You come home to discover your carpet is torn. The culprit is your cat, who only meows at you, feigning innocence. Your sweet feline has an unfortunate destructive side, but why? Why are they tearing your carpet? 

Why does my cat tear up the carpet?

There are several reasons your cat may be tearing the carpet. As frustrating (and expensive) as this behavior can be, it’s important to remember it’s a natural part of feline behavior. 

Of course, you want your cat to stop ripping your carpet to shreds, and that starts with understanding why they are tearing your carpet in the first place. 

Grooming and Stretching

The simple truth is, cats need to scratch for their health. The outer layers of claw must be shed to allow them to access the new sharp claw beneath. Claws are used for climbing, defense, hunting, and even balance. 

It’s in your cat’s instincts to keep their claws in good working order. In the wild, it’s literally a matter of life and death. Your domestic feline may not need to defend themselves from predators, but the urge to keep their claws sharp will remain. 

When they scratch, they are also exercising their muscles. They will use scratching as a way to stretch. They will dig their claws into a fixed surface, like your carpet, and pull their body weight, essentially doing kitty resistance training. These exercises keep their body supple and strong. 

This is also essential in the wild. To survive, cats must maintain a healthy body. Even in the home, a well toned and limber body has its advantages. 

Marking

It’s well known that dogs love to pee on things to mark their territory. However, cats are also territorial. It was once believed they are solitary creatures, but recent research has revealed they have a complex social system. 

Just like dogs, cats use scent to mark their territory. One of the prime ways they do this is by scratching. Their paws contain scent glands. When they scratch a surface, they are rubbing their paws against it, leaving their scent behind. 

The marks and claw husks that result from a scratching session are also forms of communication. It’s essentially their way of writing a note to their fellow cats. 

Outdoor cats will scratch a wide variety of items as a way of marking. These include trees, wooden fences and gates, and wooden walls. Indoor cats commonly target carpet, upholstered furniture, or soft wood surfaces. 

Attention

If your cat is feeling neglected, they may be scratching to get your attention. If you respond when they scratch the carpet, they get attention. In this way, cats are like children. Bad attention is often preferable to no attention at all. 

Positive Reinforcement

 It’s possible that you have inadvertently trained them to scratch the carpet. Cats have a strong associative memory. This means they quickly learn and remember when an action achieves a desired outcome. 

For example, you tell them to go fetch their toy. When they do, they are rewarded with a play session. They will associate the two in their mind. When they fetch the toy, they expect the play session to follow. They look forward to fetching because it leads to something good. 

This is wonderful when you want to train your cat to do something, but it can inadvertently train them to do something you don’t want them to do. Let’s go back to attention. Your cat scratches the carpet. You jump up, yelling at them to stop. If the cat enjoys your reaction, they now have a reason to keep performing the behavior. 

Cats are not driven to please their owners in the same way dogs are, so they are less likely to differentiate between negative and positive responses. A dog is easily shamed. They know when they upset you, and don’t like it. Cats generally don’t seem to mind a little displeasure.  

Play

Scratching can be an invitation to play. If you notice your cat scratches and then wants to play, it’s likely their way of saying, “Hey, play with me”. 

Happiness

Cats sometimes scratch to express happiness. However, they aren’t typically destructive when scratching for this reason. You may also notice your cat kneads you with its paws when it’s happy. 

Stress or Anxiety

Stress or anxiety can also cause your kitty to scratch your carpet. It’s a comfort mechanism for them. Some humans will rock back and forth or twist their hair to comfort themselves. Cats scratch or lick. 

It releases calming endorphins and makes them feel better. If your cat’s scratching is destructive, or they do it often, stress may be to blame. 

Why is my cat suddenly tearing up the carpet?

Your normally happy cat is suddenly tearing up your carpet. What’s going on? 

Stress

If there’s been a recent change in your household, this is likely the culprit. Is there a new pet or family member? Has your schedule changed recently? Has your kitty been through a stressful experience? This can include anything from a loud noise to a trip to the vet. Some cats are more sensitive to stress than others.

In addition to clawing the carpet, other signs of stress or anxiety in cats include appetite changes, peeing and pooping outside the litter box, and aggression. They may also adopt other destructive behaviors. 

Some cats become clingy, while others become reclusive. Your cat may stick to you like Velcro, or spend much of their time hiding. 

Sexual Maturity or Heat

Male cats are more likely to mark once they reach sexual maturity. Females experience behavioral changes when they are in heat. This can cause them to tear the carpet. in addition, a female in heat may scratch the carpet because she wants to get outside to find a mate. 

Why does my cat tear up the carpet at night?

Is your sleep constantly being interrupted by the sound of your kitty destroying your carpet? This can be particularly frustrating. Not only are they tearing your carpet, they are also causing you to be exhausted due to lack of sleep. 

