Cat Scratching Problems
How to keep your cat from scratching your furniture
(and save some money while you do it)!
Cats scratch objects for a number of reasons!
No matter what those reasons are, it may not be a behavior you will readily accept. Excessive scratching on furniture is one of the main reasons people surrender their cats to shelters. Cats are going to scratch; it’s just a matter of what they will scratch. Just like with any animal, modifying the behavior starts with understanding the behavior.
It’s not you, it’s me!
An important thing to remember is this: cats are not scratching the window sill or leg of the table to spite you. Another idea is that the cat is simply marking the area to say “I am here, I have been here, and I am alive and well.” Cats will even scratch to stretch and relieve tension. They'll also scratch for exercise!
Declawing is not the answer & may cause more problems!
The idea isn't to remove this behavior. Declawing a cat does not remove this behavior; it just makes it more painful for the cat to perform this instinctive and necessary behavior. Declawing often leads to changes in personality and can create other concerning behaviors such as not using the litter box, often related to pain. Declawed cats can sometimes start to use their mouths more, since they cannot communicate by scratching. Plus, declawing is pricey!
Instead, offer alternatives and/or to make the area less desirable to scratch and try some cheap and free alternatives:
Trim those nails! Cats can have their nails trimmed, just like humans and dogs. It is possible to do this at home with the appropriate equipment purchased from a pet store, but be sure to read the instructions well and even look up some how-to videos on the internet. You can always have the vet trim the cat’s nails at their next vet visit, or take your cat to a groomer.
Try ‘capping’ their claws! There are actually products out there that go directly over your cat’s claws, making it harder for them to damage your furniture, but still allowing them to scratch as desired. Check your local pet supply store for “Soft Paws”. They even come in fun colors!
Pick up a scratching post. These should be vertical and sturdy. They should be high enough that the kitten or cat can stretch out fully when scratching, and be sturdy enough that the object won't topple over. These can be placed near sleeping areas and places cats like to rest and play. Don't try to force the kitten/cat to scratch the object if they’re not interested. Encourage scratching on the post by playing with toys on and near the post. Catnip scent can draw the cat to the post as well. You can praise the cat with affection or food/treats when they scratch the post.
Make it less fun! If you already have a cat scratching up unwanted items and areas, try to make the damaged area less appealing. Cover it with thick plastic, a piece of aluminum foil, or use an odor that is unwelcoming to the cat (but that you won't notice). Deterrent sprays are relatively inexpensive and can be purchased a pet supply store.
Be consistent and realistic!
There are aversive methods one could use, such as shooing the cat away when they start to scratch or spraying them with a water bottle when caught scratching. However, if you are not providing them with an alternative for scratching, and you just expect them to stop, they will continue this behavior whether you're home or not.
Cats make wonderful companion animals. It’s up to us to provide them with some simple yet important activities to keep them happy. And a happy cat makes for a much fulfilled owner!
DISCLAIMER OF LIABILITY: Any advice provided by Citizens for a No-Kill Philadelphia ("CNKP") is for informational purposes only. The Community Help Desk is managed by volunteers of CNKP and does not necessarily represent the views of CNKP. Behavior and training advice and suggestions provided through its Help Desk are not intended to be a substitute for the advice of a professional animal trainer or qualified animal behaviorist. Any and all advice from CNKP regarding housing assistance, surrender prevention, or veterinary referrals is to be used for informational purposes only and does not substitute for the advice of a professional. CNKP expressly disclaims any and all liability, expressed or implied, with respect to the service and advice received via its Help Desk. Your reliance on the advice provided and/or content of CNKP's website or Help Desk communications is solely at your own risk.