How To Stop Cats From Scratching Furniture
Here’s why cats don’t always stick to the scratching post.
You love your cat. But you don’t love when he claws up your couch.
Your furniture doesn’t have to be the victim when your cat inevitably starts scratching. The Dodo spoke with Dr. Vanessa Spano, a veterinarian at Behavior Vets in Colorado, and Dr. Michelle Burch, a veterinarian from Paramount Pet Health, to find out how to save your sofa.
Why do cats scratch?
One of the most common issues cat parents have is their cats scratching up their furniture. But it’s important to remember that scratching is a totally normal cat behavior. There are actually several reasons why cats scratch, including:
- Sharpening their nails
- Stretching their claws
- Marking an area as their territory
When you catch your cat in the act, you might find yourself wanting to scold or punish him. You’re frustrated, after all.
But that reaction could actually make things worse.
“Scratching due to marking can increase due to stress,” Dr. Spano told The Dodo. “Punishment may further stress out the cat, and if the scratching behavior is due to marking, this additional stress from punishment may thus increase anxiety and exacerbate the issue further.”
Do all cats scratch furniture?
All cats scratch since it provides an outlet for their natural behaviors.
“A cat's need to scratch is essential for its well-being to provide emotional, physical and social stability,” Dr. Burch told The Dodo.
Not all cats choose to scratch furniture, though. Some cats like to scratch at things around your house, like your carpet. However, a lot of cats might gravitate towards your couch’s height or the material it’s made out of when they’re craving a good scratching session.
“Furniture can become a favorite area for your cat to scratch,” Dr. Burch said. “The different fabric textures or the height of the sides will appease your cat's senses.”
How to stop cats from scratching furniture
There are a few things you can do to keep your cat from scratching your furniture.
Redirect him to something else
According to Dr. Spano, you can’t — and shouldn’t — get your cat to stop scratching altogether, since it’s a perfectly normal behavior.
“Instead of attempting to eliminate it, it is more productive to refocus this natural behavior onto an appropriate target,” Dr. Spano said.
To get your cat to stop scratching your furniture, Dr. Spano recommends drawing your cat away from it by distracting him with a totally different action.
“If you catch the cat [as he] is about to scratch an inappropriate target, redirect them quickly and have them perform an incompatible behavior, such as a ‘sit’ cue or chasing a toy,” Dr. Spano explained.
Find the right scratching post
It’s also a good idea to give your cat another outlet for his clawing, like a scratching post.
Cats tend to prefer posts that are at least 3 feet tall, have multiple levels and are made of rope.
But sometimes you’ll find that even after buying your cat a perfectly good rope scratching post, he’s still scratching your sofa.
So what gives?
Well, a lot of couch arms are at least 3 feet tall, which is desirable for most cats. Plus, your cat might just prefer the texture of your couch to the texture of his post. It’s as simple as that.
“Each cat will have a distinct preference for the material they want to use from cardboard, rope or carpet,” Dr. Burch said.
So finding the perfect post might take some trial and error. But if your cat still prefers your couch, you could try buying (or making) a post out of the same material as your furniture. That way, it’ll be easier to redirect your cat.
You could even get him his own couch-shaped scratcher.
When your cat finally scratches what he’s supposed to, Dr. Spano said, you should reward him with praise, treats or high-value toys.
Try nail caps
Declawing your cat is cruel and unnecessary, so getting some nail caps is a much better and more humane alternative.
“Application of the plastic tips will allow your cat to place their scent still and stretch on what they perceive is their territory,” Dr. Burch said.
Get some cat training tape
Cat training tape is double-sided tape specifically designed to deter your cat from scratching.
“Cats do not like having sticky substances on their paws, which will discourage inappropriate scratching,” Dr. Burch said. (And we don’t exactly blame them — that sounds pretty uncomfortable.)
So now that you know why your cat loves to scratch furniture, you should have a game plan for getting him to stop. And that means no more clawed-up couches!
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