Why does my cat use the scratching post when I get home?

Cat uses the scratching post when I get home.
Image: MikeB

This is a short post because the answer to the question is, I believe, obvious. Although my reason might not be the correct one every time but it’ll be the most common reason.

When a cat’s owner is away from their home it is often for quite a long time from the cat’s perspective, perhaps several hours or not-infrequently all day long. Your cat will often wait for your turn if there is a close relationship.

They will snooze and anticipate your arrival. They may even wait behind the front door. They do so patiently. On your arrival they will greet you with the tail-up, friendly signal and rub their flanks against your legs. You will both engage in your usual homecoming routine.

Sometime during this routine your cat will possibly scratch the tall and solid scratching post which is big and solid enough for your cat to do her aerobic scratches. This means that your cat will be stretching her back in a form of exercise which she needs after that long snooze waiting for your arrival. She is waking up. It is the kind of stretch humans do when getting up.

Cat scratching has several functions as you might know:

  • to deposit scent onto the post from their paw pads, as a form of marking territory,
  • to scratch the post as another form of marking territory,
  • to slough off the outer cuticle of the claw to sharpen it,
  • to exercise the retractile (actually protrusible) mechanism of their claws,
  • and finally, as mentioned, to stretch their backs: aerobic scratching exercise.
Marvin at scratching post
Marvin at scratching post. Marvin lives with DW, a regular contributor. The photo is by her. She won the post as a prize in a PoC competition!

They will then be ready for the next instalment of their interaction with you; probably food.

All cat scratching posts should be as big as you can get them. There is one available on Amazon which I have and which I recommend. It is in the photograph above. It’s ideal for aerobic exercise because they can stretch up. It replicates the kind of vertical object that a cat would normally scratch namely a tree trunk.

That said, domestic cats also like to scratch horizontally for that purpose you can by scratching boards made of corrugated cardboard. This replicates territory marking by scratching trails.

Cat scratching board
Cat scratching board. Photo: MikeB.

The vertical post that I’ve mentioned is very solid. When scratched it does resist sufficiently so that your cat doesn’t destroy it too quickly! When a scratching post has been well used it should be kept even if it looks well shredded. This is because it is exactly how your cat wants it and it’s covered in fragrant paw perfume.

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Why do cats stretch their paws when you pet them?

This is not stretching paws. What the question is referring to is cats extending their toes and then contracting them when you pet them. It does look as if they are stretching or exercising their toes but they are not.

Cat kneading a blanket
Cat kneading a blanket. Picture: Shutterstock.

Cats normally enjoy being the recipient of human petting. They relate to the person doing it as their mother. This prompts them to knead their mother’s nipple. As there is no nipple the kneading will be against the surface on which the cat is resting. This can a person’s lap or on the bed as two obvious examples. The softer the surface the more likely it is that they’ll knead it as it replicates their mother’s breast.

Feline kneading is an automatic and instinctive response to many kinds of human interaction, not only petting. For instance if you talk to your cat nicely and he is near you he may knead once in slow motion. It often goes with the slow blink which is also a sign of contentment.

The purpose of kneading is to express the flow of milk. It is not to stretch the paw. It should never be stopped even if the claws are digging into your flesh as it would confuse your cat. This is an emotionally warm moment. To suddenly do the opposite is unwise and it does not foster a close relationship. Trimming claws is the way to prevent it hurting.

FYI – when a newborn kitten suckles at their mother’s nipple they have selected and they reuse their favourite nipple and always return to it. The same applies to the other kittens of the litter. The mother may purr and the kittens purr in response while drinking and kneading!

P.S. Cats stretch their backs when using a scratching post to slough off the top layer of keratin of their foreclaws. When cats do this they are (1) depositing scent from their paw pads onto the scratching post and (2) ‘sharpening’ their claws as mentioned and (3) stretching their back and body in general.

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Siamese cat’s unique and balletic stretch when picked up

We don’t know how this sweet balletic stretch developed but develop it did and it looks great. I have never seen this before. It is unique. I’ll have a stab at guessing how it came about.

Cat pickup stretch
Cat pickup stretch. Screenshot.

The lady picked up her Siamese cat and she decided to use that moment to stretch because when a cat is picked up in that way it automatically stretches the body. The cat enjoyed it and elaborated on the movement to make it a full blown body stretch. As she likes it so much the trigger to doing it again is when she is picked up. It’s like a combination of ballet and Pilates.

Note: videos on this site are typically made by people other than me and held on YouTube servers or the servers of other businesses (not the server storing this website). Sometimes the videos are deleted at source which stops them working on this site. It that has happened I apologise but I have no control over it.

This is probably an example of self-training or mutual human/cat training. Someone will possibly feel like criticising the woman for picking up her cat is this way but I think it is fine. The cat enjoys it and I am sure that the she holds her cat like this for a short time.

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