You just got a new sofa, and your cat has decided that it makes a wonderful scratching post.  The new carpet in your family room is already showing claw marks.   You’re frustrated, you’ve shooed your cat away, you’ve yelled at her, and she just looks at you as if you’ve gone crazy.  “What’s your problem, human?  I’m just doing what nature intended for me to do!”

Cats scratch for a variety of reasons, and none of them have anything to do with intentionally ruining your furniture and carpeting. Scratching is natural behavior.  Cats scratch to groom their claws, the scratching motion helps remove dead sheaths from their front claws (they usually chew them off their back claws).    They scratch to mark their territory.  Their front paws contain scent glands, and scratching leaves behind their unique signature on the object being scratched.  They scratch for exercise; scratching stretches the muscles in the front legs and all along the back.  And they scratch simply because it feels good.

So what can you do to let your cat be a cat, and still protect your furniture?

Provide your cat with appropriate scratching posts.   Both the type of material the scratching surface is made out of as well as the horizontal or vertical orientation of it matter.  Some cats prefer corrugated cardboard, others prefer carpeted surfaces or sisal.   Generally, sisal seems to be the most popular with cats, and it allows them to really go to town on shredding the material to pieces.  Don’t throw out a scratching post when it’s all tattered and shredded, because to your cat, that probably means it’s finally perfectly broken in.  Until you know your cat’s preference, it’s best to have a mixture of horizontal and vertical scratchers with different surfaces.    Most cats seem to prefer vertical scratchers, and they should be tall enough to allow the cat to fully stretch her body.   Regardless of your cat’s preference, you should have multiple scratchers throughout the house.

Make the scratching post appealing to your cat.  Place it in an area where your cat likes to spend time.  Sprinkle some catnip on it to attract the cat to it.  Place treats on or near the post.  Praise your cat when she uses the post (and use treats to reinforce the praise).

Discourage your cat from scratching furniture.  Never punish your cat – punishment simply leads to increased anxiety and more unwanted behavior.  Apply tape to the parts of furniture that are attractive to your cat.  Double-sided Sticky Paws® tape works well (and it’s clear, so it won’t ruin your decor), as does tinfoil.  Apply Feliway® spray to the areas you don’t want your cat to scratch – studies have shown that it can reduce scratching behavior.  Gently, without yelling at your cat, redirect her to a nearby scratching post.

Keep your cat’s nails trimmed.  While this won’t eliminate scratching, trimmed nails can’t do as much damage.  For more on how to trim your cat’s nails, click here.

Soft Paws© Nail Caps.  These soft vinyl tips are glued onto the cat’s claws so they can’t do any damage when the cat scratches.  You can do this yourself, or have it done at your veterinary clinic.  However, I’m not a fan of these nail caps.  The cat’s paws will still have to be handled to apply the caps, and nails have to be trimmed prior to application, so if you’re able to do that, then why not just trim the cat’s nails, period.  Additionally, once the caps are on, cats won’t be able to retract their claws, and I can’t imagine that feels very good to them.

Declawing should never be an option.  When a cat is declawed, it is essentially maimed.  Declawing is a surgical procedure that involves amputating the top join of the cat’s toes.  The Paw Project provides extensive information on this topic.

*** This giveaway is closed ***

Thanks to the folks at StickyPaws, I’m able to offer you a fantastic giveway to help with your cat scratching challenges!  Win a BusyPaws™ Scratch-n-Relax Pad, StickyPaws® Furniture and Carpet Strips, and a Scratch This™ corrugated coardboard scratcher.  To enter, leave a comment sharing either a scratching challenge or a solution that has worked for you.  Share this post and giveaway on Facebook and Twitter and post the link in a separate comment for an additional chance to win.  This giveaway will end on January 21.

 You may also enjoy reading

The Best Cat Tree for Your Cat

New from Moderncat Studio:   The Scratch Tower

If you don’t talk to your cat about catnip, who will



48 Comments on Cat scratching solutions, and a giveaway to help

  1. So, i have a 2yr old spayed female with whom I have spent hundreds on scratching posts on. I have tried everything under the sun- sisal, carpet, cardboard, rugs- posts, mats, door hangers… All placed near her favorite, the couch. Ive tried deterrents such as anti scratching sprays, double sided tape, waterbottles, noise makers… To which i get ” i dont think so, im still scratching here on my couch” look. Im close to softpaws, but i have a feeling she willbe one that will sit there for hours and pull them off as soon as they are applied… She likes to think she is a diva.
    The strange thing is when I catch her, i can literally say no, snap my fingers, and she stops. And its not so much as a scratching rather than stretching. But its taking its toll on the furniture, and i still cant get her to stop, or go anywhere else. Catnip and toys and laser doesnt workin attaining interest in any of the new suggestions for areas to scratch.

