Why Does My Cat Scratch the Floor? I Can’t Work It Out!

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Why, you desperately wonder, is your cat scratching the floor and waking you up for no apparent reason?

It’s 4 o’clock in the morning, and once again, you are awakened by the hair raising sound of your cat’s claws scratching on your newly finished wood flooring.

The basic reason is because for the 12,000 years cats and humans have lived together, cats brought with them their innate instincts to scratch. Despite your kitty’s otherwise calm, cool, and collected demeanour, underneath that simmers her wildcat ancestry, in the form of many behaviors, including scratching.

Why Does My Cat Scratch the Floor?

Cats display some forms of behaviour from their ancestral history, that include a strong prey drive, the need to mark their territory, and an intense urge to mate.

Unfortunately, it is these inherent instincts that underlie the annoying and often destructive scratching of the cat’s claws on your floor.

Here are some of the ways you will see these instincts show up on your floor. See below.

Your cat scratches the floor after eating

Your cat scratches the floor before drinking water

Your cat scratches the floor after using the litter box

Your cat scratches the floor for no apparent reason

the sharp claws of a cat
These claws can do a lot of damage!

Why Does My Cat Scratch the Floor After Eating?

It may seem, to us humans, that it would be more logical that your cat would scratch the floor before eating, not after. So, what’s up with the post meal floor scratching? It’s all about an instinct for self preservation.  

In the wild, cats kill prey to eat and survive and so they are wary about protecting what’s left. The may want to come back for more of what they have killed, when they are ready.

They protect their leftovers by burying them, which keeps other predators at bay.

Even if there is nothing left, a cat will still bury the remains of the meal to hide her scent from other animals on the prowl.  

So, at home, after eating, your cat has engaged in this behavior from ancestral days, now, his autopilot response is to scratch the floor.

His goal? He is attempting to hide what’s left, or even her empty bowl, from anyone else in the household.

Not all cats do this floor scratching behavior but is your cat does, at least you have some reasoning for the origins of this behavior.

Now, how to stop this floor scratching behavior.

How to Stop Your Cat from Scratching the Floor After Eating

This scratching behavior is difficult to control because it is so firmly rooted in primal instincts for survival. However, there are some things you can try. See below.

  • Feed your cat in a small, separate space away from the hustle bustle of the household.
  • Leave something close to her bowl, such as a cloth or paper towel, that she can use to cover the bowl with when she’s finished eating.
  • Pick up her bowl as soon as she’s finished eating.
  • Purchase a large cat food tray that she can scratch on and place it under her food bowl.

Related: Why do cats scratch people? Is it something I am doing? What can I do about cat scratching?

a cat with paws on a corrugated cardboard cat scratcher on a hardwood floor
Is this for me to scratch? Well, I might like it. I’ll let you know!

Why Does My Cat Scratch the Floor Before Drinking Water?

Does your cat scratches the floor before drinking water? There is no doubt that the behavior is based on primal instincts. See below for the reasons.

  • Kneading – When they are kittens, cats knead their mother as they are nursing, so there is some thought that the water bowl scratching may be related to this past behavior.
  • Instinct – In the wild, cats had to forage for water, which sometimes meant digging through dirt, debris, or other matter to get to it.
  • Leave scent – Believe it or not, one primal motivation for scratching around a water source was to leave the cat’s scent and claim it as their own.
  • Move water dish – Sometimes the cat is not happy with the location of the water dish and will scratch at the floor to move the dish.
  • Water dissatisfaction – Water Too hot? Water Too cold? Water Too Dirty? Whatever the reason, scratching the floor by the water bowl could mean your cat is just not happy with the water.
cat asleep on a cardboard cat scratcher
Scratching is very tiring! Need a nap!

By the way, cardboard cat scratchers come in all shapes and sizes. The one above serves as a place for a catnap and a satisfying scratch. Read more about cardboard cat scratchers here.

