5 Reasons Why Cats Scratch Wood (Plus Prevention)

Do you find yourself constantly perplexed by your feline friend’s penchant for scratching your beloved wooden furniture? Does the sound of claws on wood send a shiver down your spine, reminding you of yet another piece of furniture falling victim to your cat’s inexplicable urge? If so, you’re not alone. Many cat owners worldwide are confronted with this universal feline behaviour, often leaving them with a conundrum: how to preserve their cherished furnishings while ensuring their furry companions’ happiness.

In this blog post, we’re going to delve into the enigmatic world of cats, focusing on one of their most notorious habits: scratching wood. We’ll explore the root causes behind this behavior and offer valuable insights into how to manage it effectively without impinging on your pet’s natural instincts. Whether you’re a new cat parent or a seasoned feline enthusiast, this post is designed to give you a better understanding of your four-legged friend’s actions and equip you with practical tips to prevent your wooden furniture from turning into a scratching post.

Reasons Why Cats Do Scratch Wood

Mark Their Scent

Ah, the intriguing world of feline communication! Cats have a sophisticated system of scent communication that is often hidden from human detection. When your cat is scratching your wooden furniture, it may seem like a simple act of destruction to the untrained eye, but there’s a lot more going on beneath the surface.

Cats have scent glands in their paws. These are special glands that produce pheromones, a type of chemical signal that is unique to each individual cat. When they scratch objects, especially prominent ones like your wooden furniture, they are depositing these pheromones onto the object. This action serves two purposes:

Marking Territory: By leaving their unique scent on the wooden furniture, cats are essentially marking their territory. This is their way of communicating to other cats that this is their space, a sort of “Keep Out” sign, if you will. This behavior can be traced back to their wild ancestors who had to define their territory to avoid potential conflicts.

Signalling Security: At the same time, this scent-marking provides a sense of comfort and familiarity. Cats are creatures of habit, and being surrounded by their own scent gives them a feeling of security and control over their environment.

So, the next time you see your cat scratching your wooden furniture, remember that they’re not doing it to annoy you or ruin your decor. Instead, they are following their natural instincts to communicate, establish territory, and create a safe, familiar environment. However, understanding this doesn’t make the damage to your furniture any less frustrating. The key is to provide alternative outlets for this scratching behavior, such as scratch posts or mats, and redirect your cat’s attention to these acceptable targets.

Remove The Dead Part Of Their Nails

Aside from the important scent-marking behavior, another major reason why cats scratch surfaces like wood is to maintain their claws. As part of their grooming routine, cats scratch to remove the dead outer sheath of their nails, revealing the sharp, healthy nail underneath. This is similar to how snakes shed their skin to reveal a new, healthy layer beneath.

When your cat scratches, the motion helps to dislodge the old, outer layer of the nail. You may even occasionally find these discarded sheaths near your cat’s favorite scratching spots. The rough texture of wood, in particular, provides an excellent medium for this kind of grooming activity. It offers enough resistance to help strip away the old nail sheath and keep the remaining nail sharp and clean.

While this behavior is perfectly normal and healthy, it can be a source of distress for many cat owners when the chosen scratching surface is a piece of valuable furniture. To help manage this, provide alternative scratching options like scratching posts or cardboard scratchers. Make these more appealing by placing them near your cat’s favorite scratching spots and using catnip or positive reinforcement to encourage their use.

Remember, scratching is a natural and necessary behavior for cats. It’s our job as pet parents to understand this need and provide suitable outlets for it. With the right strategies in place, you can protect your furniture without compromising your cat’s well-being.

Express Excitement

Scratching isn’t just a mundane chore for cats—it’s also an activity they find incredibly enjoyable and stimulating. Think of it like a kitty version of a yoga stretch combined with a joyous celebration of their feline instincts.

When cats scratch, they are engaging several muscles throughout their body, from their toes up to their back and neck. This comprehensive stretch can feel incredibly satisfying, much like how we humans enjoy a good stretch after a long period of inactivity.

Additionally, as we’ve discussed before, scratching releases their unique pheromones from the scent glands in their paws onto the scratched surface. This chemical signal, when detected by the cat themselves, can cause a positive emotional reaction, leading to further excitement and satisfaction.

