It’s responsible for arguments, relationship problems, anxiety, misunderstandings, and why so many people get their cats declawed: cats scratching the furniture.
Contrary to what you may think, they don’t do it to annoy you. Cats need to scratch in order to remove the outer layer of their claws, but also to play, mark their territory, exercise, stretch. and defend themselves. (You can read more about the issues around declawing in my interview with Dr. Jennifer Conrad here.)
The problem remains, then, how to stop your cat from scratching the furniture, or at least lessen the damage. At the very least, you can trim their claws, and make sure you don’t even think about buying leather furniture! The experts suggest using foil, double-sided tape, or a scent that cats don’t like. Well, none of those solutions ever worked for me. Watch the video below or read on for my 4 simple tips to get your cat to stop scratching the furniture:
4 Tips to Get Your Cat to Stop Scratching the Furniture
1. Buy a scratch pad. These are made of corrugated cardboard or sisal carpet that have a rough feel and cats love it. Have 1 or 2 in the main living areas of your home or where your cats like to scratch. Just be sure it is stable enough to support aggressive scratching or else your cat will ignore it. I have one that has a plastic case with rubber pads so it sticks well to the floor. I have another one that has no case but it’s braced between a wall and a chest so it doesn’t move. You can use a bit of catnip on the scratch pads to attract your cats if they aren’t interested in them at first.
Here are some popular scratch pads that my cats have enjoyed over the years:
2. Tell them, “NO!” When you catch your cat scratching the furniture, tell them firmly, NO!, and then bring them immediately to the scratch pad while praising what a good kitty they are. They need to have an alternative where they can feel free to scratch without punishment. Remember, they do have a physical need to scratch, you just have to show them where it’s ok.
3. Give them property. Cats need a place to call their own in the main living area. If you tell them, NO! when they’re on every piece of furniture, your cat will ignore you and just scratch everywhere. Shorty had a chair growing up that was all her own, but soon graduated to a cat tree which she learned, eventually, to share with Kodi. Avoid small scratching posts and flimsy cat trees and invest in something sturdy that cats can trust and that will last. Add treats or catnip so your cat knows it’s a good place to be.
Here’s Shorty with her old chair. Look how happy she is!
I’ve had several requests for the brand of cat tree I have, but unfortunately, I purchased it from a local pet store that has since gone out of business. After browsing Amazon, the only one that seems to come close is this one. Yes, it’s around $200, but it’s lasted nearly 5 years and I’ve known several people who have had to throw out flimsy $100 cat trees after only 1 year.
4. Love your cat. Cats are complex and sensitive animals and may misbehave out of anxiety if they don’t feel safe and secure. And since cats are creatures of habit, you need to be consistent in treating them with respect and allowing them to exert their natural instincts. They’re more likely to listen to you if you treat them with love, respect, and… catnip!
While your cats are learning, here’s how you can minimize the damage to your belongings:
Trim their claws. The reality is, cats’ claws come out when they run and play, so trimming the tips of their claws will help prevent those accidental claw marks. If you’re not sure how to do this, see my tutorial here.
But even then, buy furniture where small claw marks aren’t noticeable. In other words, leather is out! In the meantime, you may want to cover up important items until your cats have learned the rules.
Some people have had great success with Soft Claws which are easy-to-apply claw coverings.
And of course, never consider declawing your cat as declawing is actually amputation of the first toe knuckle which makes it very hard for cats to balance, walk, and play, and may lead to problems such as biting, not using the litter box, and anti-social or aggressive behaviour.
But declawing is a very lucrative business for veterinarians in North America so change has to start with us owners and, with more awareness, perhaps we can join the growing list of places around the world where declawing is illegal or severely restricted.
But trust me, if I can get these 2 crazy cats to stop scratching the furniture, then you can too!
If you have any other tips or comments/questions, please comment below.