The essential guide to stop your cat from scratching your furniture

  • by DR Roxanne Jones
The essential guide to stop your cat from scratching your furniture

Although scratching is destructive and detrimental to your prized belongings, you can’t make your cat do something she doesn’t want to do, especially because scratching is a natural cat behaviour. Here are some helpful hints how to stop your cat from scratching your furniture.

Understanding scratching behaviour

Understanding why your cat scratches, is the first step to redirecting this undesirable behavior to more acceptable areas and stopping your cat from scratching your furniture. Cats scratch in order to mark their territory and establish their turf with scent glands under their paws and to remove loose claw sheaths, which are a visible scented trace of your cat. While scratching, your cat is exercising her front legs, shoulders and back. Cats scratch because it just feels good! So embrace your kitty’s natural instinct and channel the behaviour to a more suitable area.

Provide your cat with an appropriate place to scratch

Cat scratching posts are ideal for channeling their behaviour and to stop your cat from scratching your furniture. Keep in mind that the post needs to be stable, if it falls over even once your cat may associate it with a negative experience and may never return. The post should have a variety of scratching positions and scratching textures, as all cats are different. Some prefer to scratch in a vertical position, others in a horizontal position and some cats just enjoy variety. The best cat posts have different levels with podiums that they can sit or lie on, as they tend to feel safe and at ease when they are high up. Introducing a post into the house that brings them some level of comfort will help them redirect their scratching to their new post. The post should be tall enough so that she can extend her entire body to stretch all those back muscles.

Encourage your cat to prefer the post

A huge part of cat scratching is territory marking, so the post needs to be in an area used by the family. It is ideal to have a few posts scattered all over your house in the areas where she loves to scratch. You will need to encourage her to use the post instead of scratching your furniture. Make the whole experience positive and enjoyable by feeding and playing with her by the post. Encourage your cat to claw the post by capturing her interest with a toy dangling on a string. By doing this she may inadvertently dig her claws into the post and discover how nice it feels to scratch the post. You can rub catnip on the post and use lots of praise and positive reinforcement such as petting and treats to encourage the good behavior, when found scratching her post. She will quickly learn what is acceptable and what is not. Don’t ever take her paws and try and force her to scratch the post. This may cause a negative experience and scare your cat away from using the post.

Distract your cat from old scratching areas

Previous scratching areas will have her scent markings. Cleaning these areas with a pet odour remover will deter her from these spots. You could also cover these areas with tinfoil or double sided tape as these surfaces don’t feel nice to scratch. Applying citrus odours to the old area will also deter her, as cats don’t like the smell, ‘Footsack spray’ is also very effective for this purpose

Remember, punishment simply DOESN’T work! However light reprimanding (NO and a loud clap) is effective. Punishment is likely to make your situation worse by making your cat feel insecure, develop other undesirable behavioral problems or even scratch MORE. Positive reinforcement is an excellent tool to encourage desirable behavior.

Alternative solutions

Declawing is not an acceptable option. This irreversible surgical procedure involves amputating the last joint on the cat’s toes. This procedure is very painful and can lead to secondary problems such as infection in the bone and contracture of the tendons. This makes it very uncomfortable for the cat to walk and unbalances the cat, which is extremely distressing, as cats need their balance for survival. Instead you may try trimming your cat’s nails, making them blunt and therefore less destructive. Remember, Prevention is key. If you get a new kitten into your house, reinforce good scratching behavior in an appropriate place right from the start.

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