Scientists studied 1,200 cats to determine why they scratch up furniture and how to stop it

child in bed holding cat
Scientists find that children can stress cats out so much that they're more likely to scratch up furniture, as a result. Cavan Images/Getty Images
  • Scientists got an unprecedented look into house cats' daily lives by studying over 1,200 cats.

  • They discovered that cats tend to scratch more often and more intensely when they're stressed.

  • Particularly, children in the home seem to cause high levels of stress that lead to scratching.

Scratching holes and snags in your furniture is a natural behavior for cats. Dr. Andrea Sanchez, a veterinarian at Banfield Pet Hospital, previously told Business Insider that cats scratch to communicate, stretch and condition their claws, and claim possessions.

But if you really want your cat to stop scratching up your couch and chairs, it's worth knowing the exact reason they're doing it in the first place. Now, a new study offers more clues into cats' destructive habits and how to curb them.

Scientists interviewed cat owners in France who all reported unwanted scratching behavior. In total, the study included 1,211 cats. The scientists emailed the owners asking about cats' daily routines, sociability, temperaments, behaviors, and the types of environments they lived in.

white cat scratching holes in brown leather couch
New research hones in on the reasons why your cat may be scratching up your furniture.Sorayut/Getty Images

The research team discovered that naturally aggressive and disruptive cats were more likely to scratch, as well as cats who tended to play a lot and spent more time awake at night. But the research also showed there was more to the story than just kitty personality.

The cats' environments played a key role as well. "One noteworthy finding is the influence of the presence of a child at home on the high level of scratching behavior," the researchers reported in their paper, published on July 2 in the peer-reviewed journal Frontiers in Veterinary Science.

A young girl sits on the floor and feeds a grey cat from her hand
Cats and children may not be the best roommates, according to new research.anastas_/Getty Images

Turns out, cats don't seem to enjoy sharing a home with children all that much — at least the ones in this study. Children can stress cats out, which then leads the animals to scratch more often and more intensely, the researchers found.

It's not the first time researchers have found evidence to suggest that children play a role in destructive cat behavior. But questions remain. For example, it's unclear if age is a factor — if younger children heighten a feline's stress more than older kids. Another question the researchers say needs exploring is if it matters who lived in the home first.

How to stop cats from scratching up your furniture

A cat scratching a couch
Stressed-out cats can wreak havoc on your furniture and other household items. But there are things cat owners can do to stop this behavior.Magui-rfajardo/Getty Images

If your cat won't stop scratching up your furniture, there are things you can do to curb the behavior, the researchers found.

Making sure that your cat is getting enough mental and physical exercise is important. Promoting regular, brief play sessions and providing stimulating toys can reduce stress and undesirable scratching behavior in your cat, the researchers reported.

Some examples may include interactive toys like rollerballs, scratchers, and play tunnels, which offer long-lasting mental and physical stimulation for cats.

The researchers also found that scratching posts can reduce scratching on household items, but where they're placed throughout the home matters. For the best results, put scratching posts in areas frequented by your cat, like near their bed or litter box.

A cat scratches a vertical scratching post on the left, and another cat sits on a horizontal scratching post on the right.
Observing your cat's scratching behavior can help you figure out what type of scratching post is best for them.Larisa Tyushova/Nico De Pasquale/Getty Images

Additionally, taking some time to observe your cat's scratching behavior can help you choose the right post for them, Danie "DQ" Quagliozzi, cat behavior consultant and owner of Go Cat Go! previously told Business Insider.

For example, if your cat is scratching vertically on the side of your couch, they may prefer a vertical scratching post, Quagliozzi said. But if they scratch carpets or rugs, a horizontal scratch pad is more likely to satisfy them, he added.

Most importantly, remember that every cat is different. This study highlights the importance of understanding the role that your cat's unique personality and environment, play in shaping their behavior, the researchers reported.

Read the original article on Business Insider