Cats exhibit countless behaviors that we’re clueless about. They may purr out of comfort or anxiety. They may bite playfully or as an attack. Feline behaviorists spend years of dedicated research to crack the codes of unexplained cat behaviors.
Why do cats scratch the wall? Cats scratch to remove the old layers of their claws keeping them sharp and healthy. Cats prefer sturdy vertical surfaces for scratching, making the wall a good surface for scratching.
Some studies have reached convincing conclusions on why cats act in certain ways, but some actions still remain mysterious. Scratching has been the subject of studies for long and several explanations were reached. One or more of these explanations may be the answer to the frequently asked question: why does my cat scratch the wall? Let’s find out!
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Why Your Cat Scratches the Wall or Other Objects
Specifically scratching the walls may cause irreparable damage to the walls, especially if you have a layer of wallpaper that makes a perfectly resistant, yet smooth surface for your fur buddy to sink its claws in.
Your cat probably doesn’t exclusively scratch the wall. It may be the most visible, however, your cat may also be scratching your carpets, furniture, clothes, and even worse, your skin!
You should bear in mind that scratching is a healthy cat behavior. Instead of direct punishment, you may want to take it easy on your buddy. After all, they don’t know any better!
Here are some of the reasons researchers believe your cat scratches the wall or anything for that matter.
Sharpening Their Claws
Your cat is a natural predator. A feral cat hunts and feeds off on prey much like lions, tigers, and other big cats.
To successfully be able to hunt, your cat uses its mouth, claws, stealth, hind legs, and sense of smell. This set of weaponry and skills is what made the domestic cat species survive to this day.
Your cat is built to realize the importance of these weapons, especially the claws. Many cats exhibit depressive behavior after being declawed, which goes to show how essential they are.
Like you sometimes need to sharpen your knife set for your food, your cat also feels the need to sharpen its own set of knives. Using a hard surface like the wall may prove more efficient for your cat in keeping the edges sharper.
Cats are territorial. Similar to humans, they like owning real estate and claiming areas as their haven. They don’t like intruders and will make sure they communicate this in their way.
Dogs prefer leaving their urine, but cats leave their scent by scratching. Their paws have scent glands that release sweat. When your cat scratches an area, it deposits its scent in there as a “no trespassing” sign. This may be especially common after the introduction of a new pet at home.
Many household cat conflicts occur over territory. Cats are naturally solitary creatures and don’t usually like sharing. Always make sure you take precautions when introducing a new pet to the house and ensure each animal has their own set of everything.
When cats are comfortable and happy with the surrounding environment they may express these emotions by scratching in a jubilant manner.
This may be compared to humans clapping or cheering. It’s an instinctive reaction to an inner feeling and if you pay attention closely, you will sense if that’s the kind of scratching your cat is exhibiting.
As you probably know, cats are very sensitive creatures. Their mental state can be affected greatly by minor changes in their surroundings or lifestyle. If for example, your cat is feeling nervous about just arriving into your house, or about the arrival of a new pet, it may resort to scratching the walls as a method of relieving this stress.
If you want to compare this to human behaviors, think about a scalp scratcher. This device is used to relieve stress by triggering a hormonal response that releases calming brain chemicals.
If you notice that this scratching is accompanied by other aggressive and unprecedented behaviors, look for any changes that have happened to your cat’s environment and try to take things slow in the future to the best of your ability.
If you live alone with your kitty and come back home after being gone for hours to find scratch marks on your wall, this may be due to your cat missing your company.
A plausible explanation is that by scratching, your cat is trying to reassure itself that everything is under control.
This may get quite serious if left unnoticed or untreated, so you need to take action if your cat is overly sensitive to long periods of loneliness. You may consider keeping your cat more company if you can. If not, you may think about gradually introducing a new cat to the house.
Just like humans, cats also get bored. They constantly need some stimulus to release their energy healthily.
Cats are curious beings. They like discovering new places and engaging in different activities throughout the day. Since your house is limited, it quickly stops being engaging enough and your cat may lose interest.
Additionally, house cats are not evolved to stay in a confined place and have their food served. Therefore, they have a lot of energy to spend since they don’t hunt or go on extended curious adventures.
Scratching the wall may be a sign of a bored cat. It may indicate that your cat is trying to tunnel its way into a different place where it can stay curious and engaged.
If you think this is why your cat is scratching the wall, consider buying your cat some new exciting toys or spending more playtime with it.
If you have wooden walls, you may be housing a little mouse in between the layers like Jerry. Your cat is super adapted to sensing sounds and movement in narrow places, and it may very well have sensed the presence of a rodent inside your wall.
