Difference between cat scratching for body maintenance and scratching for marking territory

As this is a very specific question, the answer will be by necessity short. The clue comes from the position of the scratch marks. As you know cats mark territory with urine spraying and scratching. Scratching leaves a both a visual and olfactory signal as scent is deposited on the object scratched via the pawpads.

Cat scratching near boundaries of their home range
Cat scratching near boundaries of their home range. This can be for marking territory and/or sharpening claws. Photo: MikeB
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Indoor/outdoor cats will consider the boundaries of the human home the boundaries of the inner area of their home range. The entire home range will be several acres and more and the boundaries will be outside their caregiver’s home.

For full-time indoor cats their home range boundary is the house or apartment. Therefore, when full-time indoor cats are compelled to mark territory by scratching it will normally be around doors and windows and at the entrance to the hallways. These are the major areas for indoor cats.

For indoor/outdoor cats it will be the same and vertical objects like trees outside the home.

Scratching furniture to sharpen claws and stretch the back
Scratching furniture to sharpen claws and stretch the back. This object is not at the boundary of their home range. Photo: MikeB

When a cat scratches to sharpen claws and stretch their back they will normally use furniture in the living area and the cat scratching posts placed there to direct cats away from furniture.

Although there will be a big overlap here. There is not a clear demarcation as scent and visual marking has a dual role: marking territory and sharpening claws.

Smart scratching post
Smart scratching post. Photo: Michael.


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