You love your cat, but you love your leather sofa as well. Don’t worry, it’s possible to have one without sacrificing the other. Here’s how to stop your cat from scratching up the furniture in your home.
Why do kittens scratch?
Cats and kittens all around the world scratch things, particularly objects with certain textures. That’s because for your cat it’s an instinctual form of exercise. It’s really not about ‘misbehaving’, it’s a way of stretching muscles in the legs and back and sharpening claws. In other words, it’s perfectly natural, just definitely not ideal when your cat decides to take its instincts out on the loveseat.
Scent of a kitty
Scratching is also a scent marking action. Cats have glands in their paws, the scent of which many not be obvious to humans but is distinguishable by other cats, dogs and animals roaming around. When a cat scratches, it’s also marking their territory.
So, from the perspective of a cat, scratching is normal. It’s important to understand that you many not ever be able to train your cat out of scratching. What you can do, however, is teach them to redirect their behaviour to the appropriate place.
Patience is a virtue
Contrary to the stereotype, cats can be trained. They also care about the people they live with, and want to please their companions. Experienced cat owners know there is a bond between them and their cat, even if it’s different that the one a human might share with a dog.
When it comes to training cats, patience and praise are important. Understand that your cat is an instinctual animal, without a clear understanding of right and wrong in human terms. Rather than try to force them to go against their instincts, it’s better to redirect those habits into something more appropriate. This takes time, patience and practice. In the case of scratching, it starts with a scratch post.
Purchase (or build) a scratch post
Scratch posts are exactly as the name suggests, a place for your cat to do his or her scratching exercises. Scratch posts can be purchased on their own or as part of a cat tree. The perfect scratch post is:
- At least as tall as your cat is when standing on their hind legs (preferably slightly taller)
- Well balanced so it won’t toggle over with your cat’s full weight pushing against it
- Not too heavy or tall that it would crush your cat if it fell.
Vertical or horizontal?
Some cats like to scratch vertically on the post, while some prefer a horizontal action. You can orientate the scratch post either way to suit your kitty. There are also scratch boards that lie flat on the ground as a suitable alternative.
How many scratch posts do I need?
Some folks recoil at the thought of turning their home into a cat scratching paradise, but if you care about your furniture (and your cat’s well being) then too many scratch posts is better than not enough. It may take some time to find the best balance. Start with one in the cat’s favourite room, and expand from there.
Discouraging scratching on furniture
You’ve purchased a scratching post and set it up in clear view, but your cat just won’t use it. Fortunately, there are a few ways you can mark certain areas of the house off limits to your cat and encourage use of scratching posts and trees.
Many cats simply don’t like citrus odor. Placing a piece of orange peel near an area you want to protect will tell your cat it is off limits. You can keep it there until your cat learns to use the scratching post.
Purchase a catnip spray or use some dried catnip and rub it on the scratching post. This will attract your cat to the scratching post and encourage them to use it.
Place the scratching post near their bed
Cats like a good scratch after waking up from a nap. By placing the post near their sleeping spot, you’re giving your kitty the perfect spot to sharpen their claws without having to roam around the house.
Declawing is not only considered unnecessary, it is illegal in Australia unless critical to the animal’s well being. Unless your vet thinks it’s absolutely necessary, there’s no reason to declaw your cat, so ‘scratch that’ as an option.
Protecting your furniture
If your cat has been living with you (and scratching) for a while, they might already have a favourite piece of furniture or two to sink their claws into. It might take a bit of patience and effort to curb their enthusiasm for that particular spot. In the meantime, you can protect your furniture by placing a sheet over it. If that doesn’t work, try aluminum foil or double sided tape.
Scenting your furniture
You already know that cats have scent glands in their paws. You can mimic this scent by using a product like Feliway, an artificial pheromone you spray on furniture to make your cat think they have already scratched that area.
Stay the course
Training your cat to use a scratch post might only take a few days. For others, it can take weeks or even months. Every day is different, so stay on the course, even if you don’t see results right away. It’s well worth the effort for peace of mind when it comes to your favourite furniture.