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My cat doesn’t scratch anything – Is that normal?

Cats love to scratch. Scratching is a natural behavior they use to mark territory, stretch their muscles, and remove the dead outer layer of their claws. So, if your cat is not scratching, you may wonder if something is wrong. 

There are a few reasons why a cat may not scratch. Declawing surgery prevents a cat from scratching, but other factors such as the presence of certain textures and health issues can also cause a cat to stop scratching.

Read on to learn more about scratching behavior— what’s normal and what’s not.

What is Normal Scratching Behavior in Cats?

Scratching is an important part of cat behavior. Many people find scratching annoying or think it is bad behavior. If your cat scratches furniture or other belongings, it can be frustrating and destructive. But scratching is an instinct leftover from when our house cats lived in the wild.

Scratching prepares cats for hunting prey and protecting themselves. Scratching is also how your cat marks territory, stretches their muscles, and removes the dead outer layer of their claws. Even in the home, these behaviors are an important part of your cat staying healthy and happy. So, let’s look at why cats scratch.

Marking territory

There are many ways that cats mark territory. Spraying is the most familiar, but cats also use scratching as a way to communicate in the home. The action of scratching marks territory in two ways. First, the visual scratch marks give other cats a visual indicator that another cat has been in the area. 

Secondly, cats leave behind their scent from scent glands in their foot pads. These scent markings let other cats know that your cat has the authority here.

Cats like to have their scent around. It makes them feel secure. So, they will want to scratch to mark their territory all around your home.

Stretching muscles

Cats scratch as a way to stretch their muscles. They rise onto their back feet and arch their backs. This allows them to extend their hind legs. Then, they extrude their claws and make a scratching motion.  A cat uses this routine to give their whole body a full stretch.

In the wild, this full-body stretch would keep their muscles prepared for quick action, whether they needed to sprint away from a predator or to catch prey. In the home, keeping these muscles stretched keeps them in shape and prepares them for quick action if they need to attack a teaser or catnip mouse.

Removing the dead outer layer of claws

Claws are an important part of your cat’s body. Cats use their claws to catch prey, defend themselves, and escape danger. A cat’s nails grow continuously, which without proper trimming can grow into their foot pads. In the wild, there are no groomers for your cat to visit regularly. So, nature is the best way for a cat to hone down their long nails.

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Regular walking on harder surfaces, climbing, and scratching trees keep wild cats’ claws trimmed and sharpened. Inside, cats have to get a little more resourceful, which is why you see them clawing on the corner of your sofa.

Scratching helps a cat remove the dead outer layer of their nails. You may have even seen tiny claws lying around your home. These are your cat’s shed claws. Losing these outer shells does not hurt your cat. Your cat’s claws are constantly growing, and the process of scratching helps to keep them sharp and healthy. 

Why Cats May Not Scratch

However, if your cat is not scratching, you may be worried that something is wrong. Not scratching can be a result of declawing surgery. However, if your cat’s claws are intact, there are other reasons they may not scratch.

Certain surfaces are offputting to cats, so they don’t scratch them. Also, scratching can be a sign of health issues. If you believe your cat’s behavior is abnormal, seek a veterinarian for medical advice.

Declawing surgery

According to the Humane Society, “declawing is the amputation of the last bone of each toe on a cat’s paw.” Some owners get this procedure done to keep their cats from scratching the furniture in their home. Declawing is usually done with a scalpel, then the wounds are closed with stitches and surgical glue. 

Declawing can also be done with an intense laser that cuts through the tissue.  If your cat is declawed, they won’t exhibit scratching behaviors because they won’t have the nails to scratch with.

There are many dangers associated with declawing. Many countries have banned this surgical procedure. So, if you are at your wits’ end about your cat scratching, there are other ways to prevent your cat from scratching your prized possessions including the following:

  • Provide scratching posts
  • Use spray deterrents
  • Put claw caps on your cat’s nails
  • Put smooth tape around the corners of your furniture
  • Put aluminum foil where your cat likes to scratch

Even declawed cats can and may scratch furniture, they will do the scratching motion to mark their territory and stretch their muscles, especially after a long nap. If you’ve adopted a declawed cat, you may be interested in our article: ” Can Cats Catch Mice Without Front Claws?

Scratching Surfaces

Cats scratch pretty much anything, but they have issues scratching smooth surfaces. If your home has a lot of smooth materials in it, your cat may not like the texture and avoid scratching these objects. 

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Velvet, micro suede, corduroy, and microfiber are also textures that cats tend to avoid, but if they do scratch these textures, they can take a bit more scratching before it’s obvious. 

Unstable scratching posts can also be problematic for cats. They prefer a sturdy, heavy-based scratching post to get the full benefits of scratching. If you bought your cat a scratching post that wobbles, you may need to secure it before your cat will use it.

Also, cats may prefer to scratch surfaces outside rather than inside. If your cat has access to outdoor spaces, they may scratch when you are not looking and thus, not leave any scratching evidence indoors.

Health issues

Cats may also avoid scratching if they are unwell. If your cat is experiencing pain in their paw or with their nail, they may not want to scratch because it hurts. Leg injuries, arthritis, and inflammation may also cause your cat to avoid scratching.

However, other illnesses can make your cat feel too ill to scratch. If your cat is experiencing other symptoms such as a change in appetite, more aggressive or withdrawn behaviors, or any physical symptoms of illness, you may want to get your cat checked by a veterinarian.  

Encouraging Scratching Behavior in Cats

If you are worried your cat is not scratching enough, there are ways you can encourage them to scratch more often. First, be sure to provide your cat with plenty of scratching posts. There are many different kinds to get. You can purchase scratching posts, angled scratchers, sisal scratchers, basic cardboard scratchers, and scratching furniture pieces.

You can spray these scratchers with catnip to attract your cat and encourage them to scratch here. Then, praise your cat every time he scratches. You can even give your cat a treat each time he scratches to reinforce the behavior.

Regularly trimming a cat’s nails encourages growth and will increase your cat’s desire to scratch, as well. So, be sure to check out videos on how to trim your cat’s nails properly. Make sure to get cat-specific nail trimmers. Don’t use human nail clippers. If you start trimming your cat’s claws from an early age, they will be more receptive to it. 

Conclusion

Scratching is an instinct that cats retain from living in the wild. They scratch to mark territory, stretch their muscles, and shed dead nails. If your cat is not scratching, they may be declawed, are adverse to certain textures in your home, or maybe ill. There are many ways to encourage your cat to scratch if they aren’t. But, if you suspect this behavior is abnormal, you can always consult your veterinarian for guidance.