How to Stop Your Cat from Scratching the Floor Before Drinking Water

Now that you know the possible reasons why your cat scratches the floor before drinking, here are some things you can try doing to prevent her behavior:

  • Clean the water bowl – Clean the water bowl at least once a day. When cleaning the bowl rinse thoroughly to remove all traces of detergent. Rinse more than you think is needed. Cats have a strong sense of smell and won’t use the bowl if it smells detergenty.
  • Don’t move the water bowl – For some cats, moving the water bowl can precipitate scratching to “find” the bowl.
  • Move the water bowl – Some cats scratch the floor near the water bowl because they want to move the bowl. How can we ever please cats? With floor scratching behavior we have to try everything.
  • Change the water in the bowl often: Change the water at least once, preferably twice, a day, if not at least once a day. The water in a bowl becomes stale very quickly to a cat.
  • New water bowl – Try giving your cat a new bowl. If you had a stainless steel cat water bowl try a ceramic bowl. Steer away from using any type of plastic bowl as the plastic does retain smells.
  • Water fountain – Consider purchasing a pet water fountain. A cat water fountain provides clean oxygenated water which the cat sees a fresh water source.

    A cat water fountain is an excellent purchase if you have one cat or multiple cats

cat on the floor with a cardboard scratcher for cats
I like this cardboard scratcher

Why Does my Cat Scratch the Floor After Using the Litter Box?

Cats will do what they can to hide the smell of their urine and poop, and if their litter box isn’t cooperating, they won’t be happy.

If your cat scratches the floor after using her litter box, she is trying to tell you something about it. She could be saying:

  • It’s too small.
  • It’s too dirty
  • I don’t like the litter
  • There’s too much litter
  • There’s too little litter

Related: Cats love to shred paper. Our cat, Tommy was a master paper shredder. His speciality was cheap Christmas wrapping paper. Once a year, he turned on an amazing display for us.

How to Stop Your Cat from Scratching the Floor After Using the Litter Box

Scratching the floor after using the litter box is more common than some of the other reasons cats scratch floors and there are a number of potential fixes to try.

Pinterest image - why does my cat scratch the floor


Why Does my Cat Scratch the Floor for no Apparent Reason?

The “no apparent reason” is when your cat wakes you up at some awful hour in the morning or at night, or otherwise starts scratching the floor for none of the reasons we’ve already talked about.

Besides disturbing you, it’s also a matter of damaging your floors and you don’t know why.

This “no reason” scratching is caused by either one of these 2 things:

  • She’s filing her nails, as you know, cats’ nails grow and get quite sharp.
  • She’s expelling excess energy because she’s not getting enough exercise.

How to Stop Your Cat From Scratching The Floor for No Apparent Reason

 Cat Scratcher Lounge Made from Recycled Corrugated Cardboard

Now this is a cat scratcher like the one shown further up the page, that doubles as a place to have a snooza palooza – after all scratching is a tiring business.

The scratcher lounge easy to move around to different locations because it is so light.

You may need to experiment to see where it will work best to stop floor scratching.

Despite the frustration of not knowing a reason for the scratching and subsequent floor damage, there are some other things you can try to stop the behavior. See below:

  • Play with the cat – Try a game of fetch or hide and seek
  • Buy interactive toys – Interactive toys keep cats entertained and focused, a certain method of expelling excess energy.
  • Get a cat tower – Cat towers have numerous benefits, including allowing the cat to move up in her world, providing a place to scratch without causing damage to your floors, and offering little nooks to hide and nap in.
  • Put a bird feeder outside. Watching birds will keep her fascinated and focused for hours, as well as off your floor.
  • Get another pet – This could be risky, depending on the personality of the other animal compared to your cat’s personality. If you decide to get another pet, be sure to do a meet and greet so they can be introduced before you bring the new pet home.
  • Let the cat outside – If it’s an option for you to have an indoor/outdoor cat, going outside will allow her to expel excess energy and be too tired to become fixated on your floors.
vector - two cats reading
Wow dear! I didn’t realize that scratching was so much of a problem!
Wide Corrugated 3 Piece Cat Scratcher

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