Why Cats Scratch
Scratching is considered a normal behavior in cats. It is an inherited trait and cats do it instinctively, but it is also learned from their mothers early on in life. Cats scratch in order to leave a visual and olfactory territorial marker that tells other animals, “This is my space.” Cats also scratch in order to condition and trim their claws.
While scratching is extremely frustrating, owners must understand that there is no way to stop a cat from scratching entirely. The best you can do is distract your cat’s attention from your furniture and try to reinforce appropriate scratching behavior.
Preventing Destructive Scratching
Prevention is accomplished by first scratch-proofing your home. Place fabric-safe, double sided tape on furniture where you notice scratching. This type of tape is available at most pet stores. Cats will avoid the sticky substance, and it will come off without leaving a residue. Additionally, it may help to spray furniture with something that gives off an odor that cats fund unappealing. They do not like citrus smells, mint, or rosemary.
When you leave the house and your cat is alone, you may wish to place aluminum foil around chair seats and arms. Cats do not like the texture or sound of foil, and this will deter them from seizing their alone time for some quality furniture scratching.
Provide Plenty of Alternatives to Your Furniture
Because cats instinctively need to scratch, owners should not operate under the belief that they can train the behavior out of their pets. Instead, cats must be provided with plenty of pleasing alternatives to furniture. Purchase a variety of scratching pads and posts and place them in different locations around the house. Sprinkle some catnip on each surface to attract attention and stimulate interest.
Take note of the textures your cat enjoys, and remove any pads or posts that go unused. Replace them with the textures that your cat finds appealing. Reward and reinforce proper scratching behavior by giving your cat a treat and affection when she uses the appropriate materials. Be sure to replace the scratching pads regularly, as cats will wear them down and turn their attention back to your furniture.
Keep Your Cats Nails Properly Trimmed
Cats scratch to condition their claws, so keeping their nails trimmed can help deter some scratching. It can be difficult and often a bit scary to trim a cat’s nails, so enlist the help of a friend or family member when it’s nail trimming day. Always be sure to trim the ends of the nails only. In the middle of the nail is sensitive tissue called the “quick.” Nicking this tissue will case extreme pain and bleeding, and can make your cat fearful of trims. To avoid this problem, some owners prefer to take the cat to the vet for nail clipping.
Remember: Scratching Will Never End
It’s easy to give up on training when a cat seems obsessed with a particular piece of furntire. However, it is important to remain committed to the process to ensure that your furniture not only stays protected, but that your relationship with your cat remains intact. Cats learn quickly, and inappropriate scratching can be reduced with consistent training from owners. However, cat owners should always remember that cats must be allowed to scratch, and there is no way to train this inborn behavior out of a feline. Some inappropriate scratching just comes with the territory when you share your home with a cat.