Does your cat consider your furniture his or her personal scratching post? Here are some solutions to stop this annoying and destructive problem.
Cats Need to Scratch
Cats like to scratch things for a variety of reasons: to stretch their back, legs, and feet; to mark their territory (because there are scent glands on their paw pads), and to keep their claws sharp and healthy.
Since scratching is a natural and healthy behavior, it’s going to be impossible to stop it altogether. The best thing to do is to provide your cat with acceptable places to scratch.
If you don’t already have a scratching post or other type of scratcher, or if the one you have isn’t attracting your cat, here is a breakdown of the various types of scratching products you'll find in a pet store:
Types of Cat Scratching Surfaces
Sisal – This natural surface has a rough feel that some cats like. Many scratching posts or cat trees have sisal rope wrapped around the post.
Cardboard – Cardboard cat scratchers come in all sizes and shapes. Some are made from corrugated cardboard and others have a smoother finish that resembles wood.
Wood – Scratching posts made with wood are a little less common, but many cats like the natural feel of real wood or tree bark.
Carpet – Scratching posts covered with carpet work well for some cats, but occasionally a cat will decide it’s okay to scratch your carpeting too.
Mixed Surface – Some scratching posts or cat trees have multiple surfaces like sisal, carpet, and wood, which is great for giving your cat options.
Cat Trees – These are much bigger than a typical scratching post and provide cats with a place to climb, play, scratch, stretch and rest. They’re nice for giving a cat its own personal space to hang out instead of going near your furniture. If you decide to get one of these, make sure it’s very sturdy and stable so you don’t have to worry about it tipping over when your cat’s climbing or scratching.
Horizontal Shape – Horizontal cat scratchers lie flat on the floor so the cat can stand on them and scratch.
Vertical Shape – This type of scratcher is upright so the cat can reach up and stretch as it scratches. If you get this type, be sure it’s tall enough for your cat to fully stretch out when he uses it and that it’s stable enough so it won’t tip.
Find Your Cat's Scratching Preference
Before going out and buying an expensive cat tree or scratching post, do some experimenting to see what surfaces your cat prefers.
For example, buy an inexpensive corrugated cardboard or sisal scratcher that sits on the floor and one that hangs over a doorknob to see which type and surface attract your cat the most. That will help you know what to look for in a full-size post, scratcher or cat tree.
Also, notice how your cat scratches. Does he like to reach up high when he scratches your furniture? If so, a vertical scratcher may be best. If he scratches along the base of the furniture or on the floor, he may prefer a horizontal scratcher.
It’s worth trying out as many styles of scratching posts as it takes to find the type your particular cat loves.
How to Get Your Cat to Use a Cat Scratcher
Here are some a few ways to encourage your cat to use his or her scratcher instead of your furniture:
Once you have a scratching post or cat tree, get a bag of pure catnip and sprinkle or rub it onto your cat’s scratcher or post to entice him to scratch there.
Choose the Best Placement of the Cat Scratcher
Place the cat scratcher or scratching post near the furniture the cat has been scratching. This will help divert his attention away from your furniture.
Another good location to place a scratching post is near the entryway to a room. If a cat sees the scratcher as he walks into the room, he'll hopefully get his fill of scratching and move on.
Have a Cat Scratcher in More Than One Area
I’ve found having a few cat scratchers and placing them in different rooms of the house works wonders for discouraging destructive scratching. In addition to a scratcher or post in your main living area (like the family room), put one or two in other rooms.
You can also buy a few inexpensive scratchers that can be hung over doorknobs. Cats love finding someplace to scratch in an unexpected place.
If You Have Multiple Cats, Get Multiple Scratching Posts
Like I mentioned earlier, cats have scent glands on their paw pads and may mark a particular scratcher as their own. If you have more than one cat, be sure to have more than one cat scratcher to prevent a cat from being territorial.
Praise Your Cat
When your cat uses its scratching post instead of the furniture, pour on the praise. Cats listen closely to the tone of your voice and can tell when you think they did something good.
Offer Treats as a Reward
When you’re starting out training your cat to use its scratcher or post, reward him with a treat after he uses it. It doesn’t have to be an on-going thing, but using treats as a reward, in the beginning, can help reinforce the new habit.
Trim Your Cat's Claws
Be sure to have a good pair of cat nail scissors or clippers. Keeping your cat's claws relatively short can help discourage scratching and lessen any damage caused if he does scratch the furniture.
The front claws should be clipped about every two weeks. Since the back claws grow slower, once a month is usually enough for those.
If you’re not sure how to safely trim your cat’s claws, ask your vet or a groomer to show you how. It's fairly easy to do once you get some practice.
Other Ways to Stop Cats From Scratching Furniture
If you’ve tried the ideas listed above and your cat is still scratching your furniture, here are a few other things to try:
If you catch your cat in the act of scratching the furniture, clap loudly or give him a firm ‘no’ to chase him away.
Make a hissing sound using a can of compressed air (the type used for cleaning computer keyboards or electronics). Don't point the can near or at your cat, just use it to make a sound that will scare him away from the furniture.
There are special tapes made for covering areas of the furniture that the cat is scratching. A popular one is called “Sticky Paws” and is available in many pet stores and online. It doesn’t work for every situation and furniture surface, but it might be worth a try because many people have success with it.
If your cat is damaging your really nice and expensive furniture, you might have to either remove the furniture or cover it with a plastic cover, especially at night or when you’re not home. You may not have to do this permanently, but at least until you get the cat trained to use its scratching post.
Try spraying some perfume on a cotton pad and wiping the area of the furniture where the cat tends to scratch. Cats don’t like the smell of perfume so it might be enough to deter him. Be sure to test the surface first to make sure the perfume won’t damage or stain your couch or other furniture.
What Not To Do If Your Cat is Scratching Your Furniture
Don’t ever yell at or hit your cat for scratching your furniture. Not only will it not help, but you’ll also end up with a cat that’s afraid of you.
Also, please don’t consider de-clawing your cat as a way to solve this problem. If you do a little research into exactly what the de-clawing procedure entails, you’ll understand why you would never want to subject your beloved feline friend to something so horrible.
With some cats, it takes time and patience to re-direct their scratching to appropriate places, but it is possible to have success with consistent effort, plenty of praise and continual reinforcement of the new habit.