How to Keep Cats from Scratching Furniture (Claws of Concern)
Updated: November 18, 2023
Do you find your furniture bearing the brunt of your cat’s newfound scratching habits? Perhaps you’re considering welcoming a new kitten into your home but wish to avoid the inevitable damage to your furnishings. While cats make wonderful companions, it can be exasperating when their natural urge to scratch takes a toll on your furniture.
Scratching is an essential behavior for cats, serving to keep their claws sharp, strengthen their upper bodies, and mark their territory. While this behavior is inherent, it doesn’t have to result in your furniture becoming a casualty. Fortunately, there are several effective measures you can implement to deter your cat from using your furniture as their scratching post.
Reduce Your Cat’s Stress Level
At times, when a cat experiences stress, it can manifest in various behaviors, such as increased urination outside the litter box or a penchant for scratching the couch. Identifying the sources of stress is crucial, as it could be linked to changes in your routine or the introduction of new elements into your cat’s environment.
Your own stress levels may also influence your cat’s emotional state, altering the dynamics of your interactions. Changes in your cat’s routine, such as the addition of a new pet or a partner moving in, can contribute to heightened stress levels.
To alleviate your cat’s stress, prioritize regular attention and playtime. Spending quality time with your feline friend, especially in the evenings after work, can foster a sense of security and affection.
Consider using stress-reducing aids like sprays or diffusers, such as Feliway, which mimic cat pheromones and promote a calming environment. Applying these in areas where scratching is a concern can be particularly effective.
If your efforts prove insufficient and issues persist, seeking guidance from your veterinarian is advisable. They can provide additional recommendations and, in certain cases, prescribe medications to help mitigate your cat’s stress.
Why do cats scratch?
Cats engage in scratching behaviors for various reasons, and understanding the motivation behind your cat’s scratching is crucial before addressing the behavior. Here are some common reasons why cats scratch:
- Maintaining Claw Health: Cats’ claws are in a constant state of growth and renewal. Scratching serves to shed the outer husks of the claws, revealing newer and sharper claws underneath. You may find these discarded husks in areas your cat frequents.
- Marking Territory: Scratching is a means for cats to leave visual and scent messages, signaling to other cats that a particular space is theirs. If your cat scratches near doors or cat flaps, they may be marking their territory.
- Seeking Attention: Despite their reputation for aloofness, many cats enjoy interacting with their human companions. Scratching can be a way for a cat to attract your attention and engage with you.
- Physical Enjoyment: Scratching is pleasurable for cats and contributes to the exercise of muscles in their back and shoulders. Anyone who spends time with cats can attest to their love for a good scratching session.
The underlying reasons for your cat’s scratching behavior can guide you in addressing the specific needs or concerns that may be prompting the behavior.
Trim Your Cat’s Nails
Regularly trimming your cat’s nails can significantly reduce unwanted scratching. Shorter nails are less tempting for cats to use as scratching tools, making it an effective preventive measure. Aim to trim your cat’s nails approximately every two to three weeks for optimal maintenance.
While nail trimming may present a challenge, introducing the practice early, especially when your cat is a kitten, helps acclimate them to the process and reduces resistance.
Exercise caution and patience when trimming your cat’s nails, as their paws are sensitive. Avoid cutting too close to the quick, the pink part below the tip, to prevent bleeding. Focus on trimming the clear tip of the nail.
Selecting the right pair of nail clippers is crucial. Opt for sharp clippers to ensure a clean cut without bending the nail. Additionally, consider using clippers designed for safety to prevent over-trimming and ensure a comfortable experience for your cat.
Purchase Scratching Posts
As mentioned earlier, scratching is a natural behavior for cats. To deter them from scratching your furniture, it’s essential to provide alternative locations where they are encouraged to scratch. Investing in multiple scratching posts or cat trees and placing them strategically in various rooms of your house is key.
Having more than one scratching post is crucial to breaking the habit effectively. Placing a single post in the bedroom, for instance, may redirect your cat from scratching the bed but could lead them to discover a new target, such as the leg of your dining room table.
Strategically position scratching posts near your cat’s preferred scratching spots. If they favor the edge of the couch, for example, place a scratching post near encourage the desired behavior.
When selecting scratching posts, consider the material. While many are made from cardboard, be aware that these may result in a mess and require frequent replacement. For a slightly higher investment, opt for scratching posts and cat trees that mimic materials found in your home, such as carpeting and sisal. Your cat will find these materials enjoyable to scratch, and they tend to be more durable in the long run.
Take time to play with and exercise your cat
Many cats crave attention from their human companions but may not always be certain about the most effective way to garner it. Your cat might have realized that while you may overlook them when they use the scratching post, you’re sure to give them attention if they take a few swipes at the new leather sofa.
Increasing the time you spend playing with your cat and providing them with engaging toys can be effective in minimizing their scratching tendencies. Moreover, offering your cat positive praise and attention when they use the designated scratching post can contribute to moderating their behavior.
It’s crucial to recognize that scratching is a natural behavior for cats and should not be completely discouraged. Instead, through gentle persuasion and encouragement, your cat can learn to express this natural behavior on their assigned scratching post, providing a more acceptable outlet for their instincts.
Reward Your Cat
This step is straightforward: positively reinforce your cat when you observe them scratching on their new post or another designated area. There are various methods to reward your feline companion.
Offer verbal praise as a form of reward. Use your cat’s name and speak to them in an encouraging tone, letting them know they’re doing a commendable job by using their scratching post.
Provide physical attention as a reward. Immediately after witnessing your cat scratch on the cat tree or designated area, approach and pet them, focusing on their favorite spots for maximum enjoyment.
