Why Is My Cat Scratching The Walls?

Why Is My Cat Scratching The Walls

Is your cat scratching the walls or just about anything she lays her eyes on? Cata scratch due to a lot of factors. If you are wondering why cats do this, read on and let us discover the reasons why cats like to scratch. 

Why is my cat scratching the walls?

Your cat is scratching the walls for the following reasons:

1. To mark their territory. 

Your cat may be scratching the wall because she is marking territory and leaving her scent. Being territorial creatures, cats mark their territories despite the absence of apparent threats such as other cats. A cat’s paws have sweat glands and when a cat scratches it leaves behind its scent on the clawed or scratched surfaces such as the wall. This serves as a warning for other cats that a certain area is already taken. 

Cats mark their territories not only to warn intruders but also to assert possession of other pets, their owners or other members of the family. They usually do not mark territories every day as it only usually happens during home relocations, when there is new furniture or when there are changes in their environment. Once they do not detect their scent on an object they will usually scratch on it. 

2. To remove the dead outer skin from their claws and as a form of exercise. 

Cats scratch on walls to stretch themselves as a form of exercise and to remove the dead outer sheath of their claws. It allows their claws to stay healthy and functional. Claws are important for felines as it allows them to pounce on prey and to protect themselves from enemies but as it develops sheaths, it becomes difficult for cats to hold objects or fight off predators. Thus, scratching on walls and other surfaces is seen as a remedy to wear down the points and to make the nails sharper. 

3. It may be due to inter-cat conflicts.

Your cat may be scratching the wall because of inter-cat conflicts in a multi-cat household or neighborhood. Since cats are known as solitary animals like their wild relatives such as the jaguar and tiger, they tend to feel uneasy sharing their quarters with others. Studies show that cats scratch on a wall because of their pheromones left behind from the previous scratching and it is not likely that other cats will scratch the same area of the wall. Thus, once other cats leave their pheromones on the exact spot conflicts are bound to happen. 

To correct this, cat experts suggest that each cat should be given respective objects or areas to scratch on that are located at a considerable distance from each one. Nevertheless, the pheromones left behind by scratching walls serve as a warning for cats to avoid claiming such a spot or area.

4. It relieves them of stress. 

Your cat may be scratching the wall because she is stressed due to sudden changes in your household or when you were away for quite a while. If something disrupts a cat’s routine such as a home relocation or a new family member or pet, she becomes anxious and stressed and resorts to scratching. This is a cat’s way to console herself. 

5. Your cat may be happy or bored. 

Your cat may also be scratching the wall due to two extreme moods, happiness and boredom. She may be happy, content and feeling playful. She may also be full and resorts to scratching to release pent-up energy. Inversely, your cat may be scratching because she is bored and fed up with her toys or may not like the toys being offered to her and prefers to scratch on walls and other surfaces instead. She may also be bored because she is alone at home and has nothing left to do so she resorts to scratching walls to entertain herself. 

6. Your cat detected mice or other small prey in the wall. 

Cats have an extraordinary sense of hearing and can easily detect rodents like mice between the walls. As a result, they will endlessly scratch on the wall.

7. Your wall may be made of glass or reflective materials. 

Your cat may be scratching the wall since she is curious why she is seeing another cat that looks just like her! Walls made of reflective materials like glass could arouse a cat’s curiosity and inquisitiveness and she reacts by scratching on it. 

8. Your cat may be scratching the wall because she wants to hide her mess after pooping. 

Your cat may be scratching the wall after pooping to hide her excrements so that other cats or perceived enemies may not be able to detect it. This is rooted in a cat’s instincts. While cats usually hide or bury their mess in the soil or grass, they cannot do that inside the home so they resort to scratching the walls instead, hoping that they can hide it there. Cats are also known as clean pets and they detest foul odors so it comes naturally for them to hide or dispose of their mess to get rid of bad odors.

Your cat may also be scratching the wall after using the litter box if she is not happy with the litter or the size of the box. Thus, she resorts to scratching to express displeasure or agitation. 

9. She wants to hide her food.  

Your cat may be scratching the wall after eating since she intends to hide her food so she can get back and eat it later. This is another trait that is rooted in their instincts. She may also be scratching the wall because she does not like the smell of her food and she is trying to bury and get rid of the distasteful smell. This may stop once you serve her with different food. 

Areas that cats like to scratch aside from walls 

Other areas that cats like to scratch may include the following:

  • floor 
  • glass doors or mirrors 
  • carpets
  • couch or sofa 
  • indoor and outdoor furniture 
  • trees 
  • outdoor posts

How to prevent your cat from scratching the walls?

Here are some effective ways to deter your cat from scratching the walls:

Provide scratching posts for your cat. 

Scratching posts are saviors that divert your cat’s scratching which can be destructive to walls, furniture and other objects.  You may use a vertical pole or one that sits flat on the floor. A great way to encourage your cat to use the scratching post is to place it near the wall she is fond of scratching on.  

Trim your cat’s nails regularly.

Cats tend to scratch less or not at all if they have short nails so make sure to trim your cat’s nails regularly. Cat experts recommend a once a month appointment with the groomer to ensure that your cat’s nails are well-maintained. You can also tackle the task at home. Check our earlier articles on how to trim a squirmy cat’s nails, how to cut a cat’s nails without getting scratched and cat nail trimming cost for more information.

Place tacky tape or sticky tape on the walls.

Cats may be discouraged from scratching walls by placing tacky or sticky tape on it. They will not like the sensation and will likely stop scratching and leave the area.  

Consider using nail caps for your cat.

Cat nail caps are pieces of vinyl shaped like cat’s claws that are fitted over them as protection and to avoid damage on walls, furniture and other surfaces. These caps come in various colors and are glued with a special adhesive. Most importantly, it is vet-approved and safe for cats.

Consider using synthetic pheromones.

Synthetic pheromones like Feliway may be beneficial in curbing a cat’s scratching tendencies. It mimics feline facial pheromones, makes cats relaxed and calm and creates a sense of familiarity and security in a cat’s surroundings. Catnip may also be used as well as by collecting your cat’s scents by rubbing their cheeks with a piece of cloth and rubbing it on walls so your cat won’t have any reason to scent-mark the area again. 

Through the use of indirect punishment.

This method may include using a whistle to distract your cat, by using pet deterrent sprays, motion detectors or spraying her with water to discourage your cat from scratching the walls again. 

Take your cat outdoors.

Sometimes all it takes is some fresh air and a leisurely walk outside to curb a cat’s destructive behavior like scratching walls.  Take your cat for a walk outside or you may install a catio or cat enclosure so she can explore the outdoors safely. 

Final thoughts 

Cats resort to destructive behavior like scratching walls because of boredom, stress or due to ingrained instincts such as hiding food or excrements. They may also be doing it to mark their territory, to remove the dead outer skin of their claws or because of curiosity and inquisitiveness.

Image: istockphoto.com / Nils Jacobi