Common Times of Scratching
You’ll notice your cat may specifically enjoy scratching at these specific times. Here’s why they may choose to scratch at these times.
After a Nap
Much like humans, cats instinctively feel like stretching after sleep. It helps the blood flow through their muscles again after laying still for a while. Cats love to stretch their bodies by sinking their claws into a suitable surface. They then use their claws as hooks to pull their body backward.
This behavior is completely natural and healthy for your cat’s muscles and bones. Additionally, it’s always a pleasure to observe!
After Using the Litter Box
If your cat scratches the wall next to the litter box after using it, it may mean it’s displeased with the cleanliness or amount of litter inside its box. The logic behind scratching the wall may mean that it’s searching for another place to bury its fecal matter in.
Ways to Reduce or Eliminate Unwanted Scratching
The scratching may be a healthy behavior or a sign of an underlying problem. We always recommend that you spend time observing your cat. This will help you figure out what might be the reason behind the scratching.
If you do feel worried, a vet visit is always recommended. However, if you firmly believe that it’s your cat’s instinct and it’s just acting upon it, you might want to try the following solutions to eliminate or redirect your cat’s scratching.
Redirecting the Scratching
As a cat owner, you must’ve seen scratch toys. You can also DIY a scratch toy at home if you feel like it!
When you catch your cat scratching the wall, gently push it towards the scratch toy. Keep trying with your cat until it slowly catches on to the habit.
This is recommended at a young age because this is when it’s easiest to change your cat’s behavior. Cats become more stubborn with age and will take much longer to learn new skills and habits.
If you lose hope in redirecting your cat’s scratching, try purchasing some catnip and sprinkle some on the scratch toy. This will attract your cat to the toy and may trigger its scratching instincts towards it.
Keeping Your Cat Engaged
As mentioned above, your cat needs plenty of stimuli to make use of the stored energy that it would have otherwise used for hunting. Keeping your cat interested and curious is of utmost importance for its mental and physical health.
If your cat spends its extra energy playing with you and using new toys, it may greatly reduce or eliminate the amount of unwanted scratching it exhibits.
Trimming Your Cat’s Nails
Removing a part of your cat’s nails to make them less sharp has been a topic of debate for long. Some people believe that your cat’s nails should be left untouched for their entire lifetime since messing with them may affect the cat’s mental state.
Others, however, argue that if nail trimming is done correctly and safely, will not affect the cat at all. They also argue that some cats enjoy the maintenance!
After trimming your cat’s nails, the scratching will be less harmful to your walls and furniture, however, we still recommend you keep looking for the reason your cat is scratching just in case it’s serious and needs attention.
When trimming the claws, make sure your kitty is relaxed and take it very slowly. You may not succeed the first few times until your cat is used to the new process. Also, make sure you use a dedicated cat nail clipper, and watch instructional videos to know exactly how much to trim.
If you feel that clipping your pet’s nails may stress you out, or maybe a difficult skill to acquire, you can always hire a professional to safely do it.
Using Natural Repellants
Cats don’t like sticky surfaces. You can use double-sided tape on its favorite scratching spots as an attempt to repel it.
If this doesn’t work, you can also rub your wall using lemon skin or orange skin. Cat’s will run away from the scent of these vitamin C fruits and rubbing them on your wall may be the solution!
If you want more ways to control your cat’s behavior, you may look for other humane deterrents to try.
When using this method, make sure your cat’s alternative scratching toy is lying around close by.
Boy, Pixie and Mary's Story
Cats are going tp scratch no matter what you do and mine are no different. Boy, Pixie and Mary were never really wall scratchers. But they did like to "stretch" against the wall. They stand on their hind legs and reach up the wall as far as they can with their front paws stretching and arching their backs. This is something they do very rarely.
Boy, Pixie and Mary have never done any damage to the wall, but the way was painted. Wallpaper would be a different story. Years ago we lived in a rental that had grasscloth wallpaper and the cats torn it to shreds. And if you don't know anything about wallpaper, this particular kind is very expensive to replace.
I have found the best way to avoid destructive scratching is to provide your cat with something they will use that is meant for scratching (or something you don't mind being scratched). Boy, Pixie and Mary use an area rug that was inexpensive and is virtually indestructible.
There are several reasons your cat may be scratching the wall. Some are natural while others may raise concern. You should always observe your cat for changes and try to figure out the reasons it may be acting the way it is.
If you’re sure that the scratching is natural and just want your cat to stop ruining your wall, you can try buying scratch toys and catnip, trimming your cat’s nails safely, or using natural repellants on the walls. We always recommend you keep your cat engaged and interested.