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Why Does My Cat Use Me as a Scratching Post? Cat Behavior Explained

Rachel Giordano

By Rachel Giordano

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Cats have a natural urge to scratch. In the wild, a cat’s claws are their protection against predators, but domesticated cats don’t usually need their claws for that purpose. That doesn’t mean they don’t scratch. though.

Cat owners know how sharp a cat’s nails are, and when your cat uses you as a scratching post, it can be painful. If your cat is scratching you, it could be simply trying to communicate with you, or it could be marking its territory.

A few reasons can explain why your cat uses you as a scratching post, and in this article, we’ll explain the reasons and what you can do to deter the behavior.

Why Does My Cat Use Me as a Scratching Post?

A cat has a natural instinct to scratch, but why? There are several reasons.

1. They Want Your Attention

scared cat scratches owner leg
Image Credit: Jaromir Chalabala, Shutterstock

What better way to get your attention than by digging sharp nails into your leg? When your cat scratches and kneads your leg, it knows this behavior will most certainly get your attention. Whether they want you to play with them, pet them, or just simply love you, they know this will get a reaction.

2. Form of Exercise

One of the many reasons cats scratch is to stretch their muscles and keep them toned. Scratching also allows your cat to stretch the spine, too, and we all know how good that feels! And since you’re its owner, your leg is as good as anything else to use to keep the muscles toned.

3. Sharpen the Claws

british shorthair cat scratching the post
Image Credit: Alexas_Fotos, Pixabay

Cats have an instinct to keep those claws in shape. After all, a cat’s claws are the way to explore the world around them. They use their claws to investigate objects, play, and escape danger. They also need to shed the outer sheath of the nail, which is consistently producing new growth.

A cat’s claw is similar to an onion. As the cat grows, the outer part of the nail loses blood supply and falls off, leaving a shaper and healthier nail behind.

4. To Mark Their Territory

woman smiling at cat lying down
Image Credit: Oleg Ivanov, Unsplash

While your cat may be proclaiming that you are theirs, it can be painful. Cats have scent glands on their paw pads and rubbing and scratching leaves the scent for other animals to smell. It provides a sense of comfort for your cat when you’re around.

5. Boredom

Image Credit: Pashin Georgiy, Shutterstock

Cats can get bored, and scratching is a way to fight boredom. If your cat is doing this due to boredom, it could mean they are not getting enough mental stimulation. There are plenty of toys and puzzles that will keep your cat occupied and entertained, and it’ll give your legs a break.

How to Train Your Cat to Use a Scratching Post Instead of Your Leg

Since we’ve established possible reasons why your cat is scratching your leg instead of a scratching post, let’s see how you can get your cat to use a scratching post rather than your leg.

You’ll want to redirect the behavior. First of all, place a few scratching posts around your house. If your cat shows no interest in the posts, you can use a catnip spray on the posts, which should draw your cat to them.  You can also try placing your cat’s favorite toys near the scratching posts.

Cats have their own scratching styles, and knowing your cat’s scratching style can help with your cat’s interest in the posts. If your cat is scratching your legs, you’ll want to have horizontal posts. That way, the posts may resemble your leg, and your cat will eventually prefer that, especially if catnip is on the posts.

Final Thoughts

As you can see, cats scratch for many different reasons, and when they choose your leg, it can be annoying and painful. Providing plenty of mental stimulation helps tremendously, as well as placing plenty of scratching posts throughout your home. You’ll also want to place these scratching posts in your cat’s favorite hangout spots. Spray some catnip on the posts, and your cat should take to them.

We hope this article helps you deter this unwanted cat behavior. Remember that your cat isn’t trying to hurt you. Instead, your cat just has an instinct to scratch, but it needs to be taught the appropriate and acceptable areas to do so rather than your leg.


Featured Image Credit: ShineTerra, Shutterstock

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