Behavior

How to Stop Your Cat from Tearing Up the Furniture

You won’t win a battle of wills with your cat; if the claws are determined to come out, they will. What you can do is learn to understand the needs of your feline housemate – this means teaching your cat where scratching is appropriate and giving it adequate alternatives and deterrents. This is the key to stopping your cat from giving your antique sofa that extra fuzz.

 

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Scratching is a way for cats to stretch muscles, sharpen claws, and clean out their claw sheaths.  It’s also important not to forget your adorable furry pet has the same roots as the big cats you would probably do your best to avoid in the wild, and a lot of your domesticated pet’s habits can be explained by taking a look at these big cats’ behavior. Felines are extremely territorial; the male lion of a pride will mark off his territory in order to let other males know that the females in his region are already taken. Scratching is one of the many ways in which your house cat will engage in this same behavior. Once you understand the different things driving your cat to unsheathe its claws you can tackle their root causes one by one.

 

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Redirection is the first part of getting your pet under control. Make a map of your home to see which areas are frequent danger zones – some areas take on a special significance to your cat and prompt him to leave a special mark.

 

Placing a scratching post in these areas is a sure way to claim your cat’s attentions.It’s important to clean and deodorize these areas (cats have a much better sense of smell than humans, in fact they even have olfactory sensors on the pads of their feet), this may help minimize whatever it is about them that seems to attract your cat.

 

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Be wary of using strongly scented cleaning products, however, as these may have the opposite effect of causing your cat to re-stake his claim to that particular patch of carpet. Limiting access to areas with expensive belongings is also a good temporary measure.

 

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Your cats are like your children, and when children are too much to handle indoors, parents take them to the park. There’s a lesson for cat owners here. Although your tabby may have the same roots as the great cats of the African Serengeti, Mr. Cuddles probably has significantly less stamina than a fully grown lion. Giving your cat some outdoor time may curb some of the restlessness it feels from being cooped up in the house. 

 

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Conditioning is the next step in teaching your cat to play nice with the rest of your belongings. Extra caution should be exercised in the attempt to teach your feline companion the do’s and do nots of in-house living. Like with children, patience is the only option here; raised voices and flailing limbs will only make your cat shy, and nobody wants their beloved feline companion to be neither seen nor heard. 

 

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A good alternative to yelling may be using a spray bottle, cats will quickly learn to think twice before unsheathing their claws when they know the threat of a wet mist will be their only reward. It’s important to disassociate yourself from the spraying – if your cat makes the connection that the spray bottle only comes out when you’re around, it will quickly learn to innocently sidle away from the impact zone whenever you’re watching, only to pad back to the couch when your back is turned.

 

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Another option is to make scratching off-limits surfaces unpleasant, this can be accomplished with a layer of double-sided tape. This makes it naturally unpleasant for them to scratch that surface.

 

 

You can also try transparent furniture covers for your best chairs and sofas or spraying the area with a lightly scented cleaning product. (Anything with a citrus scent seems to be particularly off-putting for cats.)

 

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Positive reinforcement is no less important; giving your cat a treat for good behavior will bring home the message that being a good housemate has its benefits. Speaking to your cat in an encouraging tone of voice, as well as you, and other humans, being around to spend time with it also greatly contribute to refocusing your feline’s attentions.

 

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Cats form associations with particular points in a dwelling, if one of these areas seems to prompt your pet to unsheathe its claws, some owners may find a form of reconditioning comes in handy. Make a point of using these areas to feed or play with your cat. In some cases, it may even be appropriate to make this the new location of your cat’s litter box. Doing this will form new associations for your cat and stop it from feeling the need to mark its presence.

 

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Many cat owners consider declawing or tendonectomy as a solution to scratching. Declawing is an extreme procedure that cuts off your cat’s claws at the root – PETA strongly recommends against it and other such procedures. Severing the tendons which allow your cat to unsheathe its claws, or tendonectomy, is no better. As your cat’s resident human, you have a responsibility for its wellbeing; this should surpass any fear you have regarding potential damage to your furniture. In other words we strongly recommend against declawing!

 

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The good news is that viable, humane, alternatives to these procedures do exist. Ask your vet to show you how to properly trim your cat’s claws. Although many pet owners shy away from this duty, it is actually less difficult than it sounds. Age and temperament definitely play a factor, but over time it is possible to learn how to give your pet this necessary manicure without causing too much of a disturbance – some clever cat owners even manage to do it while their cats are asleep. Part of it is also conditioning your cat over time to accept the trimming as inevitable and even beneficial (it gets to spend some quality time with its owner and maybe even gets a treat afterwards, if it was on its best behavior).

 

If nothing else works, commercial alternatives to many of these common sense home remedies are also available. Reasonably-priced sticky furniture strips can be obtained on Amazon.

 

There are also ultrasonic and electronic deterrents that can be found on Amazon as well. You may also want to consider training mats and motion activated spray repellants.  

 

Remember, cats scratch because that is in its nature. They mean no harm.  Find kind ways to keep them away from your furniture and encourage them to scratch mats, posts, and outdoor trees instead. 

You’ve got to read “Can Cats Be Trained Not To Scratch Furniture?”

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Leslie

    July 18, 2016 at 7:48 pm

    The best material to deter cats is velvet or velvet like material. My cats never touch my velvet couch or chairs! Use dry dishwashing gloves to wipe cat fur off velvet. It comes off right away!

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