When Scratching Gets Out of Control: How To Stop It


Too many pet owners feel like they need to choose between the love of their cats or the love of their furniture. Some seasoned cat owners have simply dismissed the notion of having fine furniture.  They realize that it’s just not going to happen. Others want to preserve their furniture, but also love their cats. The myth that cats are resistant to training is only partially true. You may not see cats do the kinds of tricks that dogs do. But cats can, in fact, be taught not to scratch; albeit some more successfully than others. If your adopted cat is stuck in its ways, it might be difficult to change its habits. However, there have been many success stories. Scratching is a non-starter for many people, particularly if it damages property.  There are several things that you can do to reduce this problem.



Some people do not have the patience to discourage the cat from scratching furniture. Especially if their furniture is costly they may opt for declawing the cat. This is not the best option for several reasons. First of all, it can be painful and be demoralizing for the cat. It is like having the first digit of each finger removed. Sadly, you cannot explain to your cat why you felt it was necessary.



Cats need their claws for a variety of things. It needs them to express affection with its classic kneading behavior while it purrs. You may have noticed that the cat moves its paws and claws back and forth when it purrs as if it is kneading bread. This is a behavior that cats develop from the time they’re kittens as a way of expressing contentment. Removing the claws can be traumatic for a cat. It should only be done if it comes down to a choice between declawing and having to give away the pet.



There are many things you can do that can encourage your cat to behave well with its claws. We should first consider why cats scratch, to begin with. Cats scratch to sharpen their claws, mark their territory, and defend themselves.  They may scratch because of anxiety or to assert themselves in a house filled with other felines. The cat can also leave its scent by rubbing its head on the furniture and does not need to use the scent pads in its claws.



If your cat is scratching furniture to express anxiety try to figure out what is causing your pet stress. Give your cat a “good” place to scratch. Get the cat a scratching post that is only hers. Each cat should have its own scratching post. This will help save your sofa from becoming the default scratching area.



You can find scratching posts made out of many different materials. There’s cardboard, wood, rope, sandpaper and upholstery.  Find one your cat likes.  You can encourage your cat to use the post with catnip and treats as a reward. If you see your cat scratching furniture, simply remove it from the area. Direct the cat to its scratching post. When it scratches the post reward it with praise and a treat. If you are consistent you will likely have success in training your cat.



Another common issue is what cats can do your stereos and computer cables. It is worthwhile to keep these items covered and out of the way when you are not able to supervise your cat. After all, you don’t want your cat damaging expensive equipment. Unfortunately, many of these items are much easier to put out of the way than a sofa. Another option could be to cover your sofa with plastic or a sheet when you’re not around. Other options are spraying the cat with water mist, clapping loudly, and removing the cat from the area.  That only works if you catch them in the act. If your cat is scratching or biting things when you are not home you can try furniture protection strips, herbs that repel cats, and motion sensor alarms that chase cats out of specific rooms when you are not home.



Some people find that distracting the cat with playtime is one way to avoid scratching. This is assuming your cat is scratching because it has nothing else to do. This may be the explanation some of the time, but not all the time. If your cat is scratching out of boredom, try rolling a ball with your cat or let him or her chase a mechanical mouse. You could even use a wand with feathers and bells at the end to keep your kitty entertained. This requires giving your cat your undivided attention, which may be what it wants. Some people believe that scratching on furniture is attention seeking behavior. Providing your cat with amusement and affection may help solve the problem.



If you have been unable to discourage your cat from scratching invest in a good pair of safety trimmers. Trimming and filing claws are preferable over declawing and are much more humane.  Get a cat safety clipper or have your vet clip the cat’s claws so they don’t get too sharp. Scratching pads and toys are still the best solution.



You don’t have to choose between your furniture and your cat; you can love them both. Cats can be taught to behave themselves and will do so if given proper encouragement. While scratching is partly based on instinct, you can train your cat to sharpen its claws and mark its territory on a scratching post. Resist the temptation to toss out the scratching post when it looks shabby. It may be an eyesore in your living room but cats love their well-worn scratching post.  Just as some people will not part with their beat-up armchair your cat loves its old, worn post.

If you found this helpful read our article on “The No-Nos of a Cat Diet.”


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