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5 Reasons Why Your Cat Uses You As a Scratching Post

Your cat’s claws are vital parts of its biology. They’re used for survival as hunting weapons and tree-scaling devices in the wild. As domesticated pets, their claws are kept in tip-top shape with regular scratching.

Of course, to save our furniture, we have designated cat scratchers that they quickly take to. So, it can be jarring when they stretch their arms up to our legs only to drag their claws down our calves or sit on our knees just to claw at our lap.

Why would cats use our legs as a scratching post? There are plenty of reasons for the contact between your cat’s claws and your legs, and none of them are sinister!


The 5 Reasons Why Your Cat Uses You As a Scratching Post

1. They Want Attention

For quadrupeds (a four-legged animal), cats are rather tactile with their front paws. They use them to investigate strange objects, reach for items, and sometimes even eat. If their meows aren’t enough to attract their owner’s attention, they may use their front paws to get some attention.

Reaching up and placing their paws on your legs could signify they want you to talk to them, pet them, or pat them. Either way, they’re just looking for some love and attention.

Unfortunately, they don’t always have much control over their claws. This is especially so if they use your leg to stretch out on, as the stretching can cause the nails to pop out involuntarily.

cat playing hepper nest bed

How to Stop It
  • Keep your cat’s claws trimmed and dull.
  • Give them lots of undivided attention, especially when you first return home.
  • Respond to their meows, talking to them even when they don’t understand you can help fulfill their social needs.
  • Consider getting a second cat if you are not home much; your cat may be lonely.


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2. They’re Hungry

As a flow-on from trying to get your attention, your cat may be not looking for social attention but asking you for something in particular. For example, when your cat wants you to open a door for them to go through, they often stretch up and scratch at the door to communicate this.

If you are near their feeding area or their bowl and they scratch at your leg, they are likely asking for you to feed them.

How to Stop It
  • Use an automatic feeder. This way, your cat does not associate their food with you, so they won’t look to beg you for it.
  • Feed small and frequent meals. This method will keep your cat moderately satisfied all of the time to prevent a time (like right before dinner) that they are extra hungry.
  • Only feed your cat in their bowl. If you start feeding your cat at your dinner table or from the hand, they will begin to learn food is available from you anytime and do their best to beg for it.
  • Get them checked out by the vet. Some medical issues can cause excessive hunger, causing cats to beg for food even if it is out of character.
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3. To Get Comfy

A behavior you may be familiar with in dogs is also typical in cats. And that’s using their paws to prepare a spot to sleep in. Pawing and kneading at surfaces can be a way for cats to soften a soft before they lay down.

If your cat likes to sit on your lap, your legs may get battered by their claws as they prepare to snuggle in!

This behavior comes from wild denning behaviors where cats may dig small holes to rest in for protection from the elements. This may also be a form of nesting for pregnant or nursing cats, as they look for a safe and warm space to keep their kittens.

cat sleeping with owner
Image Credit: masik0553, Shutterstock
How to Stop It
  • Keep a blanket near your lounge area to place on your lap before your cat sits down. This creates a barrier between your legs and their claws so they can get cozy without causing you pain.
  • Provide plenty of beds and blankets around the home for your cat to find comfort and warmth within.
  • Keep your cat’s claws trimmed.
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4. They Love You!

Apart from using their claws and paws to get comfortable, kneading their feet on your lap can signify your cat absolutely adores you. What better way to say “I love you” than by digging their claws into your lap, right?

Kneading behavior stems back to when your cat was a kitten. During nursing, it was used by kittens to stimulate the mammary glands for milk production. Of course, your cat knows that no milk will come from your legs, but it is a retained behavior of comfort to them.

Your cat is trying to tell you that they know you are their “human mom,” and they love you very much. You’ll know that this reason is behind the clawing if they are also smooching up to you, purring, or even drooling pleasure.

How to Stop It
  • Keep your cat’s claws trimmed.
  • Put your hands over its paws gently to stop them from kneading until they settle into rest.
  • Keep a blanket nearby as a barrier between your lap and its claws.
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5. To Mark Their Territory

Part of a cat scratching behavior comes from natural instincts. One of these is using the scent glands located on their feet (interdigital glands) to mark their territory. Scratching can leave behind visual and chemical messages to any other cats in the area.

Your cat may be marking their territory on your legs but leaving her scent behind. This familiar scent can provide comfort and security to your cat.

male domesetic cat scratching furniture with front claws
Image Credit: Melissa Sue, Shutterstock
How to Stop It
  • Show your pain and discomfort by reacting negatively to the scratching. Cats are more intelligent than they let on, and they are not trying to inflict pain. Your cat can find other ways to leave its scent on you, like its neck against you.
  • Redirect their behavior away from you.
  • Don’t punish them for scratching. You could damage your relationship and create fear.

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Final Thoughts

If your cat treats your leg like a scratching post, they aren’t trying to cause you harm. You will know if they are genuinely being aggressive if the scratching is coupled with biting and hissing.

Your leg may be subject to your cat’s claws for various other feline means of communication. Use our guide to help you decipher what your cat is trying to tell you!

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Featured Image Credit: RomeoEbaloo, Pixabay