Cats scratch furniture, and unfortunately most humans hate this particular trait. Many cats lose their claws as a result of this very natural behavior, when retraining and rearranging the household could prevent almost all furniture destruction.
As with many other behavior issues, getting ahead of the problem is key to solving it. A cat that’s been allowed to scratch the couch for years (because it’s old) will have trouble learning not to scratch the new couch. But cats learn quickly what they may and may not scratch, and the solution to scratching is easy.
Why does my cat scratch?
Cat scratching is used as a sign of possession or ownership. They have scent glands in their feet, and use them to mark territory. In the wild, they scratch trees and logs throughout their territory to mark their location, and use the marks of other cats to avoid fights.
Because in the wild they scratch trees, they look for things that take strength to scratch, but not so much that they can’t get their claws in. Furniture provides just the right balance of strength and give, so most cats try out furniture.
Cats, all cats, need something safe to scratch. Cat trees, like this one, provide the cat with a safe place to scratch. Cats need scratching objects that let them stretch from the tips of their toes, so any scratching pole provided needs to be at least three feet tall. Most cats choose the couch over the small cat scratcher because they can’t get comfortable with a shorter scratcher.
Smaller cardboard scratch pads provide space to scratch in areas of the house that large furniture just doesn’t work. Placing a large cat tree, and then several smaller cardboard scratch pads, helps teach the cat to focus on their toys rather than the couch or carpet.
Remember to praise your cat for scratching on the right items. Catnip will attract your cat to the right toys and away from your furniture.
I noticed that my cats always scratched the furniture more when their claws got longer. They wear down their nails by scratching. Use cat nail clippers once a week to take off the sharp points. Training cats to tolerate nail clipping doesn’t take much. Lock up the other pets, since cats hate rubbernecking. Get out the treats, clip a foot, and hand over a treat. They learn quickly, as long as you don’t accidentally nick the quick of the nail. Just cut the sharp part back. Don’t forget any dewclaws, since they can grow back to the skin. I created a routine that when my favorite Sunday night show (AFV) was on, I did nails on everyone during the commercials.
Furniture guards cover the couch and provide a nasty feeling to the cat when they scratch. When you start a new training routine, place these for at least the first three months. You can remove them once you see your cat has completely adjusted to using the cat tree and cardboard scratch pads.
If proper furniture guards are outside your budget, cats hate aluminum foil. Some cats learn to remove it to get to the upholstery underneath. Double-stick tape also deters some cats, though if the cat has been scratching that same spot for years, don’t expect it to work.
Even if you provide the perfect environment, a tired cat is a happy cat. Younger cats will claw from boredom, not absolute need. Provide lots of mousies, feather toys, and playtime to keep your cat mentally challenged. If your cat becomes bored, it will learn to do things obsessively and become much more difficult to train.
Do you have other tips?
My cats were never bad about scratching anything, unless their nails were long. I provided a cat tree and a cardboard scratch pad. They loved the scratch pad, but just slept on the tree. I think perhaps it didn’t have a tall enough spot for them to scratch properly.
Do you have any tips or tricks that have worked for your family?