When your cat starts scratching your furniture, kitty is not being bad. Your feline is not doing it for the fun of seeing you go nuts either…well, maybe sometimes…but mostly, cats are just following their instinct. In the wild outdoors, cats use the bark of trees for scratching. Indoors, you must provide them with appropriate things to scratch so that they will leave your sofa alone.
Why Do Cats Scratch Furniture and Other Things?
Scratching is a natural activity for cats. They use it as exercise for stretching and toning their muscles. It also relaxes them. Just watching cats extending their body and limbs with claws unsheathed can feel so satisfying and tension-relieving.
Cats scratch on objects to mark their territory through the scent glands on their paw pads. It’s like a form of feline graffiti, an individual cat’s way of announcing “I was here.” and “This is mine.”
Cats also scratch to sharpen their claws. Cat’s claws are like an onion made up of layers. When they scratch, the outermost dead layer is removed revealing a sharp claw underneath.
Trying to discourage your cat from scratching furniture by punishment does not work. It may only breed resentment towards you. Declawing is inhumane, please do not have this procedure done to your cat. You can encourage, instead, this innate feline scratching behavior by giving your cat appropriate things to scratch like a scratching post.
What Makes A Good Scratching Post?
The scratching post should be tall enough to accommodate your cat’s entire body length when stretching. This will give your feline friend great satisfaction, thus giving motivation to use the post more often. Since kittens will grow longer as they become adults, it is best to get a scratching post that can accommodate your kitten’s projected adult length.
The material making up a scratching post may vary. The base is usually made of wood, ideally natural with no chemicals. Some posts are made of sisal rope while others are made of carpet. Sisal is more heavy-duty. Carpet tends to fray easily and your cat’s claws may get entangled creating a bad experience with the post. On the other hand, if your cat happens to develop the love for shredding the carpet on the scratching post, this may lead to shredding of your floor carpet!
Scratching posts also come in different sizes, designs and complexity. It may be a simple basic post or it can be a post with a perch or a hammock on top. Some come with dangling toys to attract cat’s attention. Others may be as complicated as a cat condominium. Whichever design you choose for your furbaby, make sure it has a strong and stable base. The last thing you want is a post that will topple over on your cat! Aside from risking serious physical injuries, it may cause your cat to develop a fear for any form of scratching post.
How to Encourage Your Cat to Use the Scratching Post Instead of the Furniture
While cats of any age can be taught to use the scratching post, the best time to teach them is when they are still kittens. Apply positive reinforcement every time your cat uses the post for scratching instead of the furniture. Reward this acceptable behavior by stroking or petting, or maybe even with a treat or two.
Make the scratching post easily accessible to your kitten or cat. Ideally you will have multiple posts throughout the house. One of the best places to place the post is beside your pet’s sleeping area because a cat will very likely have the urge to stretch and scratch right after waking up.
Place “lures” on the scratching post to encourage your cat to inspect the post and use it. These may be in the form of catnip or dangling toys.
If your cat insists on clawing on the furniture even with a scratching post available, call your furbaby out with a firm “NO!” then redirect kitty’s attention towards the post.
For a chronic furniture scratcher, try placing things that cats generally find unappealing like citrus scent or double-sided sticky tape on the furniture. How effective these are as deterrents vary between individual cats.