Cats have a natural need to scratch. It is their way of marking territory, keeping their claws in good condition, and stretching their feet muscles and ligaments. Although you cannot stop kitty from doing what he instinctively needs to do, there are several ways you can prevent and limit the scratching in areas you want to preserve – like your beloved sofa!
Ways to Keep Kitty from Damaging the Furniture
1. Provide a few scratching posts. Getting a good post for your cat to scratch on is an excellent way to redirect her needs to mark and stretch. Because cats tend to be attracted to coarsely textured surfaces as their scratching spots, find a tall sturdy post and cover it with a nubby fabric like sisal cloth or carpeting. Some cats love the texture of corrugated cardboard, as it’s designed to mimic tree bark. See to it that you put the scratching post where kitty can easily access it. Putting up several scratching posts, at varying heights and angles in the room will entice your cat to more appropriate scratching.
2. Remove temptations. In order for the scratching post to be the most, if not only, accessible and eye-catching thing for kitty to scratch on, restructure her environment in a way that will minimize the damage to furniture, draperies, and carpeting. Consider furnishing your home with tile or hardwood floors, washable rugs, and smooth and shiny upholstery.
Of course, re-furnishing the entire home to accommodate the cat isn’t feasible for most of us. (And some of us just prefer fabric furniture to slick, shiny leather!) Many cat parents have had great success with cat-safe deterrent sprays and/or bitter apple spray, though some cats are completely undeterred.
You may be able to protect a favorite armchair or sofa cushion with a cleverly placed throw. To make this more effective, hide a piece of aluminum foil between the folds of the throw, so that it makes a crinkling sound that kitty won’t like, should she jump on it. Or, affix strips of clear shipping tape to your cat’s favorite scratching spot, encouraging her to look elsewhere.
3. Other techniques. To minimize damages kitty can inflict, cut back her nails on a regular basis. If clipping nails is not an option, cat claw covers are a good choice. These are small, rubber tips that are fitted directly over your cat’s sharp claws that reduce the damage that can be done.
If your cat has already scratched a few objects, hide the damage from her view. This may entail having to cover the afflicted furniture with a sheet of cloth or to completely get rid of scratched items. Because scratching leaves behind your cat’s scent, you’ll notice she returns to the same spot over and over again.
4. Reinforce good behavior. Make corrections to kitty’s scratching habit but don’t forget to reinforce appropriate scratching. If you see her scratching on her designated post, offer her a treat or a scratch on the chin, to reward her for good behavior.
It’s not possible to eliminate scratching behavior altogether, but by offering suitable alternatives and then reinforcing appropriate behavior, your cat and your furniture can learn to live together in harmony.