Why Does My Cat Scratch The Wall?

A white cat with black and grey patches looking up at something and extending its right paw towards it.

You’ve no doubt seen your cat do it, that lazy stretch up the wall followed by the digging in of their claws as they return to the floor. Or maybe you’ve witnessed your cat, with intense determination, frantically scratching at the wall with both paws as if trying to dig a tunnel. Scratching your wall can be a normal behavior for cats, but not one that you may want to promote. Let’s learn why cats scratch walls and how you can try to stop it.

Why Do Cats Scratch?

Two kittens, one cat is black, white, and orange sitting down on the right. The other kitten is white and orange, and is standing and clawing at a wooden board sticking in the ground.

The scratching behavior is important to your cat. It’s completely natural and normal. The trouble is that it can often involve the destruction of furniture, carpets, and other things you would like to keep intact. 

Reasons Why Scratching is Important for Cats:

  1. Maintain Claw Health: Scratching helps to remove the outer layer of a cat’s claw. This layer is often flaky and needs to be removed to make way for the healthy layers underneath. Scratching also helps keep nails a comfortable length so that they don’t get so long that they cause pain. Also, scratching helps to sharpen the ends of those claws into a nice point. While sharp claws aren’t nearly as important for our housecats as cats in the wild, it’s still instinct to keep their claws sharp and ready for protective purposes.
  2. Mark Their Territory: When a cat scratches the wall, they’re doing more than just sharpening their claws. The scratch marks they leave can tell other cats that this area belongs to them-both visually and by smell. Cats possess scent glands in their feet that leave their specific scent where they scratch. It helps other cats know who was here and when.
  3. Stretch: A big ritual in a cat’s day is stretching. It has to be considering the amount of time that they sleep. Your cat may find all kinds of interesting ways to stretch, including standing up against your wall. Scratching also can help stretch their feet, toes, and hand legs.
  4. Get Your Attention: Your cat may scratch the wall next to you, the door, or the place where their food is kept to get your attention. It’s hard not to notice a cat when they’re leaving their mark in places like that.

Why Do Cats Scratch the Wall?

A grey and white cat with black stripes standing up clawing at a ropes tied around a wooden post.

If it makes sense to you why cats feel the need to scratch, you may still be confused about why it happens on your wall. Most of the time, cats prefer to scratch things with specific textures; think about scratching posts covered in fabric or rope. Sometimes they want something different. 

Even though your cat may have every scratching post, pad, or toy on the market, it doesn’t mean they’re satisfied. Some scratching equipment for cats might be too small to achieve a good stretch while scratching, or the material might catch their nails. Instead, your cat may prefer the wall because it’s big enough to accommodate a full stretch, and it won’t obstruct their nails.

How to Keep Your Cat From Scratching the Wall

A light brownish cat with black stripes with one of its paws clawing a scratching post.

If your cat’s scratching behavior has become destructive, it’s time to steer that behavior in another direction. There’s no use in trying to keep your cat from scratching altogether. Instead, try the solutions listed below.

  1. Use a Scratching Post: A good scratching post can be the answer to you and your cat’s needs. Observe your cat’s habits. Does your cat only scratch at the wall, or do they have other favorable spots? This will help you determine what kind of textures and orientations to consider. If walls are the preferred option, look for a large vertical surface, preferably one that you can hang in the location that they’ve been scratching.
    • The same goes for scratching near the door or food cabinet. Place a large, vertical scratching post in these areas. This will still allow them to draw attention to themselves without damaging your home.
    • You can use some attractant, like catnip, on the new scratching posts to encourage use.
  2. Use a Deterrent: If your cat is set on scratching the wall, especially in a specific area, using a deterrent may help. You can place furniture or some other object to block the area off, or you may also try covering the area in aluminum foil or double-sided tape.
    • For a chemical deterrent, you may try one of many commercial sprays available on the market or some DIY solutions with essential oils that cats don’t like the smell of.
  3. Clip Their Nails: By clipping your cat’s nails, you’re keeping them short so that your cat doesn’t have to. It will also blunt the tip so that their scratching doesn’t cause as much damage. Just be sure to use the right type of nail clipper for your cat.
  4. Keep Them Engaged: Scratching can result from boredom or as a way to get your attention. Make sure your kitty gets their fill of together time by carving out some time for play, grooming, or snuggles every day, preferably when you first get home.

Final Thoughts

Scratching is completely natural for cats. However, it may also be something that is coming between you and your feline friend. Hopefully, if your cat is scratching the wall, some of these tips will help you maintain minimal damage while fulfilling your cat’s scratching desires.

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