Cats like to scratch! Whilst this seemingly destructive act can be frustrating for cat owners it is normal cat behaviour. The good news is that you can save your furniture from the razor-sharp claws of your cat by first understanding why cats like to scratch and then training your cat to scratch in more appropriate places.
Why cats like to scratch
It is often assumed that cats scratch furniture to sharpen their claws. While scratching does help condition claws by removing frayed outer claws and revealing new claws underneath; scratching is also a form of exercise. Scratching allows your cat to stretch its back, shoulder and leg muscles and is important for any feline health and fitness regime. It is also a form of stress relief – it just feels good.
Just like their wild cat cousins, cats also scratch their surroundings as a means of communicating and marking out their territory. Cats have scent glands on their paws so that when they scratch an object they leave a scent or odour behind that other cats can smell – it’s their way of saying ‘I was here’ or ‘this is mine’.
Scratching is also how cats express their emotions. Every evening when I come home from work, my cat (pictured below as a kitten) runs to the door to say ‘hello’ and then promptly runs to scratch her scratching post to signal her excitement that I’m home and probably, that dinner isn’t far away.
How to stop cats from scratching furniture
Here are a few tips to prevent problem scratching and encourage your cat to scratch where you want them to:
1. Deter scratching with sticky tape and sprays
Make the areas you don’t want your cat to scratch less inviting. One way to stop your cat from continuing to fray your furniture and your nerves is to use ‘Sticky Paws’ – a double-sided tape that you can stick to any scratch prone areas of furniture such as the corners of your sofa and upholstered chairs. Almost invisible to the human eye, your cat will hate these sticky surfaces so they act as a great deterrent. Another alternative is to use non-toxic herbal sprays such as ‘No-Scratch’, or make your own from lemon-juice and water. Cats do not like citrus smells.
2. Invest in a scratching post
If your cat doesn’t have its own scratching post then now is the time to invest in one. The ideal scratching post is the right height for your cat, stable, with the right texture and placed in the right location.
Height – it should be tall enough for your cat to get a good back stretch. Otherwise your cat will seek out a taller option such as the back of your sofa.
Stability – any scratching post needs to have a wide, heavy and stable base so that it doesn’t wobble or topple over when your cat pushes its weight against it.
Carpet versus sisal – cats generally prefer sisal over carpet scratching posts. The rough texture of sisal allows cats to dig their claws in for a good scratch, whereas claws often get caught in the loops of carpet scratching posts. Sisal is also much more durable. Another option is corrugated cardboard scratchers which usually lie flat on the floor; the benefit of these is that they are economical and easy to replace when worn.
Choosing the location – Scratching posts should be located where your cat spends most of its time. The lounge is often an ideal place, in front of the piece of furniture that your cat has previously scratched. Where your cat sleeps is also ideal as cats love to stretch and scratch when they wake up each morning. If you have more than one cat, its best to have more than one scratching post in your home.
Encouraging your cat to use a scratching post
Encouraging your cat to use a scratching post can be a challenge, so the trick is to associate using the scratching post with enjoyable experiences.
- Rub dried catnip onto the surface area of the scratching post, or use a catnip spray.
- Reward your cat with a food treat when they use the scratching post.
- Attach toys to the scratching post or dangle a toy above it. Cats love to play and eventually will dig their claws in where you want them to.
If you cat continues to persist in scratching your family sofa then you can try a gentle squirt with a water spray bottle, or making a loud noise e.g. clapping your hands. Remember, that for these actions to be effective you have to implement them at the moment when your cat is scratching so that they make the connection between the activity and the area that you don’t want them to scratch.
If you have any other tips on how to deal with cats that scratch furniture, or a success story to share, please comment below.