Clawing of furniture and other household furnishings, rugs, and objects is destructive behavior from your point of view. Yet, from the cat’s point of view, it’s natural behavior, following a biological need to keep its claws in top shape, as well as providing a form of exercise for his shoulders, legs, and paws through stretching and retracting. It probably also feels really good!
Another motive cats have for scratching furniture is emotional. They have scent glands in their paws, not a strong odor like a male cat’s musk but distinct to the individual. Scratching spots advertise the cat’s presence to other cats and other animals, declaring territory. Paradoxically, a cat may claw your favorite piece of furniture because he or she is marking you as his or her human.
Protecting your furniture and other household goods is not impossible but it may take a little ingenuity and effort on your behalf.
Appreciate the purpose of scratching or clawing. A cat doesn’t scratch to give you grief. A cat scratches because it’s a form of exercise for the cat’s muscles from the claws right through to the legs and shoulders and down the back, and as a means for toning. In addition, scratching also sharpens claws and cleans them. A cat that doesn’t scratch will have underdeveloped muscles, something that can lead to other health problems. Cats also scratch to scent-mark territorial areas with their paws, which have scent glands usually indistinguishable to humans but very distinct to other cats, dogs, and many other animals.
Purchase at least one scratching post for your cat. A scratching post is the answer to your scratching problem but it will take time to encourage your cat to use it and when purchasing the scratching post, there are some things to consider initially. You could also make a cat scratching post yourself if you’re handy with basic woodwork.
- When selecting or building a scratching post, look for one that is at least as tall as your cat when he stands on his hind legs. Ensure that it is sturdy and cannot wobble when pressure is applied to it by your cat.
Whatever you choose, avoid anything fluffy. A cat’s scratching post must be like tree bark (their natural scratching element), namely rough and coarse. This is totally to your benefit because the cat will love it; whereas, as sweet as the fluffy version might look, your cat won’t appreciate its lack of toughness. Posts with sisal fiber rope wound around them are best and the scratchier it is, the less inviting your heirloom needlework pieces will seem.
- It’s a really good idea to have more than one scratching post, especially if you have upstairs and downstairs areas, or your house is large. This will lessen the probability that your cat will resort to furniture in other rooms without scratching posts. Focus principally on rooms you spend the most time in, where your cat tends to sidle up and spend time with you, such as living rooms, TV rooms, games rooms, sitting areas, etc.
- Watch for which pieces of furniture the cat has clawed and their locations. If it is always the chair you sit in most, locate a scratching post near it and maybe leave a piece of your laundry on the top for a while or use its top tray as a drop spot for personal items so that your cat sees it as part of your territorial marker, like your favorite chair. This is where, if you can afford it, a fancier Cat Tree with carpeted shelves, scratching posts and vertical cat resting spots can become your cat’s own chair. This is especially relevant if your cat is extremely attached to one person in the household, putting the scratching post or cat tree in close contact with the favorite sofa or chair can make it even more enticing.
- A tree log complete with bark can make an ideal scratching post. However, this can have the disadvantage of bringing beasties into the house that were living in the log, so if you can’t be sure the log or bark is clean, you might want to reserve this to a spot near the back door, or near the cat door, as a sort of “have a good scratch before your enter” enticement.
- See How to make a cat scratching post or How to make a cat scratching post from a log for instructions on making your own posts.
Train your kitten or cat to make use of the scratching post. Condition your kitten or cat to use the scratching post and nothing else for scratching. Put the post somewhere firm that it cannot topple over when the cat or kitten uses it. A sensible option is to place the scratching post next to a piece of furniture that has hitherto being the object of scratching attention, or where it might be likely that a new cat would try to scratch were it not for the scratching post. If you want to make the post more inviting, rub catnip or spray catnip oil onto the post.
- Encourage your cat to unleash his claws on the new scratching post by gently placing him in front of it. At the same time, gently stroke him and wait for him to respond to the post in front of him. Every time your cat uses the scratching post, offer him praise and give him a pat. Bash Dibra suggests that you encourage your cat by gently placing his front paws onto the post and even moving the paws up and down on it, but Anita Frazier warns that many cats hate being forced to do anything and this can have a very negative effect. It is probably best to let your cat discover it at first and, if you know your cat well enough, you’ll know whether he would mind you pushing his paws onto it or not; in most cases, it’s not a good idea though. Alternatively, you could even “show” your cat how to scratch using your own fingernails. Or, dangle a toy over it that bangs against the post to draw your cat’s attention to the pole; in swiping the toy, he may discover the joy of the scratching pole behind it.
- Wrap up a new scratching post for an older cat used to getting its own way. If you haven’t had the opportunity to train your kitten to use a scratching post from scratch (pardon the pun), you might like to wrap the post up and let your cat “discover” this wonderful new scratching item for himself. If he feels he found it and can lay claim to it, you won’t have any more troubles convincing him to use it.