Treats can also serve as effective rewards. Keep a treat container nearby, allowing you to promptly offer a treat as a reward right after your cat has scratched in the desired location. This positive reinforcement helps reinforce the behavior you want to encourage.
Make Your Furniture ‘Unattractive’ for Scratching
If you’ve invested in scratching posts but find that your cat persists in scratching your furniture, you can take steps to make the furniture less appealing for this behavior. There are various methods you can employ for this purpose.
One approach is to cover the scratched area with tape covers. Cats typically dislike the sticky sensation of tape on their nails, deterring them from scratching. Alternatively, you can try using foil to cover the area, as cats often find the texture unappealing.
In cases where your cat scratches the underside of furniture, consider blocking their access to that space. Use a box to prevent them from getting under a table, or tightly tuck a sheet to hinder their access beneath a couch or bed. By implementing these measures, you create an environment that discourages scratching on the furniture while encouraging the use of designated scratching posts.
If your cat seems uninterested in the new scratching posts you’ve bought, another effective strategy is to use catnip. Cats are naturally drawn to the scent of catnip, and applying it strategically can pique their interest in the designated scratching area. By rubbing some catnip near the scratching post, you’re likely to capture your cat’s curiosity, prompting them to investigate and, hopefully, engage with the scratching post. This approach leverages the allure of catnip to redirect your cat’s attention and encourage the desired scratching behavior.
Deter the Cat from Scratching in an Undesirable Location
If you catch your cat scratching your furniture, take steps to discourage this behavior and make them view it as undesirable due to the consequences that follow.
One effective method is to use a quick spray of water. Cats generally dislike water, so if they associate scratching the couch with getting wet, they are more likely to cease the behavior and seek an alternative scratching spot.
Alternatively, employ a sound-based deterrent when you observe your cat scratching. Avoid using the cat’s name for reprimand; instead, make a quick hissing sound or say something like “ah.” Reserve using the cat’s name for moments of praise when they exhibit desirable actions. This helps create a clear association between the unwanted behavior and the deterrent, reinforcing more positive scratching habits.
Try a Deterrent Spray
There are commercially available sprays specifically designed to deter your cat from scratching. Herbal sprays, in particular, emit scents that make certain areas unappealing to your cat. Before purchasing any product, carefully inspect the ingredients to ensure there is nothing harmful to your feline companion. Opt for products that are safe and specifically formulated to discourage scratching without posing any risks to your cat’s well-being.
Consider Using a Nail Cover
If you’ve exhausted the aforementioned suggestions and your cat persists in scratching your furniture, consider using nail covers as an additional measure. These plastic caps are designed to cover your cat’s claws, rendering them unable to use them for scratching. Applying these nail covers requires some patience from your cat, as either you or your veterinarian will need to put them on. While it may take a bit of time for your cat to adjust, nail covers can be an effective and humane solution to protect your furniture from scratching.
Try socks, boots, or nail caps
Cat socks or boots, also known as mittens, can serve as an alternative to declawing to prevent scratching. While these boots can be effective for some cats, it’s important to note that not all cats tolerate them well. If your cat becomes frustrated and consistently attempts to remove the boots, you might want to consider soft nail caps as an alternative solution.
Soft nail caps can be glued onto your cat’s claws, offering a way to limit potential damage if your cat decides to scratch in undesirable locations. This provides a humane and effective means of managing scratching behavior without resorting to more invasive measures like declawing.
Don’t Declaw Your Cat
Despite the issue of scratching, it’s essential to avoid declawing a cat. Declawing involves the amputation of one-third of a cat’s paw, causing significant pain and potentially contributing to problems with aggression.
Cats rely on their claws for self-defense and climbing. Declawing can compromise a cat’s ability to survive, especially if they go outside, either as an outdoor cat or in the event of an escape. Therefore, refraining from declawing is crucial for your cat’s overall well-being and natural behaviors.
Is Declawing an Ethical Solution?
Declawing is a controversial practice and is considered inhumane by many. Explore alternative solutions to protect furniture without resorting to declawing.
What Are Cat Scratching Posts and Pads?
Provide an appropriate outlet for scratching with designated posts or pads. Learn about materials and styles that appeal to cats, encouraging them to redirect their scratching behavior.
How Can Catnip Help?
Catnip can be a useful tool to attract cats to designated scratching areas. Learn how to use catnip effectively to entice your feline friend away from furniture.
Are There Commercial Sprays to Deter Scratching?
Explore pet-friendly deterrent sprays that discourage cats from scratching furniture. Understand how these products work and their safe application.
Can Soft Nail Caps Be a Solution?
Soft nail caps, such as Soft Paws, provide a temporary covering for claws. Discover how these caps work and whether they are a suitable option for your cat.
What Role Does Positive Reinforcement Play?
Rewarding your cat for using designated scratching areas reinforces positive behavior. Learn effective techniques for positive reinforcement and how it can strengthen the bond between you and your cat.
How to Protect Leather Furniture?
Leather furniture requires special attention. Explore specific strategies and products to safeguard leather surfaces from your cat’s claws while maintaining the integrity of your furniture.
Cat’s scratching behavior is crucial for maintaining harmony between your feline friend and your furniture. Recognizing the natural instincts behind scratching allows you to implement effective strategies without resorting to ethically questionable practices like declawing.
From providing designated scratching posts and pads to using catnip and deterrent sprays, a variety of solutions can redirect your cat’s scratching tendencies. Soft nail caps and positive reinforcement techniques offer additional options, promoting a positive environment for both you and your furry companion.