Has your cat started scratching up your couch or other furniture? Our Greensboro vets are here with some tips to help curb this behavior and give your cat a better outlet for their energy.
Why Scratching Is Important For Cats
Claws are a physically, socially, and emotionally vital part of every cat. Scratching, for a cat, is not only a natural act but a necessary one as well.
There are logical reasons why cats dig their claws into your home’s soft surfaces. Once you understand the "why", you can find ways to redirect these classic cat behaviors.
Cats love to mark their territory and every scratch of your cat’s nails leave behind pheromones from the scent glands in their paws that will let any feline visitors know it's their territory. Even if it doesn’t make a lot of sense for indoor cats, this is a natural behavior that keeps them enriched and happy.
Scratching is also good for cats’ physical health. Cat’s claws shed their outer layers as they grow, and scratching helps to pull off the old layers and leave the claws underneath sharp and ready for action. We also all know that cats love a good stretch, and reaching all the way to the top of the scratching post gives them just that.
The point is, scratching is good. The goal isn’t to stop them from scratching entirely. Instead, we’re going to show you how to stop cats from scratching furniture by working with their natural instincts.
How To Keep Cats From Scratching Furniture
There are a number of tricks that can help your kitten learn where they are allowed to scratch and which things should be left alone. Here are the best ways that our Greensboro vets have come across.
Redirect Them to an Approved Scratching Area
While there may not be a fool-proof answer to how to prevent cats from scratching furniture, there are a few ways you can encourage them to scratch locations that are approved by you.
- There are a variety of scratching posts and cat trees both in the pet store and online. Try ones that are upright and flat and made from an assortment of materials such as rope, cardboard, and even wood. We recommend not getting ones that resemble your carpet or furniture to avoid confusion.
- Place scratching posts near (or even on top of) their current preferred scratching spots.
- Place other posts near where they spend a lot of time such as by the litter box, next to your usual spot on the couch, or by their go-to nap spot.
- Make the posts more tempting by rubbing them with catnip and decking them out with your cat’s favorite toys.
Discourage Scratching Bad Spots and Furniture
Once you've established the areas that you'd like your cat to scratch instead, you'll need to start to make the current favorite spots less enticing. For some cats, this transition is easy, others may have some trouble at first. Patients will be your best asset here and we highly discourage yelling, scaring or spraying your cat with water.
- Remove or block their usual scratching surfaces wherever possible. For instance, if they scratch your ottoman, try moving it to an area where your cat does not have access.
- Cover the scratched areas with a material that has an unpleasant texture like double-sided sticky tape or tin foil.
- Use bumpy carpet runners or crinkly tin foil to make the spots they would usually plant their feet to get their scratch on less comfy.
Don’t worry, you won’t have a tin foil-covered couch forever. These ideas are meant to be temporary and once your cat has learned, things can go back to normal.
Take Care of Their Claws
It’s a good idea to reduce scratching damage by keeping your indoor cat’s nails short and smooth. You can use nail clippers made for cats or a nail grinder to keep their nails trimmed.
If trimming their nails proves to be a challenge (some cats may not let you) and you don't want to add too much stress to their day, you can purchase nail caps for cats. These are soft plastic covers that are glued onto each claw and will naturally fall off when your cat sheds the top layer of the nail naturally. Some cats won't accept this, so make sure to test one or two nails first and introduce them to the process slowly.
Why You Shouldn't Declaw Your Cat
Declawing involves surgery where the claw and end bone of each toe are amputated. It is essentially the amputation of 1/3 of the cat’s paws. Declawed cats must be kept indoors since the front claws are a cat’s primary means of self-defense and escape against predators. Declawed cats are often chronically painful, and may develop aggression or litter box problems. We strongly discourage declawing.
Paws and claws are integral tools for cats in no uncertain physical and behavioral terms. We have seen many declawed cats end up in shelters for developing new unwanted behavioral issues. These include urinating outside the litterbox (usually on carpets, bedding, and furniture), or increased aggression and biting
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.