The act of shredding a piece of wood or other rough material can also offer a type of sensory feedback that many cats find appealing. The sensation under their paws, the sound of the shredding material, and even the visible marks they leave behind, all contribute to making scratching a thrilling experience for them.

Express Stress

While scratching is a natural and often enjoyable behavior for cats, changes in the frequency, intensity, or location of scratching can indicate that a cat is feeling stressed or anxious. This is because scratching also serves as a coping mechanism for cats to deal with stress.

When cats are stressed, they may scratch more frequently or intensely as a way to release tension and self-soothe. The act of scratching allows them to physically work off some of their anxiety and the scent-marking aspect provides a sense of familiarity and comfort. It’s similar to how some people might bite their nails or tap their feet when feeling nervous.

For example, if you notice your cat suddenly starting to scratch a piece of furniture they’ve never shown interest in before, or their scratching becomes more aggressive or frequent, it might be a response to some change in their environment or routine causing them stress. This could be anything from a new pet or person in the house, a change in their feeding schedule, or even rearranging the furniture.

It’s important to remember that while you can’t completely prevent your cat from scratching, you can provide appropriate outlets for this behavior, like scratch posts or toys. If your cat’s scratching behavior changes suddenly or drastically, it’s always a good idea to consult with a veterinarian or a cat behaviorist to rule out any potential health issues and discuss ways to alleviate your cat’s stress.

To Stretch

Scratching surfaces like wood not only allows cats to mark their territory, groom their nails, and express their emotions, but it also gives them a chance to stretch their bodies, which is critical to their physical health and agility.

When a cat scratches, they are essentially engaging in a full-body workout. The action of stretching up to scratch a vertical surface, or reaching out to scratch a horizontal one, helps to elongate their spine and flex their muscles. This movement is similar to a human stretching after waking up or a long period of sitting, and it’s just as beneficial.

The act of scratching helps to stretch and strengthen the muscles in a cat’s toes, legs, shoulders, and back. This keeps the cat’s body flexible and agile, which is crucial for their predatory skills like climbing, pouncing, and sprinting. Even domestic cats who are not hunting for their food still retain these natural instincts and behaviors.

Moreover, this stretching action can help to relieve any tension built up in a cat’s body. Just as humans might enjoy a good stretch or yoga session to relieve stress, cats can find the same sort of relief from a good scratch.

So, the next time you see your cat scratching, remember they’re not just potentially ruining your furniture, they’re also keeping their bodies healthy and limber. Providing appropriate outlets like scratching posts or boards will allow your cat to fulfill this instinctive need without damaging your belongings.

Different Types Of Wooden Furniture Cats Scratch

Wooden Skirting Boards

Wooden skirting boards often find themselves in the crosshairs of a cat’s claws for several reasons. Understanding these reasons can help cat owners better manage this behaviour and protect their home furnishings.

Height and Location: Skirting boards sit at a perfect height for many cats to stretch and scratch. They’re also typically located along frequently traversed paths within the home, making them a convenient target for a cat looking to mark its territory with scent glands in their paws.

Texture: Cats often prefer to scratch textured surfaces, and the rough surface of a wooden skirting board can be very appealing to them. The texture helps remove the dead outer layer of their claws and offers a satisfying sensory experience.

Visibility: Scratching is also a visual marker for cats, a sort of signpost that signals “I am here”. Skirting boards are often prominent fixtures in the home, making them an ideal location for this kind of visual marking.

Wooden Door Frames

Wooden door frames can be a favorite scratching spot for cats for a number of reasons.

Texture: Similar to wooden skirting boards, door frames often have a texture that cats find particularly satisfying to scratch. The act of scratching wood helps to keep their claws sharp and clean by removing the dead outer layer.

Height: Door frames are often the perfect height for cats to fully stretch their bodies while scratching, which is an important aspect of this behavior. A good stretch can help to keep their muscles flexible and strong.

Location and Visibility: Door frames are typically located in high-traffic areas of the home and are often the entrance to different rooms. By scratching these locations, cats can mark these important thresholds with their scent, making a clear statement about their territory to other animals in the household. The visible marks they leave behind can also serve as a visual claim of territory.

