At some point in caring for you cat, you may find yourself wondering, “Why does my cat like to scratch furniture?” It tends to come out with a few curse words on either side of it, right after you’ve just come home to find your favorite armchair scratched to shreds. The short answer to that question is simply that it’s what cats do; it’s in their nature. But the answer is not to stop the scratching, but rather redirect it toward a dedicated scratch post or other item. To get the details, we’ll refer to the experts at Cat Behavior Associates for a more comprehensive explanation of why cats love to scratch.
Most people have heard or assume that cats scratch various objects to sharpen their claws, which is true. Cats also scratch to stretch specific muscles in their back and shoulder area that they cannot otherwise reach through normal stretching. The physical motion provides leverage against whatever it is that the cat scratches (in this case, your favorite armchair), and allows them to flex their backs in a concave arc while also loosening up what is the feline equivalent of a rotator cuff. In this way, your cat remains the limber and agile beauty that you know and love.
Besides the physical relief scratching provides, your cat also gets a kind of emotional release from it as well. Just as humans physically express themselves when something emotionally significant happens, so does your cat. Your cat has fewer options when it comes to the outward physical manifestation of its emotions, so whether it’s an expression of happiness and pleasure or irritation and stress, your cat will often resort to scratching as a means of releasing those built-up emotions. This is a healthy part of your cat’s daily health maintenance, so, again, it mustn’t be discouraged, but, rather, redirected (preferably away from your armchair).
The fact of the matter is that cats cannot speak to each other and let one another know which territories (such as the backyard) are up for dispute and which are already claimed (the foot your bed). So, besides spraying on things, your cat lets other cats know where its claim is staked by scratching its mark into a particular location. At the same time, the act of scratching emits pheromones from glands in the pads of its paws, which serve to further communicate this message.
Just remember that an armchair can be reupholstered and deep cleaned. It’s truly important for your cat to do some scratching. It’s only natural and you can help redirect it away from your beloved furniture by offering it something more specifically designed for cats, like a scratching post.