Last Updated on: May 30, 2014 by Ingrid King
Scratching is a natural behavior for cats. 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.
The problem comes in when this natural behavior collides with our living space. While some cat guardians have resigned themselves to living with scratched furniture, sometimes “sacrficing” one piece to the cats, there are simple ways to protect your furniture, and still let your cat be a cat.
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. If you’re trying to discourage your cat from scratching a particular piece of furniture, place a scratching post right next to it. Once your cat starts using it, you can gradually move it further away. 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 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 safely 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. I’m not a big 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.
When a cat is declawed, it is essentially maimed. Declawing is an inhumane and unnecessary surgical procedure that involves amputating the top join of the cat’s toes. The Paw Project provides extensive information on this topic.
Do you have problems with your cats scratching where they shouldn’t? Do you have a solution? Share it in a comment.
Ingrid King is an award-winning author, former veterinary hospital manager, and veterinary journalist who is passionate about cats.