Crespucular Creatures

Most people think cats are nocturnal, but this isn’t technically true. Nocturnal animals will sleep throughout the day, and spend the nighttime hours awake. Cats, on the other hand, are crepuscular. 

This means they are most active at dusk and dawn, when night is arriving or day is breaking. It often seems as if they are nocturnal to us, because they are awake in the early hours of the morning with the dawn. However, they do not spend all night awake. 

Being crepuscular can cause some difficulties for cat owners. They are essentially unsupervised, because you are asleep. This can lead them to getting into mischief, like scratching your carpet. 

Boredom

The most common reason cats scratch the carpet at night is simple boredom. There’s a lot going on during the day. At night, everything is quiet. There’s much less entertainment. When your cat is bored, they will find their own entertainment. Their idea of fun is often very different from what you want them to do. 

Wanting In or Out

If they scratch the carpet near a door at night, they probably want in or out. If they are scratching the carpet in front of your bedroom door, they likely want to be near you while you sleep. If they are scratching near an exterior door, they may want to go outside. 

Why does my cat paw at the carpet?

When your cat paws at the carpet, they are probably kneading. They will dig their claws in very lightly. The motion feels like kneading bread, which is how the behavior gets its name. 

Kneading is a way your cat expresses their happiness. If they are kneading, they are happy and content. 

How to get my cat to stop tearing up the carpet?

Getting your cat to stop tearing up the carpet isn’t always easy. For some cats, simply providing them with an alternative is enough. Other cats require more work. However, it is possible to get your cat to stop tearing your carpet with patience and perseverance. 

Provide Alternatives

The first step to getting your cat to stop tearing up the carpet is to provide suitable alternatives. Buy or make a few scratching posts and pads. 

It’s best to give your cat some variety. They should have at least one vertical and one horizontal scratching surface. It’s also a good idea to choose a few different materials, so they can choose where and how they want to scratch. 

Scratching posts can be made from carpet, cardboard, rope, or wood. Set up at least one post near where your cat is scratching the carpet. However, you can’t go wrong with having several scratching options throughout the house. 

It’s also important to make sure the post or pad is stable. If it’s a vertical post, secure it to the wall if possible. If that’s not an option, be sure it has a sturdy base. You want it to stay steady when your cat is scratching and pulling. 

Horizontal scratchers should also be secured. One of the easiest methods to accomplish this is with double-sided tape or velcro. This will prevent it from moving along the floor or pulling up with your kitty’s claws. 

Detterrants

You’ve given your cat suitable scratching options, now it’s time to deter them from scratching your carpet. Some owners find placing sandpaper or aluminum foil on the carpet helpful. 

Cats don’t like to scratch, or walk on, these surfaces. They will tend to avoid the area, and hopefully use their scratching post instead. 

You can also try scent sprays. Bitter apple and citrus sprays are popular repellants. Cats don’t like these scents, so it may deter them from the area. 

Lastly, there’s one fool-proof way to keep your cat from scratching a specific area. Prevent them from accessing it. You may need to shut the room off with a gate or a closed door. You can also move a piece of furniture over the area. If your cat scratches in one particular spot, these methods can be effective. 

Temporarily confining them to one area without carpet is also an option. This can help break their habit of scratching the carpet. Be sure they have a scratching post available. Since they have little option other than to use the post to scratch, it allows them to get accustomed to using the post instead of your carpet. 

Treat Underlying Issues

The other component of getting your cat to stop scratching is to treat any underlying causes of the scratching. If they are a male marking their territory or a female in heat, getting them spayed or neutered may help. 

If they are stressed, try to determine the cause. Then work to eliminate or minimize the stress. If they are bored or seeking your attention, be sure to give them regular playtime. 

Playtime helps reduce boredom. If you suspect boredom is the cause, you can also give them some new toys. Puzzle feeders are a wonderful way to provide physical and mental stimulation when you can’t play with them. Catnip or toys that move on their own can also help keep your cat entertained. 

Lastly, don’t underestimate the power of television, particularly at night. Cats enjoy watching television. It’s essentially the same as looking out the window to see what’s happening in the world.  

If the scratching is caused by an underlying issue like anxiety, the unwanted behaviors won’t stop until you handle the cause. If you need help deciphering or changing your cat’s behavior, consider speaking with your veterinarian or a behavioral therapist. Sometimes you need to bring in expert help. 

Provide Proper Grooming

Your cat may need your help maintaining their claws. Cats should not be declawed unless absolutely necessary. However, trimming their claws can help them stay healthy, and reduce their need to scratch. 

Author

I created and currently run Kitty Cat Tips, the website that you can go to when you have questions about your cat's behavior. It's my hope that you find Kitty Cat Tips to be a helpful resource. It is also my hope that it will help you to improve your relationship with your cat. You can read more about me and my website here.