Love your cat, but hate the fact that he tears up all your furniture?
It's natural and good for cats to scratch. So what you should focus on is managing what your cat scratches. There are some simple things you can do to stop your cat from scratching or clawing on your furniture. Here are 3 tips to try:
The main reason cats scratch is to remove the dead outer layer of their claws. Sharp claws are necessary for climbing and for holding down prey, and they are instinctive activities to cats, so that's another reason cats scratch - it sharpens their claws. When cats scratch, they put their whole bodies into the act; this helps them remain flexible.
And then there are times when cats scratch because they're bored. And this is when you really need to be on the alert - because they will scratch anything, even if they've been trained to stick to their posts or scratch pads.
1. Give Your Cat Something Better To Scratch
It is ideal to train your cat early not to scratch the furniture. Even before you bring your cat or kitten home, you should have some cat scratchers ready for him. I would start with two kinds, one vertical scratcher and a horizontal one - that is, one that makes your cat stand or lean forward as he scratches, and another that allows him to scratch in a sitting or lying down position. We have many different scratchers posted at 15+ Best Cat Scratching Posts - From Fun To Fabulous.
As soon as you get your cat or kitten home, see where he starts scratching, lift him away or distract him and bring one of his scratchers nearby. If he's scratching the sofa, move the scratcher over to the sofa; if it's your wood cabinets in the kitchen, move the scratcher near there.
Scratch the surface of the post or pad, demonstrating to your cat what to do with it. Stretch his body out on the scratcher. Put his front claws on the surface and move them in scratching motions.
Training your kitten or cat to use a dedicated cat scratcher is a long-term process; it won't happen overnight. You may have to purchase a few different scratchers for your cat to see what he likes best. Sisal, corrugated cardboard, and carpeting, in that order, seem to be favorite scratching surfaces for cats. Also, bare fresh wood is appealing to some cats.
One device that combines sisal, carpet, and sometimes, hardwood, is a cat tree or cat condo, which combine climbing, hiding, swatting, sleeping, and scratching - in other words a cat's dream. If you have room for it, it's a great investment.
Again, you'll get the best ideas on what's out there from 15+ Best Cat Scratching Posts - From Fun To Fabulous.
2. Train Your Cat To Use Acceptable Scratchers
Training a cat to use a cat scratcher involves two steps: teaching him what is not an acceptable scratching surface and teaching him what is an acceptable surface. They go hand in hand; that's why you should have cat scratchers in your home before your kitty even arrives.
First, place cat scratchers near problem areas. If your cat scratches the sofa, place his scratcher near the sofa; if it's your kitchen cabinets he goes after, then the scratcher belongs in the kitchen.
Make it enticing for your cat to scratch her post or pad. Do not physically punish your cat and don't yell at her; you will only make her fear you. Remember, what your cat is doing when she scratches things in her environment is natural to a cat. To stop her from scratching furniture, distract your cat with a squeaky toy or a string and then lure her to her scratching toy. If that doesn't work, pick her up and carry her to her post.
Immediately, bring her to her scratching post and show her how to use it. Let her hear the sound of your nails on the surface of her scratcher. When she scratches her scratcher, praise and reward her. Tell her, "Good kitty!" And give her a cat treat like one of Wellness's many flavors of Kittles Crunchy Natural Grain Free Cat Treats.
I adopted a feral cat when he was about 9 months old. I gave him a corner of the garage for his bed, food and water bowls, litter box, and scratching post. He lived in the garage for a few weeks until I could train him to use his post. I started by making his meals dependent on him scratching the post. He would scratch a bit and then jump to the top of the post.
When I saw that he thought the objective was for him to leap to the top of the post, I introduced catnip (this is THE best catnip) to the body of the scratcher and when he sniffed and ate the catnip, he scratched within a few minutes. I encouraged him verbally. "Yay!" I said, "Good boy!" And then I'd fawn all over him, scratching him and saying "Good kitty."
We did this several times a day, sometimes using catnip and other times just using small treats. Always, though, there was a lot of verbal encouragement and petting.
After two weeks or so, I let my cat into the house in his carrying crate. Then, I'd let him roam for a little bit. Eventually, he did begin to explore with his claws, but I was right there to catch him. I pulled him off the furniture and firmly said "No." Then I brought him to the scratching post. This went on every time I brought him into the house.
When he wouldn't follow my instructions, I gently picked him up and put him into the garage.
Eventually, he got the idea and he now lives in the house without much disturbance.... The most important thing about training a cat is that you be consistent. You may think you have trained him, but one day he'll be bored and push your buttons again. He might be trying to get your attention, and you will have to do some re-training and play with him more (chasing a string attached to a toy is my cat's best game), giving him more exercise and fun, so he doesn't get bored. There are even scratchers that are toys like the Bergan Turbo Cat Scratcher Toy.
3. Protect Your Furniture
While you are training your cat to use a scratcher you still need to protect your furniture. Tape coverings and the right scents will drive your cat away from certain areas so he won't scratch them.
Cats don't like sticky things, so if their regular scratching place is sticky, they won't want to scratch there anymore. Try placing double-sided sticky tape on the areas that your cat regularly scratches to prevent him from scratching there again. He'll likely switch to the non-sticky option: his scratching post. Tac-On tape can also be a good option. (Look for something like this at your local home improvement store since the delivery charge for it is high).
Cats are repelled by bitter scents, and you can use this to your advantage. Consider creating a citrus spray with lemon or orange and water, and spraying it on the areas that your cat likes to claw. A very effective pet repellent is Grannicks Bitter Apple. You can spray this directly on your furniture without harm, and your cat will stay away. Make sure to keep refreshing the scent.
Trim Or Cap Claws
If your cat stays indoors, you might consider trimming or capping your cats claws. We do not endorse declawing, but trimming your cat's claws is just taking the sharp ends off. It isn't detrimental to your cat like declawing, but it can reduce the damage your cat does to the furniture. DO NOT TRIM OR CAP CLAWS IF YOUR CAT GOES OUTDOORS!
If you decide to trim your cats claws, be sure to start when your cat is young. Use a really good cat claw trimmer. I would take my cat to the vet and watch the veterinary assistant cut my cat's claws before doing it myself. Just don't dive into it; first to learn the proper way to trim your cats claws without causing him any harm. A good starting point is this article on how to trim your cat's nails.
It's possible to buy cat claw caps like Soft Claws For Cats that you can have your vet apply or learn to apply yourself. You can buy these in natural colors, or in more vibrant "fashionable" colors. Claw caps will fall off naturally after about six weeks or so. So if you want to save money and avoid regular trips to the vet, it is worth it to buy some and see if you can put them on your cat yourself.
Also, did you know there are things that help keep your furniture a little safer? You can find Cat Scratching Furniture Guards that protect your furniture legs from cat claws.
With these methods, your furniture will certainly suffer less damage. What methods have you used to keep your cats from clawing the furniture?
15+ Best Cat Scratching Posts - From Fun To Fabulous
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Created March 2015 and updated March 2017.