Have you ever heard the dreaded shred sound in the other room as your lovely cat friend decides to use a piece of your favourite furniture as a scratching post? And what do you do in this moment? You spring into action like a gymnast flying into the room to try and interrupt the behaviour before it’s too late! Or, does the following scenario sound more similar to what has happened to you? You wake up in the morning or come home from work in the afternoon hoping to relax and sit with a cup of coffee, tea, or even a snack. And the moment you enter the room, you see the evidence: a new set of scratch marks along your couch. Yes, we all know who’s responsible for this: your feline bundle of energy.
One scratch on your expensive sofa is one too many, and you’ve had enough of seeing a new pair of scratches every couple of days. So, why do cats scratch and how can you teach your scratchy kitty to stop scratching every piece of furniture she comes into contact with? Find out below!
Why Cats Scratch
Before you stop your cat from scratching all of your furniture to pieces, it’s important to understand why she’s doing it in the first place. Scratching is a natural and necessary action for cats for many reasons, including to:
- Make her mark: scratching releases odours from cats’ paws (which contain scent glands), and is a way of marking territory - especially in households with more than one cat! Your feline friend will feel the need to use this method of communication to indicate that something is hers.
- Stretch: a common reason why cats scratch everything is because it’s an exercise that allows them to stretch their tendons and muscles, and strengthen their upper bodies!
- Feel good: just like the result of stretching, scratching feels amazing to cats. It allows them to relieve any stress they have, and decreases the chances of your cat developing unwanted behaviours.
- Maintain claw health: finally, scratching removes the dead outer sheaths of their nails - keeping their claws healthy and sharp!
The “No” Method
When you catch your kitty in the middle of scratching something you don’t want scratched, correct her behaviour with a sound like hissing or a quick and simple “ah!” - but don’t use anything that your cat can distinguish as a punishing sound with your voice. In addition, be sure you’re not using your feline’s name during the correction process. Her name should only be used when she does something you approve of and is praised for it.
When correcting her behaviour, ensure you’re following the correction by carrying her to the scratching post (an alternate surface that’s as satisfying to scratch as furniture) where she has a chance to make positive associations with scratching the right object and earn your praise again. However, when bringing her to the scratching post, a “punishing feel” shouldn’t come from you. You shouldn’t be grabbing your kitty off the floor suddenly. Additionally, don’t continue to hiss or make disapproving comments after making your first correction sound.
If your feline friend is having difficulty accepting the scratching post as the object she should be scratching instead, try sessions on a daily basis where she can hear the sound of your fingers scratching the post, then accompany that with a praise, then provide her with her favourite treat to reward your cat once she performs the action. Timing is especially important here; the positives need to be given to your cat while she does the action, because if the reward is presented a second later, she’ll be clueless as to why you’re praising her. Your kitty will enjoy your praise, but she won’t understand the message.
The “no” method” may take a few months to learn, so patience is key.
The “Yes” Method
There are places for your feline to let her scratch her heart out, which are important for behavioural success in the long term. As mentioned above, a scratching post is recommended. However, if your cat scratches more than one area (like the two arms of your sofa), you’ll need more than one post.
Cat “trees” or “condos” are a great way to provide kitties with a marking post in households with more than one cat. Before searching for the perfect (and most likely expensive) post, think about your fur baby’s preferences. For cats who love scratching the carpet, horizontal cardboard scratchers are available at an affordable price. Plus, there’s wedge-shaped cardboard ramps for kitties who like to scratch low on furniture, and “trees” (or upright posts) for those who enjoy hanging from their claws. Make sure to consider the material of the post as well. Natural bark and sisal fibre are attractive to cats and are what many cats prefer.
After you’ve received your new cat furniture, use some organic catnip to rub it on the item. Or, have your cat’s favourite toy hang from the top of the piece of furniture, which will create a game encouraging your fur child to mimic scratching. Plus, your support and praise will create positive associations with scratching the cat furniture.
Whether you choose the “no” method or the “yes” method is up to you. However, one method could work better than the other since every cat is different. We wish you the best of luck, and hope your furniture will be left how it should be: unscratched and used for napping versus a claw-tastic frenzy of fun for your furry friend!