New Study Explains Why Cats Love to Scratch Furniture and How to Get Them to Stop

A new study examines why some cats love to scratch furniture even when they're discouraged from doing so and offers hints on how we can get them to stop.

An international team of researchers wanted to look closer at what might influence a domestic cat to scratch up our furniture to see if there's a way to help reduce the behavior. And the study's findings are really interesting. Take a look!

Dr. Yasemin Salgirli Demirbas, a veterinary researcher from Ankara University, along with a team of international experts, wanted to learn more about cat scratching behavior.

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To find out what they wanted to learn, the research team sent out a survey to more than 1,200 cat owners in France, asking a collection of questions about their cat's scratching.

The biggest thing the research team learned through the survey is that there is a pretty clear link between your cat's personality traits, environment, and increased scratching behavior.

“Here we show that certain factors – such as the presence of children at home, personality traits of cats, and their activity levels – significantly impact the extent of scratching behavior,” said Dr. Demi̇rbas.

“Our findings can help caregivers manage and redirect scratching to appropriate materials, which could help foster a more harmonious living environment for both cats and their caregivers.”

So why do cats scratch our furniture? According to this study, stress and small children may play a role, too.

“We see a clear link between certain environmental and behavioral factors and increased scratching behavior in cats,” Dr. Demirbas explained.

“Specifically, the presence of children in the home as well as high levels of play and nocturnal activity significantly contribute to increased scratching. Cats described as aggressive or disruptive also exhibited higher levels of scratching.”

According to the researchers, having play sessions that are shorter in duration and mimic how a cat would hunt in the wild might help reduce their nocturnal play that increases scratching. Plus, an overall stress reduction might be the answer, too.

How to Get Your Cat to Stop Scratching Furniture

The research team didn't just leave us there, though; they also produced some suggestions on reducing their scratching behaviors while staying realistic about what you can and can't change.

The best thing to help reduce your cat scratching up your furniture is to place scratch posts where your cats like to hang out. Also, giving them safe hiding places, higher up, can help reduce their stress. Also, offer toys that help them mimic short hunting skills.

“Understanding the underlying emotional motivations of scratching behavior, such as frustration, which seem to be linked to personality traits and environmental factors, allows caregivers to address these issues directly,” said Dr. Salgirli.

According to Bond Vet, cats scratching their nails is important for claw health too so it's not something we want to fully eliminate.

"A cat’s claws grow outwardly, similar to rings on a tree, with the outside sheaths being shed to reveal a newer, sharper claw underneath," they explain. "Without shedding these outer layers, a cat’s nails would grow abnormally, possibly curving around and stabbing into the paw. Scratching on objects helps a cat shed these nail sheaths and keep their claws sharp and healthy."