Your cat’s obsession with scratching is perfectly natural and necessary. The activity helps him keep his nails clean, healthy, and sharp; stretches his shoulder and neck muscles; and de-stresses him.
Scratching also enables your cat to mark its territory. A cat’s paws contain scent glands, and scratching allows them to release their unique smell in your home.
When your furry friend digs his claws into your favorite recliner or sofa, though, it’s time to seriously consider ways to keep your cat from ruining your furniture. There are tools and strategies you can try to steer your kitty away from your prized possessions and maintain mutual respect.
One of those strategies, however, is not declawing your cat! Declawing is an amputation of the cat’s digits up to the first joint. The painful procedure can create complications, risking your cat's health. Once acceptable, declawing is now banned in many countries and U.S. cities because it has been deemed inhumane.
Better alternatives include using positive reinforcement, herbal or citrus sprays, scratching posts, and other scratching deterrents.
Try these seven tips for keeping your cat from scratching your furniture, courtesy of petmd.com, the Humane Society, and Jackson Galaxy, a cat behaviorist and host of the TV show “My Cat from Hell”:
Trim your cat’s claws every two to three weeks. It’s best to start this activity when your furry friend is a kitten. But if you’re a parent to an older cat, you can help him accept nail trimming. You’ll just need to go slow and use treats to reinforce positive behavior. Try catching him when he’s napping, and be sure to only cut the tip using sharp trimmers.
Provide scratching posts. You can find vertical and horizontal scratching tools made of various materials such as sisal, rope, cardboard, and carpet. Observe your cat to see what she gravitates toward, which can help you determine the style she might prefer. It’s wise to invest in a couple of different styles and strategically place them in areas where your kitty tends to scratch.
Use cat toys or catnip to redirect your kitty to her scratching post. Cat treats can also be used to reinforce positive behavior. Dangle the toys over the scratching post to encourage your cat to investigate the post or rub the catnip directly onto the post to lure her.
Cover your cat’s favorite places to scratch with double-sided sticky tape. Cats find sticky surfaces annoying and will avoid those areas. One such product is called Sticky Paws, and it works effectively to deflect your cat’s sofa obsession.
Create a spray that turns off your cat. Mix equal parts of water and apple cider vinegar in a spray bottle and apply it to the spots your cat is damaging. Cats also abhor citrus-based scents. Mix lemon juice in a liter of water, add orange essential oil and eucalyptus oil, and pour it in a spray bottle. Before any application, be sure to test a small area first to ensure the fabric isn’t harmed. Keep all essential oils firmly closed and locked away from curious kitty paws.
Remove the pleasurable aspect in those areas your cat frequents. Use foil to cover the spot or non-sticky, clear plastic protectors, or you could place a vinyl carpet runner with the spike side up in front of the spot, all of which work to create surfaces that your cat despises. These temporary fixes will condition your kitty to avoid those areas.
Admonish gently, and praise positive behavior. When your cat scratches in spots that are deemed off-limits, refrain from shouting at or admonishing using your kitty’s name. Instead, correct the cat with a sound like “ah” or with hissing. Then, carry the cat to the scratching post and affirm the desired behavior with praise and a treat. You may have to perform this ritual for a few weeks on a daily basis in order for it to stick with your cat.
Don’t let your cat’s natural instincts compromise your relationship. Understand why your cat scratches and investigate how to keep him from damaging your furniture. Whatever strategies you employ will be worth the time and effort to keep you and your kitty content and your belongings intact!