Communication: Cats use scratching as a way to communicate, and door frames are a very visible location. If a door is often closed, a cat might scratch the frame to indicate their desire for it to be opened.

Wooden Furniture

Cats scratching wooden furniture can be a common issue in many households. Here are a few reasons why your feline friend may be drawn to your wooden pieces:

Texture: Wooden furniture, with its rough texture and resistance, is an ideal material for cats to shed the outer sheath of their nails and keep their claws sharp. The tactile satisfaction cats get from the act of scratching wood can be hard for them to resist.

Scent Marking: Cats have scent glands in their paws. When they scratch, they leave their unique scent on the object. This marking behavior is a way for them to claim their territory and create a familiar-smelling environment, which provides them with a sense of comfort and security.

Location: If your wooden furniture is placed in a high-traffic area or a central part of your home, it becomes an attractive target for your cat. By scratching such prominently placed objects, cats can make a bold statement about their presence and territory.

Stretching and Exercise: Scratching also allows cats to stretch their bodies, particularly their back and shoulder muscles. The height and stability of many pieces of furniture make them an ideal scratching and stretching post from a cat’s perspective.

Ways To Stop A Cat From Scratching Wood

Apply Scents That Cats Don’t Like To That Area Of Wood

Cats have a very keen sense of smell, which is much more developed than that of humans. This makes them particularly sensitive to certain scents, some of which they find unpleasant. Cat owners can use this to their advantage by applying these scents to areas they want to deter their cats from scratching, such as wooden furniture or door frames.

Here are a few scents that are generally disliked by cats:

Citrus: Cats typically dislike the smell of citrus fruits like oranges, lemons, limes, and grapefruits. You can use this to your advantage by applying citrus-based sprays or even citrus peels to the areas you want to protect from scratching.

Essential Oils: Certain essential oils, like eucalyptus, lavender, peppermint, and rosemary, are often unappealing to cats. However, it’s important to note that some essential oils can be toxic to cats, so always dilute them heavily and use sparingly. Make sure to research any essential oil before using it around your cat.

Vinegar: The strong smell of vinegar can be effective in deterring cats. A diluted vinegar solution can be sprayed onto the areas where you don’t want your cat to scratch.

Commercial Repellents: There are also commercial cat repellent sprays available on the market that contain scents cats dislike.

Remember, the goal is to deter your cat from scratching certain areas, not to distress them. Always introduce new scents gradually and observe your cat’s reaction. Also, ensure that you provide an alternative scratching surface, like a scratching post, for your cat to use. The key is to make the prohibited scratching areas less appealing while making the appropriate scratching areas more attractive.

Introduce A Cat Scratching Post

Introducing a cat scratching post is one of the most effective ways to deter your cat from scratching wooden furniture or other inappropriate surfaces. Here’s why it works and how to do it properly:

Satisfying the Need to Scratch: A scratching post serves the same purpose as your wooden furniture from a cat’s perspective. It provides a surface where they can scratch to mark territory, groom their nails, stretch their bodies, and release stress or excitement. By providing an appropriate outlet for these behaviors, you can redirect the scratching away from your furniture.

Attractiveness: Many scratching posts are covered with materials that cats find especially appealing to scratch, like sisal rope or carpet. Some are also infused with catnip or come with attached toys to make them even more enticing.

Location: Place the scratching post near the piece of furniture that your cat has been scratching. This will make it easier for your cat to choose the post over the furniture. If your cat scratches multiple pieces of furniture, you might need more than one scratching post.

Encouragement: Initially, your cat might need some encouragement to use the scratching post. This can be done by playing with your cat near the post, attaching toys to it, or sprinkling it with catnip. Whenever your cat uses the post, offer praise and treats to reinforce the behavior.

Size and Stability: Make sure the scratching post is tall enough for your cat to stretch fully and stable enough that it doesn’t wobble or fall over when your cat uses it. A post that’s too small or unstable can discourage your cat from using it and drive them back to your furniture.

Remember, consistency and patience are key. It might take some time for your cat to stop scratching your wooden furniture and start using the scratching post consistently, but with positive reinforcement and the right setup, you can successfully protect your furniture without denying your cat’s natural instincts.

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