Why Do Cats Scratch Walls? An Inside Look At This Peculiar Habit

Last updated on December 12th, 2021

If you’ve ever owned a cat, you know that they’ll sometimes do things that seem extremely weird or just plain backward. One of those is scratching things that don’t need to be scratched. It’s a behavior that leaves a lot of deep claw marks in your furnishings and you can’t always prevent it with a spray bottle or other aversive approach, because it can actually make things worse, but why do cats scratch walls?

Cats will scratch the walls because they want to mark their territory, sharpen their claws or stretch out their muscles while at the same time wearing down the outer covering of their claws. By doing this, cats can shed old or dead nails and grow new sharper ones underneath.

tabby cat scratching door wall

Some of you may even find this habit destructive as it can sometimes ruin your walls or other pieces of furniture.

So what are some of the reasons that cats scratch at things, and what can you do to have them stop?

Table of Contents

Here Are 5 Major Reasons Behind Your Cat’s Scratching Habits?

1. Cat’s Scratch to Get Rid of any Dead Outer Layers From Their Claws

As mentioned earlier, cats need to remove any dead nail or skin present in their claws as part of their grooming sessions.

By scratching on the walls or other hard surfaces, they can shed off the dead outer sheath from their claws to keep them healthy and working in tip-top shape.

Like teeth to a cat’s mouth, claws are a vital component of a cat’s paws. Feline animals use claws to pounce and get hold of their prey, defend themselves, or fight against predators.

Claws are also useful for cats to hold onto surfaces for a firm grip.

Over a period of time, your cat’s claws develop, grow, and accumulates a lot of dead cells and dirt.

Eventually, this outer husk or dead nail becomes dull and thus making it difficult for cats to grasp something firmly, which in turn, prevents their claws from functioning as normal.

It may also be dangerous since non-functional claws may not help these animals fight against predators, which may turn fatal for them.

Just as we sharpen our tools, such as knives, by getting rid of the worn-out parts or extra rust, cats rub off the unwanted nail so that they can grow sharper and stronger.

2. Cat’s Scratch to Mark their Territory

cat scratching wooden log

Like dogs, cats too like to stay protected within their territory.

They use their claws to mark their territory by scratching on the wall or the ground.

These little creatures may probably have inherited this territorial attitude from their feline ancestors or distant wild relatives.

Cats may mark their territories during inter-cat conflicts, both in the wild and at home. In fact, they can even mark their territories when there’s no potential threat.

They seem to do so as if to say, “This is my area and any intruder must either follow my rules or be expelled at once!”

But is it only the scratch mark that defines a cat’s territory? Not really!

It’s rather the unique scent present in their paws that distinguishes their spot from others. Okay, let’s dive into some cat physiology.

Cats have sweat glands, or rather “scent glands”, situated between their paw pads. When scratching against a wall, cats leave these scents on the surface.

In this way, an outside cat coming across this clawed patch can immediately tell from the scent that the area is already taken.

In a cat’s little world, any intruder is warned of the possible consequences of inhabiting a marked patch. It means that everything present within the territory belongs to the cat who marked it.

A cat’s territory may include every living being within the house, such as other pets, the owner and other human members living in the house, and all the objects present within it.

A cat scratching something also means that they’re declaring possession of the clawed object.

However, you won’t see cats marking their territories every day.

When Do Cats Scratch Walls or Furniture?

Cat’s generally scratch the wall or furnishing when owners shift houses or living environments. When a cat is in a new home, it will start scratching various surfaces and objects to mark its territory on these things.

Interestingly, feline creatures don’t just mark their patches when they move to a new house. This behavior is also quite common when a house renovation is being done or when the owner gets a new piece of furniture.

In other words, whenever a cat doesn’t detect its own scent-marked patches, it would begin scratching new objects immediately.

Another interesting fact is cats don’t leave scent marks as a sign of bravery for winning or conquering a price of “land”!

They would rather do so just to avoid conflicts with other feline creatures, who won’t likely enter a marked territory and stay away after detecting the scent of a fellow cat.

