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Why Does My Cat Scratch the Floor? I Can’t See Any Good Purpose!

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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.

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

Here’s why: For the 12,000 years cats and humans have lived together, cats brought with them their innate instincts to scratch. In fact, 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. Some of the ways you will see these instincts manifested on your floor include when your cat:

  • Scratches the floor after eating
  • Scratches the floor before drinking water
  • Scratches the floor after using the litter box
  • Scratches the floor for no apparent reason
sharp claws of a cat for scratching
These claws can do a lot of damage!

Why Does My Cat Scratch the Floor After Eating?

It probably seems more logical that your cat would scratch the floor before eating, not after. So, what’s up with the post-meal timing? 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, so they can come back for more 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 historic wild days, now, her autopilot response is to scratch on your floor.

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

Not all cats do this.

How to Stop Your Cat from Scratching the Floor After Eating

Unfortunately, this scratching behavior is more difficult to control because it is so firmly rooted in primal instincts for survival. However, there are some things you can try, including:

  • Feed your cat in a small, separate space 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 cat food tray she can scratch on and place it under her food bowl.
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!

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

Why Does My Cat Scratch the Floor Before Drinking Water?

What you think is yet another bizarre behavior, is when your cat scratches the floor before drinking her water. There is no doubt that the behavior is based on primal instincts. The reasons include:

  • 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: Too hot? Too cold? Dirty? Whatever the reason, scratching the floor by the water bowl could mean your cat is just not happy with the water.
why does my cat scratch the floor
Scratching is very tiring! Need a nap!

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 bowl: Clean the water bowl at least once a day. When cleaning the bowl rinse thoroughly to remove all traces of detergent
  • Don’t move the 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.
  • Change water often: Change the water at least once, preferably twice, a day.
  • New bowl: Try giving your cat a new bowl.
  • 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 carboard 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.

  • Get a big enough litter box: Consider purchasing something larger than a regular cat litter box, such as a translucent storage container
  • Purchase a covered litter box
  • Put 3 inches of litter in the box
  • Try using a different brand of kitty litter
  • Scoop the box out at least once every day
  • Wash the box completely every week

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. Most probably, 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 Scratching for No Apparent Reason

PetFusion Ultimate Cat Scratcher Lounge | Reversible Large Cat Infinity Scratcher Lounger in Multiple Colors | Made from Recycled Corrugated Cardboard & Non-Toxic Glue

Now this is a cat scratcher that doubles as a place to have a snooza palooza, after all scratching is a tiring business. Click on the image for more details. This is easy to move around to different locations. 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 things you can try to stop the behavior, including

  • 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 her 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.
two cats reading the paper in bed
Wow dear! I didn’t realize that scratching was so much of a problem!

Related: While we are talking about the cat and the floor – Does your cat sometimes randomly poop on the floor? What is up with this kitty? What does it mean and how can you stop this form happening?

Kitty City XL Wide Corrugate Cat Scratchers 3 Pieces, Cat Scratching, Cat Scratch Pad

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