The question of how to get a cat to stop scratching furniture is one veterinarians get quite often. Cats are wonderful household pets, but the damage they can do with their claws is a deterrent to many potential cat owners.
The sure sign of a cat in the home is furniture with shredded fabric on the arms and a cat owner who has given up on purchasing nice things.
However, living with a cat does not need to include the promise of ruined furniture, and there are many steps you should take to learn how to get a cat to stop scratching furniture.
Here’s what you need to know and what you can do.
Why Do Cats Scratch?
Scratching is a natural behavior of cats, and it helps to shed the outer layer of their claws. Scratching also serves to mark their territory in a visual way, while also scent marking the territory via glands on their feet. In addition, scratching provides exercise and stretching opportunities. Although a small scratching area may work for some cats, most cats appreciate a large, tall space for scratching vigorously and fully stretching their bodies — which is why many end up scratching furniture.
Providing a Dedicated Scratching Space
When you introduce a new cat to your home, teaching her the best place to scratch is a great way to get started with setting expectations in a harmonious home. If your current cat has already developed a habit of scratching your furniture, you will need to take steps to change her behavior. A solid approach is to create a scratching space in an environment that is more appealing than your furniture. Three ideas to keep in mind are height, rewards, and safety as a starting point for figuring out how to get a cat to stop scratching furniture.
Height: A Cat’s Delight
Cats love high perches, which give them opportunities to feel safe and observe their surroundings. Providing cats with a tall cat tree — or scratching post with a perch — means they have a dedicated space to enjoy up off the ground. Cat trees include sisal or carpeted surfaces for cats to scratch, and the height of the posts means a cat can stretch up and sink her claws into the textured surfaces. Like in nature, your cat reaches up the “tree,” scratches the “trunk,” and leaps to the top of the “branches” to survey her domain.
Rewards: Make it Interesting!
Cats are stimulated by many things in their environment, and the location of the cat tree and the amenities and enrichment it provides will help to focus your cat’s interest on scratching the tree, not your furniture. Placing the cat tree near a window with a view of the outdoors allows her to view birds and other activities in the outdoor environment, which is especially stimulating for cats who live exclusively indoors.
Small toys and moving items on the cat tree stimulate prey drive and play, and cubbyholes for hiding appeal to cats who need a safe, secure space to sleep or hide. Adding the scent of catnip to your cat tree will attract your cat to the space and stimulate her to engage and scratch the appropriate surfaces. In contrast, your living room furniture begins to hold much less interest for your cat, making cat trees key to determining how to get a cat to stop scratching furniture.(?)
Safety: Your Cat’s Sanctuary
It is imperative that your cat’s scratching tree be located in an area that is quiet and safe. A busy location by the front door or near your dog’s favorite play area may not offer your cat the comfort, safety, and solitude she craves. Choose a space where your cat tends to enjoy spending time, and this may mean putting your cat tree near the furniture your cat is scratching. As your cat spends more time on his or her cat post, you can consider moving it to a new location.
Additional Options to Change Your Cat’s Behavior
Some cats are very dedicated scratchers, and your cat may persist in ruining your furniture, even with your efforts to make changes in his or her behavior. Although declawing has been used in the past to address this as a behavioral issue, it is generally seen as a cruel procedure and is no longer recommended by veterinarians as a method for how to get a cat to stop scratching furniture. Trimming your cat’s claws is easy to do, and it can greatly improve your cat’s scratching issues. In addition, plastic nail caps can be purchased to cover the sharp portion of your cat’s claws, preventing her from scratching.
Simple Management to Prevent Furniture Damage
Simple management can help as well, and can include redirecting your cat to his or her scratching posts, keeping doors to areas with furniture closed, or covering your furniture to prevent damage. A cat who is stressed or territorial may cause more scratching damage, so if you have a home with multiple cats, changing the dynamics between them and the way they interact with each other can change your cat’s scratching behavior. Your primary goal should be to make your cat happy with the scratching environment he or she needs. When you know how to get a cat to stop scratching furniture, you will enjoy the results of a happy, harmonious, and shredded-furniture-free home.