It’s a familiar sight for most cat parents. We’re sure you have seen your cat do this before; he stretches his legs and places his paws onto the wall before bringing it down. He’d scratch the wall several times. This behavior can be a source of frustration, especially for first-time cat owners. Are you one of those people who ask: ‘why do cats scratch walls?’
If you answered yes, we urge you to continue reading because we will list and discuss the top reasons why cats love doing it. Perhaps more importantly, this article will share with you some tips on how to deter your pet from this habit.
At the end of this post, you will have a better understanding of this feline nature. Moreover, you should have learned certain tricks to prevent your cat from damaging the wallpaper. And there are certain unacceptable ways—like declawing—that you need to be aware of.
Why Do Cats Love to Scratch?
Let’s be straightforward about it—cats don’t only love to scratch walls; they like to scratch anything they can get their paws on like carpets and furniture.
Scratching is a natural feline behavior much like grooming and urine marking. Our favorite animal is blessed with incredibly sharp claws. When these are not trimmed, the claws can grow into the paws. So cats are predisposed to scratching because it can keep their claws in check.
Scratching develops in cats at an early age. Although most felines prefer to stretch vertically, there are also those who like to do it horizontally.
Cats are inclined to scratching the wall because of a few reasons. For one, it’s something that they can easily reach. Moreover, a wall has a rough texture that makes it easy for felines to dig their claw in and have a great scratch.
Aside from that, there are other reasons why cats love to scratch the walls. Continue reading to find out more about the reasons cats scratch below:
Reason #1: To Mark a Certain Territory
Scent marking is one of the many ways by which cats communicate with each other—the others being vocalization and body language. Our pets have scent glands located in various parts of their bodies like the cheeks and the paws.
Cats scratch walls to stake their claim over that part of the house. Cats are prompted to do this by different scenarios. For instance, you may notice your cat scratch the wall after you have introduced a new partner or gave birth to a new baby.
Scratching the wall and marking it as his territory is your cat’s reaction to that change. In the same vein, changes, like moving to a new house or buying new furniture, may lead to your cat marking his territory by scratching the walls.
Marking territory is also a means for cats to communicate with each other that they live there. If you have a household with multiple pets, then your cat’s frequent scratching of the wall is his way of telling other pets that the said area of the house belongs to him.
You may not notice it, but your cat can leave visual signs on the walls every time he rakes his claws on it. Cats and other pets in your home will be able to see those visual markers that serve as a warning to them that the area belongs to someone.
In a way, it can also help reduce the likelihood of a physical confrontation, because other felines in your home would know that an area is already being inhabited by one cat, and won’t infringe on that right.
Reason #2: To Exercise
Another reason why cats love to scratch walls is that it gives them the opportunity to exercise their claws and their bodies. Indoor cats are more likely to scratch the walls for claw maintenance because they can’t go outside and scratch trees or other surfaces.
By scratching, cats are able to remove the old and weakened outer sheaths surrounding their claws to reveal a sharper surface. This is a behavior that our cats derived from their big cousins, who keep their claws sharp so they can easily hunt and tear the skin off of their prey.
Of course, domesticated cats won’t use their claws for hunting, but the behavior is a hardwired activity for them that they would be compelled to do it from time to time.
Moreover, claws are very useful for cats. They use it to scratch an itch, to have a good grip while balancing on surfaces, to play, and to hoist their bodies up on a perch. Claws are also useful for cats when defending themselves, as they can rely on it when climbing to safety or simply defending themselves.
The scratching action also enables cats to stretch their legs, back, and shoulders. This way, they can exercise their muscles, particularly the tendons in the paws, to maintain their capability to protract and retract claws.
Reason #3: Stress
While the two other reasons for cat scratching walls aren’t exactly worrying, this third cause of feline behavior may make you feel concerned about your pet.
Cats, like most pets, can become stressed because of changes in their environments. When this happens, a feline may more frequently scratch the walls and other household items to assert his territory. It’s also a means for him to feel more secure.
We’ve mentioned earlier how the introduction of a new pet, a newborn baby, or a partner can lead your whiskered friend to become territorial. Aside from those causes, other things that can cause real-life stress to our pets include changes in the schedules of their masters or in the household itself.
For instance, your new job has made you too busy to arrive home early. Your cat may show his displeasure about it by scratching the walls more often than usual. It’s also possible that your cat gets stressed because of changes in the environment like home remodeling or re-arranging.
Even seemingly harmless scenarios like parties can stress out your cat and lead to more scratches on the wall.
Aside from the visible scratch marks on the wall, there are other signs that your cat is stressed. These include hiding, defecating outside of his litter box, and excessive grooming. Your cat is also stressed when he shows aggression towards other people, suffers from poor appetite, and becomes more vocal.
