these you can find a way to stop them.

  • One big reason they scratch is to loosen the husk on their claw. This outer layer needs to be removed to reveal a new, sharp claw underneath. In a predator like a cat, strong, healthy claws are essential.
  • The act of scratching also exercises muscles which are vital for keeping your cat healthy and in good condition. When they scratch, they stretch right out and this also exercises the front legs and spine so they are ready for hunting.
  • When they scratch, they release pheromones which other cats can detect. These warn other cats that they are in another cat’s territory and also lets the cat know where it’s found a good place to scratch.
  • Sometimes cats can scratch through boredom. If they have little to do and no one pays them any attention, they will scratch. Try to set aside time every day to play with your cat and make sure it has plenty to keep it occupied.
  • Claws can also come out when cats play which is why you sometimes get scratched as well. If they are playing on the floor, there’s a good chance your carpet will get damaged.
  • Cats can also scratch if they are anxious about something. It maybe you have a lot of pets and they feel a bit insecure, or if you have building work going on, that can unsettle them too. If it is anxiety making them scratch, then you will also notice other changes in their behaviour and you should consult a vet to make sure they get the right help.

How to stop cats scratching

Once you know why they scratch, you can take steps to prevent it.

  • One simple solution is to provide scratching posts. These are readily available in pet shops and they come in different shapes and sizes. It can be an idea to put a few around the house to give your cat some variety. It’s best to place these in areas where the cat spends a lot of time or close to an area where they’ve been scratching previously. They may not use them straight away, but as they become used to them you should find they scratch there and leave your carpet alone.
  • Horizontal scratching boards can be placed on the floor near an area of carpet to try to stop them scratching it further.
  • If your cat is scratching your carpet, move an item of furniture over the area if you can. Make sure you provide a scratching post close by first.

What if the cat still scratches?

If you have got plenty of scratching posts and your cat is still scratching, you may need to take some more action.

  • They will be attracted to the pheromones they released when they scratched, so clean around the area to get rid of any lingering scent.
  • You can also buy sprays which mask the scent, but be careful as some of these will have a smell which is overpowering for humans as well.
  • Thick tape is a good deterrent. Simply place it over the area where they have been scratching. Cats don’t like the feel of it on their claws, so they will look for somewhere else to scratch.
  • If they are scratching the wall, then a simple sheet of Perspex placed against it will stop them.
  • Similarly, a plastic runner on a carpet can be all you need to encourage them to use a nearby scratching post.

Keep an eye on your scratching posts to make sure that they aren’t getting too worn. They should last a long time but if they start to show signs of wear, you may find your cat starts looking for somewhere else to scratch – like your furniture again.