Have you ever considered purchasing new furniture, only to stop and worry about what your cat may do to it with his claws? If so, you have likely experienced the immense frustration that comes with having your cat ruin your furniture. Fortunately, being a cat owner does not mean you will have to live with scratched up or old furniture. There are ways to help stop your cat from scratching furniture, and these ways begin with understanding why they scratch in the first place.
The Truth Behind Scratching
Scratching is a normal, instinctive behavior for felines, and has many helpful purposes. Scratching allows a cat to remove the dead outer layer of their claws, mark their territory with both visual and olfactory marks, and stretch their bodies, feet and claws. As a result, one should not actually desire to stop their cat from scratching altogether, but rather redirect their cat’s scratching from unacceptable objects, like the couch, the carpet or the banister, to acceptable objects, like scratching boards and posts.
Cats enjoy scratching anything with a nubby, course or textured surface because these surfaces allow them to sink their claws in more fully. They often enjoy scratching something after they have awoken from a nap, when they feel it is necessary to mark their territory, or when they are excited about something. Depending on each cat’s personal preferences, they may like to scratch a vertical surface or a horizontal surface, sometimes both. It is important to watch your cat to better understand their scratching needs so that one may prepare the appropriate scratching surfaces.
Once you have determined your cat’s scratching preferences, you can take action to redirect their scratching from unacceptable objects. Since cats appreciate texture in the surfaces they scratch, covering objects you don’t want them to scratch with smooth or unpleasant textures, like double-sided sticky tape, aluminum foil, sheets of sandpaper or even plastic carpet runners with the pointy side facing up, can help ensure that they are less likely to continue scratching these surfaces. If you are opposed to covering your furniture with these things, you may consider using scents your cat finds unpleasant, like citrus, menthol, cologne or muscle rub by soaking them into a cotton ball and placing the cotton ball where you don’t want your cat to scratch. Whatever the method you use to discourage cat scratching, remember to leave these items in place until your feline friend has fully switched over to the use of acceptable scratching objects.
To further encourage your cat away from scratching your furniture, you may consider providing them with an assortment of the sorts of objects they enjoy scratching, such as a flat sheet of corrugated cardboard, the back side of a square of carpet, or a small log that still has some bark on it. Arranging these objects in different ways can also stimulate your cat’s interest, so consider having free-standing scratching posts, flat-lying scratching objects and even hanging scratching objects. Some cats may not care so much about this, but others may enjoy the variety. If your cat seems uninterested in these acceptable scratching objects, you may want to consider rubbing a little catnip into them to attract their attention and interest. It is also helpful to praise your cat when he correctly uses an acceptable scratching object.
The location of acceptable scratching objects can have some bearing on whether your cat uses them instead of your furniture. For example, if your cat’s favorite bed is in your bedroom and their scratching post is in the living room, they may continue to use your bedroom furniture to scratch on after they awake from a nap. Moving their scratching post near the locations where they like to scratch can help redirect their attention so they leave your furniture alone while still satisfying their urge to scratch.
Ideally, your feline friend recognizes your effort to switch them over to acceptable scratching objects and away from your furniture. However, some cats may try to continue scratching your furniture because they have embedded their scent in these items and find them appealing. If you are working to redirect your cat from scratching your furniture to scratching acceptable posts and they are reluctant, you may need to startle them with a loud noise to help teach them that furniture scratching is unacceptable, and then direct them to acceptable scratching items. It is never wise to physically correct the animal with a slap or hit, as this may simply confuse them and cause them to fear you. Depending on how long they have been scratching furniture, it may take some time before they successfully learn appropriate scratching objects, so it is important to be patient and persistent in your efforts.