Avoid A Clawtastrophe
Scratching is a natural and necessary behavior for our feline friends! Cats scratch for various reasons, but the most common is to sharpen those claws. Even though it’s essential for your kitty to scratch, unfortunately, it tends to result in damage to your furniture or carpet.
Let's start by understanding all of the reasons why our cats might be scratching.
Why Do Cats Scratch?
1.The primary reason for scratching is to remove the dead or frayed outer sheaths of their nails. In turn, this sharpens their claws so that they are ready to defend themselves against predators and catch prey.
2.Cats scratch when they are in a playful mood and will scratch frantically on a carpet or sofa as a way to release their excess energy.
3.Scratching also serves as an exercise and a great way to stretch. When a kitty hangs from what they are scratching on, they strengthen their upper body and spine.
4.Scratching is one of the many ways that a cat marks its territory. There are scent glands between a cat’s toes, so when a kitty scratches on an object, they mark it by leaving their scent behind.
5.Excessive scratching can be a sign of feline anxiety. You might notice your kitty scratching more than usual after a recent change in the house, like introducing a new pet. This is a sure indication that they may be feeling unsettled and stressed. If left without care this behavior can become compulsive as a way to release the anxiety.
How To Keep Your Cat From Scratching The Furniture
There are many great scratch posts on the market designed to meet your fur baby’s scratching needs. However, despite this, it’s not uncommon for kitties to ignore the scratch post altogether and opt for scratching up the sofa instead. So if that’s the case, what can you do to stop your cat from scratching the furniture? Or anything else around the house?
Provide Various Scratching Alternatives
Since one scratching post is often not sufficient, providing multiple posts, boards, and cat trees of different shapes and sizes is much more effective.
Scratch posts should be rigid enough to resist the claws’ pull and high enough for your kitty to stretch out their body.
Horizontal scratchboards offer an alternative position for your cat to scratch and stretch in. Alternatively, these can be fixed to a wall to save space. Cat trees and towers are brilliant alternatives, as they give your fur baby multiple levels to climb, scratch, play, and rest upon.
Consider The Material Of Their Scratching Surfaces
Most cats like to scratch the traditional rope-wound posts. However, when outside, kitties scratch on trees, so providing a wood surface to scratch is an excellent option.
If you can get ahold of a softwood log, such as redwood or cedar, that could be a huge draw for your cat.
Lastly, avoid carpet covered cat furniture. Allowing them to scratch on a cat tower covered in a carpeted material but not on the living room rug can be confusing and disruptive to positive vs negative behaviors.
Ditch the carpet covered towers and opt for something more appropriate for a material they can comfortably and consistently scratch when needed.
Place Scratch Posts In Prime Areas
Put the new scratching surface in a spot where your cat spends a lot of time or close to the furniture they tend to scratch.
It also helps to spread the posts and boards around the house. Aim to have one scratching surface in every room you can. When the urge to scratch comes, your kitty will look for the nearest attractive surface so you'll want to provide appropriate options for them in every space they're allowed.
Rub Catnip And Hang Toys On Scratch Posts To Encourage Usage
Once a cat scratches on a surface, they leave a pheromone scent that will prompt them to come back to that spot to scratch again.
Therefore, encourage your kitty to use new posts and boards straight away by scenting them with catnip or hanging their favorite toys on them. The more attractive and appealing you make them, the higher the chance they'll engage with them right off the bat and mark them as "theirs".
Cover Your Furniture
If your cat still finds the sofa or chair more desirable than their scratching post, you can cover these objects with tin foil (just wait, there's a method to the madness), which cats hate, or a double-sided sticky tape. This should help to deter your cat from scratching and help guide them to find an alternative nearby.
Use The Spray Bottle Method
To teach your feline to stop scratching where they shouldn’t, you can lightly spray your cat with water each time they attempt to scratch the inappropriate object.
Alternatively, you can clap your hands loudly at them so they associate the unpleasant sound with the behavior.
This training technique does require some patience as it may take time for your kitty to fully understand. Moreover, you should only try this method if all of the previous ways have been unsuccessful.
Trim Their Claws Regularly
Regular clipping of your cat’s nails will help keep them short and reduce the urge to scratch. You can generally trim a kitty’s nails every 2-3 weeks.
Clipping a cat’s nails is a simple process and does not cause them any pain. You can have your groomer or vet take care of the clipping for you or even do it at home with the proper tools. Be sure that if you self-clip their nails that you're only clipping the transparent nail and nowhere near the pink part.
What NOT To Do
Don’t hold your cat’s paws up to the scratch post and mimic the action of scratching. Cats do not learn in this way. Doing this is more likely to frighten them than help them understand.
Do NOT declaw your cat! Declawing is a surgery that involves amputating the last bone of each front toe, along with the nail bed and claw. As you can imagine, this is extremely painful for kitties, and complications and infections can arise. Cats have claws for a reason. Even if your fur baby is an indoor-only cat, you should never consider declawing them as it is unethical and cruel.
If, despite your best efforts, your cat is still ruining your furniture with its claws, do not hesitate to seek the professional help of an animal behaviorist. They can help you get to the root of the problem and correct your cat’s destructive behavior early on.
On the other hand, if you suspect your kitty is scratching the furniture due to anxiety, try to pinpoint the cause and research ways to calm them or adjust their environmental triggers as needed. You can learn more about cat scratching here.
Remember, your responsibility as a cat owner involves working with unwanted behavior in a kind and compassionate manner. Whether they're young and learning or old and stubborn every cat deserves patience and efforts to help them engage with positive behaviors.