- Sometimes cat rivalries may interfere with use of a scratching post. If one cat is being chased away from it by another, be sure the cat who lost the dominant position has his own post in another area. Each cat in a multi-cat household may have different personal territories and favorite places. It’s the same as some cats who won’t use a litter pan that other cats use and demands to have a personal one.
- If you notice your cat exhibiting nervousness or dislike of the scratching post, try tilting it onto its side, thereby making it smaller and less threatening while he gets used to it.
- Another method of conditioning your cat to like his scratching post is to withhold your greeting upon returning home until you reach the scratching post. Stand at the post and scratch it with your nails, telling your cat how happy you are to see him. When he comes near the post and starts clawing it, stop scratching it yourself and start stroking him while he scratches the post, all the while praising him for being such a good cat. Anitra Frazier likes to accompany this ritual with the words “Let’s greet! Let’s greet!” as she advances to the scratching post, giving the cats a habit to follow.
Use your tone of voice. A sharp “NO!” whenever your cat goes anywhere near a clawed piece of furniture can help to reduce his interest in clawing it.If you don’t like yelling or sounding fierce, rattle a can of pebbles or pennies to startle him. Then, pick him up and place him next to the scratching pole as a means of conditioning him. Don’t sound angry or go into a nasty tirade against your cat; remember he is simply following instincts and you’re the higher-level being with the ability to control your emotional outburst.
- Never scold your cat when he is near or using the scratching post. He needs to associate the scratching post with all things pleasant and happy.
Use water. If you have a spray bottle of water, you could try squirting your cat whenever he goes near the furniture and starts scratching it. Aim to do this before he starts scratching but if not, squirt mid-scratch. This won’t hurt him but it will help him to associate scratching that piece of furniture with a less-than-pleasant spritz of water!
Use a citrus oil mix to deter your cat. Some cats are repelled by the scent of orange oil. Mix equal parts, about a cap-full each of eucalyptus oil and orange oil in a spray bottle of water. You can test this on your cat by putting a small amount on a damp cloth and present it close to her/his nose. There may also be other fragrant oils that your cat does not like, go ahead and experiment. You will need to shake the contents before each use as the oil and water will separate after a short time. Using this method not only helps to deter your cat from destroying furniture or walls, but gives your house a pleasant and fragrant odor as well.
Cover problem furniture. Some pieces just seem to get marked for special scratching treatment because they feel just right to your cat. In this case, there are several options you can try:
- Apply double-sided tape to the furniture. Cats dislike the sticky feeling and won’t continue to stick their claws wherever it’s sticky (the hairless skin (leather) of the cat’s paws is extremely sensitive to touch. For larger furniture, adhere masking tape over the arms, or on the back of the furniture where the cat will often enjoy playing (and hiding from water spritzing). For a larger area, such as a rug or carpet, leave contact sheet sticky side up over the surface you’re keen to protect. You can also buy a product called “Sticky Paws” which are medical grade adhesive sticky strips that can go on curtains, drapes, carpets, and anything else that might be a bit too tempting for puss.
- For cats who seem to live it up when you’re at work or away from home, cover the furniture in plastic covers. Cats are not fond of walking over plastic because of its smell and feel. You could also try placing blown-up balloons hidden underneath a sheet covering the furniture which will burst when clawed, causing the cat a fright that will be retained in relation to that piece of furniture long after the balloon has popped.
Keep your cat’s claws trimmed. Since part of the reason for scratching is to sharpen and even shorten claw growth, you can help out with a regular, careful trim of your cat’s claws. If you don’t know how to clip a cat’s claws, ask your vet to show you how to do this the first time, as it is easy to hurt the cat badly if you don’t what you’re doing.A cat that is not used to claw clipping can be a little bothered by it initially but persevere until he is comfortable with it. Again, praise him while trimming his claws so that he knows you are caring for him.
- It is useful to “blunt” the tips of the claws of an indoor cat that never has access to outdoor trees. You can do this with toenail clippers (never use claw clippers made for dogs) but you must know the correct cutting line to avoid injuring the cat. Ask your vet to show you this for the first time.
Shut doors to rooms with very special furniture, furnishings and objects. If you have antiques or furniture that is of great value for one reason or other, then consider leaving it in a cat-free zone. Ensure that everyone in the family is aware that the cats must not be let into that area or room and always keep doors to these areas closed. If the cat does wander in, shoo him out abruptly so that he associates it with being “out of bounds” (not that any cat owner is silly enough to believe he’ll respect that of course but at least when another human is in there he’ll know he’s on notice). Ask the humans in the house to take care rather than expecting the cat to know the difference between important furniture and less important furniture.
Allow your cat some outside time where possible. If your cat is already able to go in and out of the house, it is highly likely that he has found himself a tree or two to scratch on. Encourage this (unless it’s harming the tree) and continue to let him have appropriate outside time, as using nature for a scratching post will definitely reduce his desire to use your furniture as one.
ORIGINAL ARTICLE: http://www.wikihow.com/Stop-a-Cat-from-Clawing-Furniture