You’ve just settled into bed after a long day, and you’re looking forward to a good night’s sleep. But just as you start to drift off, you hear that familiar scratching sound coming from the other room. Your cat is clawing at the walls again!
This after-hours wall scratching can be annoying, but there are good reasons why cats exhibit this behavior. By understanding what’s behind your cat’s nocturnal scratching, you can take steps to curb the behavior while still meeting their needs.
Let’s explore the top causes of nighttime wall-scratching in cats and give you tips to stop the behavior humanely.
Common Reasons For Night Scratching
There are several possible explanations for why your cat may scratch walls and furniture at night:
1. Marking Territory
Cats have scent glands in their paws that release pheromones when they scratch surfaces. This leaves both a visual and scent mark that indicates “This territory belongs to me!” Nighttime, when things are quiet, can be an opportune time for cats to leave their territorial “graffiti tag” around your home.
This behavior is especially likely if you’ve recently moved homes, brought home new furniture, or have a new cat in the household. Your resident cat may feel the need to “overwrite” the scents of unfamiliar cats and reestablish boundaries.
Sleepless nights can occur in people and pets alike. While you’re in bed, your cat is wide awake with energy to burn. If they don’t have sufficient toys or activities during your sleeping hours, they may turn to inappropriate scratching to occupy themselves. This is especially true for energetic, playful cats.
3. Stress Or Anxiety
Sudden loud noises, changes in routine, or new people/pets in the home can make cats feel tense and insecure at night. Scratching walls and furniture can be a self-soothing mechanism for anxious cats. The act of digging their claws in exerts control over their environment.
Some cats scratch walls at night simply because they learn it gets a reaction. If your cat’s scratching wakes you up and you give them affection or food, they are positively reinforced to keep repeating that behavior. For attention-seeking cats, night scratching can become a hard-to-break habit.
5. Health Issues
While less common, physical discomfort can also cause an increase in nighttime scratching. Conditions like skin allergies, fungal infections, and arthritis can make cats more likely to scratch due to irritation or pain in their paws and claws. Schedule a vet visit if you notice other signs of illness accompanying new scratching behaviors.
Why Do Cats Scratch More At Night?
Now that we’ve covered the main reasons behind night scratching, you may be wondering why cats exhibit this behavior more in the late hours. Here are some key factors:
Increased Activity At Night
Cats are naturally crepuscular, meaning their peak activity times are dawn and dusk. So while you’re sleeping, your cat may be full of nocturnal energy and looking for outlets like scratching. Their night vision and hunting instincts also kick in after dark.
Lack Of Distractions At Night
Without humans around playing with them or moving about the house, cats at night have fewer distractions from scratching. Silence and lack of activity give them the perfect opportunity to focus on clawing walls and furniture.
Cats prefer cooler temperatures. Heat stresses cats out, while cool night air is more inviting for activity. This stimulates cats to be more lively and exploratory at night, leading to increased scratching.
With fewer disruptions at night, cats have more freedom to patrol their territory. They’ll visit and claw familiar and new objects as they make the rounds. Nighttime territorial marking gives cats peace of mind while the humans are asleep.
How To Stop Cats Scratching Walls At Night
Now let’s get into the good stuff – tips for stopping your cat’s late-night scratch attacks! Here are some effective and cat-friendly approaches:
Provide Appropriate Scratching Posts
The number one solution is to give your cat appealing scratching posts and pads around the house. Place them horizontally and vertically since cats like to scratch in both orientations. Cover posts with sisal rope or carpet so they can really dig their claws in.
Catify Their Environment
Keep your cat mentally and physically stimulated by creating an enriched environment with cat trees, perches, hideaways and food puzzles. A cat cafe is less likely to annoy you at night when provided with sanctioned play areas and activities. Rotate toys to keep things exciting.
Have longer, active play sessions with wand toys before bed to help your cat burn off pent-up energy. Try to tire them out so they’re ready for sleep at your bedtime. This is especially important for energetic young cats prone to nighttime mischief.
Ignore Night Scratching
As hard as it is, don’t react or give your cat attention when they scratch at night. Any interaction rewards the behavior. Silently remove them from the scratched object and walk away. Only give attention and affection during the day.
Place pieces of double-sided sticky tape on scratched furniture and walls. The sticky texture is unpleasant for cats’ paws. Alternatively, a motion-activated air spray near the scratch zone will also deter cats when the sensor is triggered.
Address Underlying Causes
Does your cat only scratch when new people visit? Or do they claw walls by the litter box? Identify underlying causes and address them. For anxious cats, try calming pheromones. Increase playtime for bored cats. Clean the litter box more if that’s the issue.
Ask Your Vet
If your cat starts suddenly scratching when they never did before or shows other behavioral changes, schedule a vet visit. Medical issues like skin conditions could be causing persistent scratching. Your vet can provide medication or treatment.
With patience and commitment to meeting your cat’s needs, you can curb annoying night scratching. Just remember that scratching is a natural cat behavior, so some occasional late-night clawing is to be expected even with the most well-behaved feline. But you can reduce episodes dramatically by making the tips outlined here part of your bedtime routine.
Why does my cat scratch the carpet at night?
Cats may choose carpeting for night scratching because it provides a satisfying texture for them to hook their claws into. The soft, fibrous surface is perfect for digging, which cats love to do. Try placing a sisal scratching mat right over the carpeted area to protect it.
Why does my cat meow and scratch the door at night?
Persistent meowing and door scratching at night usually mean your cat wants something – often to seek attention, play, food, or access to a room. It’s best not to respond and reward this behavior. Ensure your cat has sufficient play and enrichment during the day instead.
How do I stop my cat from waking me Up by scratching the bed?
If your cat tries jumping on the bed and scratching the blankets, he probably wants attention or playtime. Keep a water spray bottle on your nightstand to discourage bed scratching. Locking your cat out of the bedroom at night also works but may cause meowing.
Why does my cat stretch and scratch the couch?
Cats have scent glands by their claws, so when they do a full body stretch and dig into something, it’s both satisfying and leaves their scent behind. Try clipping some furniture protectors or double sided tape onto the couch to make it less appealing for scratching stretches.
How do I stop my cat from ruining the carpet in one room?
Focus on making the problem room less appealing and providing better alternatives. Place scratching posts, cat trees, and toys in other rooms to entice your cat away. Use carpet protectors and motion-activated deterrents in the problem room. Play with your cat in the rooms you want them to hang out instead.
Cats naturally scratch more at night due to high energy levels and instinctual behaviors like marking territory. While scratching walls, doors, carpets and furniture can be destructive, there are many effective and humane ways to stop the behavior.
The key is addressing the underlying reason, whether it’s boredom, stress or a simple need for appropriate scratching outlets. Providing suitable scratching posts, increased playtime and discouragement of night scratching are all steps in the right direction.
With time and consistency, you can put a stop to annoying after-dark scratching and help your cat be a model citizen even in the wee hours.