If you have a cat that scratches the furniture, you are not alone. Many cat owners, including ourselves, have had lounges, dining chairs and curtains destroyed by our lovable felines. While scratching can be catastrophic for our beautiful homes, it is possible to stop cats from scratching it. It takes empathy, patience and consistency to curb unwanted behaviour and maintain your special bond.
Even though the urge to scratch is completely normal for your cat, there are ways to divert this behaviour and move them away from scratching your furniture.
Why do they scratch?
Firstly, we must understand that scratching comes naturally to cats. It’s a natural, instinctive behaviour, and almost impossible to stop completely. Cats need to keep their claws healthy and conditioned, which can be difficult for indoor cats without access to trees.
Cats scratch to shed the outer layers of their claws, as well as to mark their territory, and to stretch and condition the muscles in their paws. It’s a common misconception that cats flexing their claws is a sign of a bad attitude when in fact, they’re just doing what comes naturally.
Cats scratch when they’re playing, stretching, grooming, when they’re feeling happy and for stress-relief. Scratching helps your cat remove tension in their body and is mentally relaxing.
How to stop cats clawing furniture
Every cat is different, so what works for one may not work for another. Trial and error will help you to figure out what will work for you and your kitty.
Re-direct scratching behaviour
If you catch them scratching the furniture, sternly tell your cat ‘no’ and gently re-direct them to an appropriate scratching area (which we’ll talk about next). You can do this by encouraging them with a toy, such as a hand-held wand cat toy (feathers or bells are especially enticing to cats). Avoid using just your hands to prevent getting scratched. Obviously, this technique can only work if you are home so consistency is the key. Never yell at your cat as this will only scare them and teach them to fear you.
Incorporating reward-based training techniques can also work for many cats. Try providing a tasty cat treat as a reward after they have finished scratching in the correct area. Food helps to speed up the learning process, just as it does for dogs.
Cat furniture and scratching posts
Cat furniture, such as a cat tree, scratcher or condo, gives your cat a dedicated area to sharpen their claws (rather than your human furniture!). If your cat doesn’t have its own scratching item, it has no choice but to use your furniture. Cat furniture comes in different materials like carpet, sisal, wood, and cardboard, and also in different shapes (vertical and horizontal), which gives you lots of choices depending on how much space you have available.
If your cat already has a scratcher and isn’t crazy about it, there are a few things you can try. The best place to put your cat tree is out in the open, right next to the item of furniture that they love to scratch. For many homes, this is in the lounge room. This makes the tree easily accessible.
You can also place small cat scratching posts or boards around your home so that your cat has no excuse.
A Catnip Spray can be used as a training tool to encourage your cat to use a new scratching post, cat toy or cat bed you just purchased. Catnip is a herb that triggers a kind of euphoria response in many cats. Catnip is neither harmful nor addictive for cats, however, it has no effect on kittens (only adult cats).
Play with your cat near the scratching post, and reward them with praise and treats when they use it. You can also dangle a toy over the scratching post so that it hangs against the post. This will draw your cat's attention to it and may assist to teach the joy of scratching the post behind it.
Restrict access to expensive furniture
While you’re training your cat, if possible, move expensive or antique furniture to another room and keep the door closed. Ensure that everyone in the family is aware that the cat must not be let into the room.
If it’s not possible to hide the furniture away, try to block off the area that your cat likes to scratch. Try placing thick fabric or plastic around chairs or the lounge so that your cat's claws can’t do further damage. We’ve also heard of people placing double-sided tape over these areas (works on curtains too) as cats generally don’t like the sticky feel. It’s also possible to use citrus-based ‘no scratch’ sprays to deter your cat, but honestly, these smell bad and can leave oily stains.
Trim your cat’s nails
Regularly trimming the very end of your cat’s nails is an effective way to blunt the damage scratching can cause but doesn’t get in the way of your cat scratching itself and so on. Ask your vet or groomer to trim your cat’s nails, or if you’re brave, as them to show you how to trim nails properly without hurting your cat.
Be patient and love your cat - claws and all. They shouldn’t be punished for doing what comes naturally. Instead, give them more scratching options that are acceptable. Do you have any tips for deterring a cat from scratching furniture or other items in the house? Leave a comment below to share with other cat lovers