    Any ideas? Plz help!

    • Wow! Your little girl sure sounds like she’s determined that that couch is all hers! The only thing I can think of, based on your description, that all of this is a ploy to get your attention, even if it’s negative attention as in “stop!”. Have you tried structured play times with her? 10-15 minutes, twice a day, really tire her out. By making it stuctured like that, she’ll know that she has your undivided attention during those times.

      • she is an attention queen… She doesnt leave me alone when i get home… I sit down, shes on me. Im in the bathroom, shes on the counter, or on my shoulders. I get NO PEACE from her haha…. We call her needy. Very needy. And yes, she gets several playtimes a day.. With shoe laces, throwing her mice, bouncing ping pong balls off the walls, laser pointer… Im a student, and not currently working… All the time in the world! Oh and we go on harness outside occasionally 🙂 loves that… Very social girl, not afraid of much! Plus she has a roomie… I have a neutered male with whom she wrestles with and chases… And sleeps with 🙂

  2. It was interesting reading the other comments and suggestions. I raise foster kittens for the local humane society, so I’m frequently “training a bunch of new recruits” – it’s an ongoing challenge.

  3. Is the ModernCat Scratching Tower still available to purchase? My cats seem to love cardboard best. I save shipping boxes and currently have 3 boxes in different rooms. They go inside the box and scratch the daylights out of it. I also bought a wave shaped board made of pressed cardboard. They are LOVING it. When one side is totally ruined, I can just flip it over to side 2. It was inexpensive. I started them with a cat condo with sisal wrapped verticals. They used it alot until I made cardboard available to them. But they still pick on the good chairs when they want my attention quickly! That’s when I pick them up and carry them to a proper scratching surface.

  4. Ingrid,
    I have been keeping this in my archives to respond to and am finally getting to it…I have a new kitty and in the past, shame on me, we’ve always de-clawed our ktties but am avoiding that this time becuase I’m older and wiser?
    Anyway, we keep her nails trimmed and hope that that works but I hope to try some of the scratchers you have mentioned. Angel-Kitty likes the carpet in an upstairs room and she does use her scratching post but it’s a worry for sure becuase what does she do while we are gone?
    thanks for the suggestions…

    • If you have a webcam, you can use that to spy on your kitty while you’re away to see what she’s doing in that area. If the software for your webcam doesn’t have an option for motion-sensitive activation, download a freeware program like Dorgem which does, and just leave it running for a few days. You can easily review the files which will have mostly only your kitty (large lighting changes can activate it to take the pictures as well) and see what she’s been up to.

      I use cheap webcams in a couple of places to spy on my kitties, and it has been quite enlightening LOL

  5. One of my cats has a certain piece of furniture he likes to scratch. I’ve tried tape, and that helps, but he eventually scratches it off.
    The idea above (Jenny) about the small rag rugs is a good one. Will try that by the piece of furniture!

  6. My new kitty puts up with me clipping the sharp tips from her nails. I also learned by accident that she will scratch on inexpensive rag rugs. I put out a couple of these small rugs, which cost about $1 each. She scratches on them, along with her cat tree and cardboard scratch board. I have not seen her get caught on the rugs and they seem to be safe for her.

  7. Hmm…definitely a scratching challenge! Mine is very good about furniture, but adores ripping the carpet up where it meets the wall. She has plenty of scratching posts and is otherwise a well-behaved kitty, but this is turning out to be kind of an expensive habbit of hers.

  8. One of my cats used to chew on and eat shoelaces. We solved the problem by dipping our shoelaces in Tabasco sauce. Worked like a charm! He doesn’t touch them anymore. As for our newer cat, we have a problem with her scratching at the carpet under the door to our room when we’re asleep at night. If we keep the door open, both cats keep us up at night. But she’s ruining the carpet!

