Why do cats love cat scratching furniture? As with anything regarding cats, it’s important to understand the reason behind your cat’s behavior so you can determine the best way to redirect it.
Cats are simply acting out an instinctual behavior. A cat’s claws are an extension of her skin, a complex part of the epidermal structure, and are attached to the last bone of the toes. The nerves and blood vessels that run through the claw form thepinkish line you can see running into the claw. This is called the quick.
The dead, white outer layer of tissue must be sloughed off regularly to expose the new growth underneath. If it is not removed, the nail continues to grow and can cause health problems. It interferes with mobility because the cat’s claws get caught as she walks, and if allowed to grow too far the claw can actually grow back into the pads of the paws.
It’s important to allow your cat to scratch as she needs to. There are three good reasons why.
First, cats scratch furniture to remove the outer sheath of the claw, shedding it something like a snake sheds its skin. This sharpens the claws: as the hull is stripped away, a new, sharper claw is left behind. This keeps the cat’s defense capabilities at maximum and provides the cat with a swift escape from predators. Fortunately for the indoor cat, her most formidable predator is the vacuum cleaner, but the physical structure of the claw remains the same even if the cat does not go outside.
Second, like urine spraying, cats scratch furniture is also a form of territory marking. The bottoms of a cat’s feet are filled not only with tiny capillaries that dilate and perspire (which helps the cat regulate her body temperature), but also with scent glands. When a cat scratches, she leaves a physical mark that other cats can see, and also a scent marker that clearly states this is her area. Often a cat will touch you with her paws, letting you know that you are her human.
Third, cats scratch furniture to stretch the muscles in their paws, back, and legs. Just as humans stretch when they awaken or after sitting for a long time, so do cats. They use their claws to anchor their front half so they can get a good stretch throughout the rest of their body. This is good for the cat’s health.
Those are the three most common reasons cats use their claws, but they are used for many other purposes, as well. When your cat was a kitten and still nursing from her mother, she used her tiny paws and little needlelike claws to knead at the teats, which helped stimulate milk flow. As adults, most cats still indulge in kneading behavior when they are content, a throwback to the behavior that gave them such positive results in kittenhood. Unfortunately for us, however, most cats still use their now talonlike claws when kneading, often on your lap.
Cats also use their claws to scratch themselves. There’s nothing like a good scratch when something itches, and cat claws are perfect for this. Although cats generally use only the hind paws for scratching itches, they use their front paws for grooming, and this sometimes includes the claws.