After all, they, too, would want to avoid unnecessary confrontations of “war”!

3. Cat Scratching Symbolises Inter-Cat Conflicts

Do you know that cats are solitary animals who love to stay by themselves? Remember those catfights we used to watch during our childhood?

Just like cats scratch to mark their patches, they also do so to symbolize conflicts with fellow feline members.

This usually happens when there’s more than one cat member in the house or within the neighborhood.

You will be surprised to know that cats hardly tolerate each other.

They probably have inherited this weird trait from their wild ancestors, namely tiger, leopard, jaguar, etc.

It’s because they feel uneasy about sharing the same space with another of their kin.

Studies say that in such cases, cats are likely to scratch on walls to leave their pheromones behind.

If another cat scratches and leaves its pheromones on the same surface, conflicts are bound to arise.

Therefore, it’s safe for owners to give them their own individual spaces and scratching objects.

Maintaining a good distance from each other would prevent these feline confrontations.

4. Cat’s Scratch After Using the Litter Box

gray cat scratching inside of litterbox

It may sound strange as to why cats need to scratch after using a litter box. In fact, they will immediately start scratching walls and other objects after using litter boxes.

It’s probably due to the size of the litter or the litter box. The smaller the size, the more scratching.

And this may be a symbol of displeasure due to the litter quantity.

5. Cat’s Scratch In Stressful Situations

Cat scratching may sometimes be related to anxiety and stress because these creatures suffer from emotional discomfort as well.

The common factors working behind feline stress include traumatic experiences, separation anxiety, or even minor environmental changes.

So, it’s mandatory that owners take care of their kittens. You should spend more time with them and never make them feel lonely or isolated.

Other reasons include:

  • As an expression of joy or boredom – it’s a part of their playful behavior.
  • When they spot a mouse in the wall holes.
  • After eating, especially when the cat doesn’t like the smell of the food.
  • After pooping because it’s the natural tendency of cats to bury their droppings.

How to Stop Your Cat From Scratching the Wall?

red white and black cat sharpening its claws on scratching post

To prevent your feline companion from scratching at various objects and ruining them, try the following list of items:

  • Install a cat scratching post to the edge of your wall or door frame.
  • Get them an old carpet, one that has a nice texture to distract them from considering household objects for scratching.
  • Cut their nails short to avoid or reduce any clawing on your walls or other objects.
  • Since small litter boxes may be one of the reasons for all this scratching, try to increase the litter quantity and the litter box as well.
  • Go for pheromone therapy to reduce undesirable, stressful, and often destructive scratching behavior.
  • Try distracting methods, such as a whistle or a delicious treat, just before you realize your kitty is about to scratch the walls.

If you’re wondering how to stop your cat from scratching your stuff, you might be interested in keeping cats out of your room, especially if you don’t have doors.

Why Do Cats Need to Scratch Walls?

It enables cats to groom themselves by keeping their claws fresh and clean.

Yes, cats need grooming too, and they love to keep themselves clean and tidy!

When they’re scratching their paws against a hard surface, cats can shed the dead outer husk, which often leads to irritation and even cause hygienic issues.

Remember how we were told to clean and trim our nails during childhood to remove all dirt and dead cells from our fingers?

Well, you can call it a kind of pedicure for kittens! They just love to keep their nails sharp and new. It not only enables them to stay beautiful, but it also helps the nails to grow better.

But is it only the walls that cats scratch for these beauty rituals? It’s time you become more cautious about the things or furniture you may need to protect, such as:

  • Floors
  • Carpet
  • Indoor and outdoor furniture
  • Couch
  • Reflective surfaces like mirrors or glass doors
  • Trees
  • Doors and windows
  • Outdoor posts

Try to prevent your kitty from scratching these areas, I mean, they don’t do it on purpose; rather, they need to scratch their dead cells away to keep them beautiful and protected. It’s very much a part of your beauty queen’s lifestyle.

What cat owners worry about is the financial burden that may fall upon them if their feline companion scratches too much on their household objects, like carpets and expensive wooden upholstery furniture.

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