  9. We have a small nonprofit cat rescue that we run from our home, so we’ve got 25 cats and furniture all trying to live in harmony! Sisal is the most popular scratching medium around here (followed by cardboard), and by providing lots of scratching options we keep both the cats and humans happy. At the moment we’ve got 9 “trees” of carpet and sisal, plus innumerable cardboard ramps and a few sisal mats, and the furniture is a-ok (no, seriously).

    We foster lots of orphaned kittens and they’re ready to start scratching by the time they’re 4 or 5 weeks old (they tend to start on flat sisal mats). All our adoptable kittens leave here scratching appropriately, and I try to send them home with a scratchable object that they’re familiar with so they continue with their good habits. When we take in adult cats they usually start to scratch the proper surfaces around here almost immediately because they see the other cats doing it and imitate the behaviour.

    As others have said, it’s possible to teach any cat to scratch appropriately but you’ve got to provide variety and choice. That might mean a sisal-wrapped post and a couple of cardboard ramps and a carpeted tree, but isn’t a touch of clutter better than replacing an expensive sofa?

    • Great work, Leigh-Ann!

      Clutter is definitely better than having furniture, carpet, and/or the humans get torn up 😉

  10. My cat LOVES the carpet. So much so that she was scratching it right next the small cardboard scratcher that I bought for her! I did notice that she seems to like scratching in areas just under things, like the sofa or chair, she was even walking around to the backside of the cat tree and using that (yay!) so by paying more attention to her habits, I can work to provide her better (and more appropriate) places to flex those claws!

  11. My cats are pretty good about using scratching posts, but sprinkling catnip on new ones always encreases the interest of my fine felines.

  12. My mom said I’m so cheap !
    When I first live with my mom, I scratches the tree in our garden so she didn’t buy me one.
    And then season changed. Rain, Rain, Rain… I just don’t like to scratch with wet tree so I got the great idea, I used my mom’s leg for scratching : )
    And then she bought me a cheap rug ( to safe her leg ) , I do love it till now.

    Last Christmas, My mom bought big cat tree for me to do scratches but in some reason, I won’t use that tree much ! I still love my cheap rug one : )

    If you want me to try those StickyPaw Strips, That will be great because my mom can stop calling me ” Cheap ” : )

    Mr Puddy

    • Sorry , I wrote it wrong. I would love to enter for ” Scratch This ” Not the strips one because I’m a big cat and I have a really strong, sharp claws ( never clip ). I’m not sure ” Strips one ” can handle me !

    • Awwww, Mr Puddy, “cheap” was surely meant as a compliment in this case! Different rugs have different textures, maybe your mommy needs to get you something with a similar texture to the cheap rug you loved so much! She might need to clip your claws more often, too, some kitties seem to grow their claws pretty quickly, and keeping them trimmed will help save her legs.

      Maybe she will get you a wand toy, too…I have a kitty who softly scratches my legs when he wants to play. Maybe your mommy just doesn’t realize you are trying to tell her you want to play? Once I learned that with my kitty, it made life much easier for both of us, and my legs are much safer 😉

  13. Oh goody, I definitely need one of those StickyPaw strips.

    We have only had our kittens for a bit over a month (though it seems much longer!) but I’ve noticed they didn’t scratch at all when their nails were trimmed. Now they’re back it it and completely ignore the sisal and cardboard scratchers, favoring the couch and the carpet. I think this means it’s pedicure time!

  14. Great article! I have scratching boards and hanging scratch boards around the house, but some of the cats love to scratch the woodwork. You’ve given me several ideas and I’d love to win this contest. By the way, I have 20 kitties. I like Trudy’s suggestion about using lemon juice–cats do not like citrus smells.

  15. I use softpaws on one of my female cats because she is extremely skittish and fearful. This allows me to trim her nails only once every 8 weeks instead of once every 2 – 5 weeks, so it does help. She’s good about letting me trim them once I get her, but she’s hard to get.

    Having experience with the softpaws, I can say that one thing in the article is incorrect. They do NOT prevent the cat from being able to retract their claws. If you get the correct size, your cat will be able to extend and retract their claws normally! The whole key is to get the correct size – when in doubt about choosing between one size and another, choose the smaller size.