See Also: How to Help a Depressed Cat
Reason #4: To Unleash His Emotions
What do you do when you are happy? Perhaps you sing in the shower or go out for an all-nighter. Or maybe you exercise to release the pent-up emotion.
Cats do the same when they scratch the walls. Emotions like happiness or excitement can cause them to scratch the walls with exuberance. You may even notice your cat scratching the wall after playing with you, or after you’ve come home from the office. This emotional release through wall scratching is healthy for your pet.
Other emotions may also cause him to scratch the wall. A cat angry because you haven’t had time playing with him may release his frustration by leaving claw marks on your wall.
Reason #5: Boredom
Finally, another potential reason why your cat continues to scratch the walls is that of boredom. Do you leave your cat alone at home most of the time? Does he have enough toys at home to play with? If you answered in the negative, then your cat may be feeling lonely and bored, which causes him to scratch your walls excessively.
Bored cats often try to amuse themselves when they are bored, which explains why they would scratch excessively. And scratching isn’t the only thing they’ll do when they are not getting enough exercise or activity. They may also resort to chewing or licking misbehaviors when they are not being stimulated.
Because they are less likely to get activity compared to their outdoor counterparts, indoor cats are more prone to boredom and consequently, wall scratching.
Tips on How to Prevent Your Cat from Scratching Walls
Now that you have an idea on the possible reasons behind your cat scratching the wall, you may be asking: ‘what can I do to deter him from continuing this behavior?’
There are several vet-approved ways to prevent your cat from scratching the wall, but punishing your cat is not one of those. Punishment doesn’t solve the problem at all as your cat will realize that he can continue doing it when you are not around.
Moreover, punishment can only bring negative effects to your relationship with your cat. He would likely fear you, or worse, it will make him more aggressive. So never think of yelling at your cat or squirting a water gun whenever you catch him scratching the wall.
Instead of punishing your cat, why don’t you try these tips:
#1: A Lot More Time for Cuddling and Playing
As you’ve learned earlier, boredom can bring out the worst in your cat. You don’t want him to become bored, right? So make sure that you provide him with enough time for cuddling and playing.
You don’t even have to spend a lot of time on it—just 15 minutes a day of interactive play should keep your cat stimulated. Use toys that mimic his natural prey like birds and rodents.
See Also: DIY Cat Toys
#2: Provide Him with Alternative Outlets for Scratching
If he continues to scratch the walls despite increased playtime, then provide your cat with more scratching outlets. You can get him a scratching post made of sisal which cats love because of its rough texture. Moreover, a scratching post made of the said material would satisfy your cat’s urges to stake a claim on a territory.
Speaking of scratching posts, look for one that is tall enough for your cat to fully stretch his body out and pull those shoulder and back muscles. If your cat has to crouch to scratch, then he may not like the scratching post at all.
To give you an idea, a scratching post that’s at least 31 inches tall should be good enough for your cat to play with and save your walls from claw marks.
See Also: DIY Cat Scratcher
#3: Increase Security around the House
You can help cats who feel threatened or insecure because of other pets by improving the security around the house. For example, you can keep strange cats out of the house by always closing the door or windows where these animals may enter.
If you have multiple cats, you can provide them with resting places such as cat towers or trees. These cat accessories will enable your cats to relax and watch what’s happening around them, giving them more peace of mind in the process.
You can also restrict your pet’s access to other parts of the house, so he can focus on making himself secure in one or two rooms.
#4: Use Your Pet’s Own Scent
This will help him feel more secure. You can do this by taking a soft cloth and then wiping it around your pet’s face. Then dab the same cloth on the walls.
Should You Declaw Your Pet?
One potential way of deterring your cat from scratching the wall is to declaw him. But this surgical procedure has been hotly debated by cat parents and veterinarians.
Declawing isn’t exactly a simple nail removal. In truth, it is the amputation of the cat’s bones at the tips of the paws. Like other surgical procedures, it carries risks such as infection, bleeding, and anesthetic complications.
Moreover, declawing won’t deter your cat from scratching the walls. He would continue to do so even if he has undergone this procedure. It may save your walls from those ugly marks, but your cat will still do it. Plus declawing can hamper his ability to defend himself.
To sum things up, scratching walls is a natural feline behavior that cat parents should learn to live with. It can be due to several reasons such as the cat becoming territorial, stressed, or lacking in activity.
Scratching may also be a way for your cat to get some exercise, particularly with his claws, legs, and back muscles. And in some instances, it can simply be his way of releasing pent-up emotions.
There are several ways to prevent your cat from scratching the walls. You can give him more playtime. Or you can provide multiple scratching posts. Just don’t think of declawing and punishing your cat because it can ruin your relationship with him.
How often does your cat scratch the walls? What do you usually do to deter him? Do you have any ideas that we haven’t mentioned in this article? Do share that and any other opinions in the comments section below! Finally, our article on how to cut cat nails may interest you.