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The problem of inappropriate cat scratching is so frustrating!
Cat parents facing this problem sometimes consider cat declawing, some try cat scratching posts, and others look for cat behavior training advice on how to stop cats scratching furniture.
It is possible to solve cat scratching problems, for good!
Table of Contents:
they are not trying to be naughty! Animals don't have human emotions, such as anger or vindictiveness.
You may sometimes hear cat owners say "Fluffy was mad at me so he did such-and-such." Know that this is rubbish!
Cats scratching furniture is a cat behavior problem stemming from instinct, pure and simple. A little cat behavior training will teach him what is allowed in the house, and what is not.
If he continues to scratch when you are not looking, it means he physically needs to scratch!
For example, we very rarely find our cats on our kitchen counter. They know it's not allowed.
When we have found them up there, we quickly noticed their water dish could use a fresh refill. Every time. They were just thirsty, not naughty!
Cats need to sharpen their claws. Why? In the wild, they need those sharp claws for hunting, as we know.
And although they get all their nutrition from the food dish nowadays, they still have those animal instincts.
Just as we humans have tendencies that go way back to our ancestors and survival, such as the need for socialization and belonging, felines still have this need to sharpen their claws. It's something we have to accept, and work with!
Physical Health Benefits:
There are physical reasons for cats to scratch, too. When you see a cat scratching furniture (or woodwork, or his cat scratching post) his whole body is benefiting.
He is stretching his muscles and body. It's good for his overall health.
That regular stretching keeps him in top condition, which will pay off in his senior years. He may have better joint health as a result.
Mental Health Benefits:
Interestingly, there are scent glands between a cat’s claws, called interdigital glands. When a cat scratches, he releases and leaves behind a pheromone on the object or location called feline interdigital pheromone.
There are a number of reasons cats do this beyond the common explanation of 'marking their territory.'
In multi-cat households, this is part of it. But it's not the same as when we think of a male cat spraying to mark his territory. It can be likened more to a feline leaving their mark with a pheromone message of "I live here too." Or, "this is home."
It brings them comfort, much like when they rub their face on a doorway or person, which is also using scent glands to leave a message of this place is safe, this person is a friend.
Since cats use scratching behavior and pheromones to mark areas as 'safe,' it makes sense that a stressed out kitty may be more prone to engaging in unwanted scratching around the home. He finds these scent markings reassuring.
As you can see, this is a natural behavior!
How to stop cats scratching furniture using cat behavior training:
So how do you honor a cat’s need to scratch while also preserving your home, possessions, windowsills and new sofa? First, decide where you would like your cat to scratch.
It's a good idea to provide him with a well-made cat scratching post or other place to engage in this natural cat behavior. A cat scratcher is a must have for indoor cats!
Remember that cats are individuals, just like people. Keep in mind their preferences when choosing a scratching surface.
One cat may prefer a vertical scratcher while another may gravitate to horizontal surfaces for a good scratch and stretch.
Vertical scratching posts may be a hit with cats who have a habit of reaching up and stretching (and scratching) on doorways, tree trunks or other vertical surfaces.
Luckily, we have many options on the market nowadays! Vertical posts come in a variety of textures such as carpet or sisal rope, which tends to hold up well.
Or perhaps kitty would prefer a horizontal scratcher. There are infinity shaped scratchers (which are great for lounging on as well) and flat scratchers to choose from.
Also, it has been shown that cats show a preference toward cardboard surfaces. It's no wonder these are becoming popular too!
Here are 3 of the most popular scratchers on this site:
SmartCat Ultimate Scratching Post
PetFusion Ultimate Cat Scratcher Lounge
Getting cats to use their new scratching post:
If your cat is cooperative and will let you, you can help him by revealing his claws and gently showing him how to scratch on the new post. He will make the connection.
It may take time, persistence, and as with any type of pet behavior training, consistency is key!
Some cat scratchers come with catnip to help attract them to it. Feliway, long-time maker of pheromone sprays to aid in cat training and stress relief for cats now has a product called Feliscratch - made just to help attract a cat to their new post!
It's a blue liquid that you squeeze in lines mimicking claw marks on the scratcher.
It gets applied according to a schedule and leaves a synthetic copy of the pheromone message that cats naturally leave when scratching a surface, and is effective on vertical or horizontal scratchers.
Make sure it's accessible to him, and in a good location. Put it where he likes to spend time and preferably where you can see it, too.
Whenever you catch your cat scratching furniture or inappropriate objects, make sure to stop whatever you're doing and distract him immediately.
You can surprise him by clapping, or saying "No!" or "Psst!" Then get up and physically take him to the cat post.
Try not to scare him - remember, he was just in the middle of creating a safe space, or looking to self-comfort. Being too aggressive with scolding or yelling could just exacerbate the problem by making him fearful or insecure.
When You Can't Be There to Supervise - Tricks and Products
If your cat has the run of the house when no one is home, consider covering his favorite "cat scratching furniture" with a sheet or blanket. Or try some double-sided adhesive tape on his favorite spot.
Many owners have had success keeping cats off counters using aluminum foil. This may work well as a deterrent in other areas as well.
Also, you could try a cat deterrent spray designed to deter cats from an area.
Natures's Miracle, maker of the popular cleaning spray for pet odors, offers Pet Block Spray. It's safe for use around pets and in home, it has an odor that deters pets from the area.
Using a nail trimmer:
For some people, the cat's claws are seen as the problem. In this case there are things you can do.
When our cats were young and particularly hard on our floors, we trimmed their claws regularly. It's very easy.
Simply hold your cat’s paw, and press the claw out of its "pocket." Then, using guillotine style nail clippers just snip off the sharp top tips.
Cat Claw Covers:
These are basically little rubber sleeves that you glue on to cat’s nails. Most cats don't even notice them, and cat claw covers provide a humane option for their owners. Visit our page on Soft Paws to learn more about them and see our review.
Of course, there are people who opt for cat declawing. Declawing is seen more among pet owners who view cat scratching as a destructive, aim-for-the-couch, inevitable behavior.
The practice of declawing cats has fallen out of favor in recent times. More and more people are aware of what it really entails.
Cat declawing is an extremely painful surgical procedure, wrought with possible complications and many behavioral and health consequences. It is considered mutilation, inhumane, and is now banned in many areas.
How To Stop Cats Scratching Furniture - In Summary:
Cats need to scratch. This normal behavior is the only way they can properly stretch their ligaments and muscles, and it promotes good joint health.
Scratching also relieves stress when a cat uses scent glands to leave pheromones behind that mark the area as home, or safe.
Using techniques and products such as sticky tape, a spray bottle and gentle distractions and redirections, it is possible to train cats to stop destructive scratching.
By using positive reinforcement like cat treats, catnip and even praise, cats can be redirected to their own cat scratching post, tree, or mat.
If all else fails, clipping cat's claws or covering them with nail caps such as Soft Paws is always an option.
If you are dealing with cats scratching furniture, take heart! Consistent cat behavior training, and patience, should see the problem resolved.