    I have 7 cats, all indoors-only, and they are all very good about using the various scratchers and posts I have…Once in awhile, they do scratch on the couch or a chair, but haven’t caused any damage because I do keep their claws trimmed. I’m more concerned about them damaging each other, though, when they play 😉

    If you have a couch corner or something that your cats won’t NOT scratch despite tape, etc., what I’ve found that works is using safety pins to pin one of those sisal mats on the corner of the couch where they’ve been scratching. That way, instead of scratching the couch directly, they’re scratching the sisal mat. So, they get to scratch, and the couch gets to be undamaged – win-win!

    Also, you can never have too many scratchers!

  16. Cats love scratching up a good sized sisal rug–placed strategically where they like to go after furniture. I use regular clear packing tape on furniture spots they like to scratch (double sided collects too much hair) and nice furniture covers from JCPenney. Tried Feliway in several forms and it did nothing for me.

    What is wierd is i sprayed lemon juice where they might be tempted to have accident or spray and they quit.

    • I still feel horrible that I had my first cat, Feebee, declawed. I was ignorant back then, and twenty-five years ago, that’s just what you did with an indoor cat. Thankfully, he never showed any ill effects after the surgery, but just knowing what I allowed to be done because I didn’t know any better still makes me feel bad to this day.

  17. We have 8 cats, 1 elderly pug and a 6mo old chihuahua. All of the Kittys, all rescues, were accustomed to the pug, now with the chihuahua their world is all mixed up and the scratching has begun. Despite the purchase of several scratching pads and such, there is a Scratch-a-thon going on. The newly installed carpet looks worse than my old carpet. I’ve tried sprays, new litter, old litter again, pads, posts& kitty psychiatry….don’t know what else I can try so any suggestions I will take with gratitude.

    • Maybe some Feliway or Bach’s Pet Rescue Remedy to help calm them down?

      They are probably in a tizzy about the barking of the young doggie, his energy levels, or both.

      If you can, I would also try isolating the young chihuahua in a room either by himself or with the pug (so he has company) when you’re not at home, and when you are at home, have a few sessions a day of slowly re-introducing the chihuahua to the kitties. Do it when he’s calm so he won’t be as likely to stir up the kitties with his barking and/or energy. Also, try to make it a positive association by giving them treats when they’re calm around the chihuahua, and see if that helps.

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  19. I have kittens and am constantly trying to find new ways to get them to scratch. My problem is that they are leaving small tears and pulled strings on the tops of chairs and couches, from where they climb up or jump up onto them.

    • Sounds like they might need their claws trimmed a bit more often.

      You can also get the cheap “throw” blankets and put them on the couch and/or chairs to help protect them…A bonus is that it makes getting cat hair off the couch easier since you can just take the throw and put it in the washer. And, you can change the color of your couch at will LOL

  20. I have one cat who refuses to use the MANY scratching posts we have throughout the house and scratches our couch instead. I tried regular double-sided tape and she carefully removed it with her teeth. Maybe the StickyPaws would work better.

    • Amy, unfortunately, some cats don’t seem to be phased at all by the StickyPaws tape. Allegra, too, pulled off the double-sided tape and simply spit it out and continued to chew on the area I was trying to keep her away from!

      Have you tried using Bitter Yuk or lemon juice on the couch you don’t want her to scratch? Sometimes, that can help keep them away.

      • Plus, don’t forget to sprinkle catnip on the scratching posts to help make them more attractive, as stated in the article. It really does work!

        If your cat is one of the few who does not respond to catnip, try Valerian Root (available at health food stores). It has a similar action. Some cats respond to both, some to one or the other, and a very few don’t respond to either although I’ve yet to run into a cat that doesn’t respond to one or the other, if not both.

  21. When I got my cats, I decided not to declaw them because scratching was such a part of their lives! They love the scratching post I have for them, a tall one that is in our bedroom with a bed on the top that they sleep in, and I love that they can still be “cats” without being declawed. They do scratch our furniture, but we weren’t too worried about it because it’s old and we are in the process of getting new furniture. We would love help in teaching them not to scratch the new furniture when we get it. This article has so much helpful information! Thank you so much!

  22. One of the most frustrating things with cats scratching is not the cats but often their owners. I don’t know how many times I’ve advised people on “how to give your cat a scratching post” but they get one that suits their own needs and is either too small or unstable and it’s placed where they would like it but the cat has no interest, and they give up. The consequence is usually declawing or dismissal.

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