Save the Furniture: Cats and Scratching

By: Talin Seta Shahinian

Sharing your life with a feline friend has a host of benefits. Their companionship and love make a house a home. Naturally, you want to keep your home intact too, and that means finding ways to deter your cat from scratching up the furniture, curtains, rugs, and stairs. While it may pose a bit of a challenge, there are ways to ensure that your kitty can coexist with your household items without damaging them.

Why Do Cats Scratch?

The first thing you need to know about cats and their claws is that scratching is natural in the wild. It’s instinctual and serves a variety of needs, including:

  • It’s the way that cats trim their claws, scratching files down the ends of their claws, and helps them shed off the dead outer husks of their claws.
  • Cats have scent glands located between their paw pads. When they scratch any surface, they leave behind their unique signature smell. In addition to the scent, the husks of claws that shed when they scratch and the scratch marks left behind remind the cat of their scratching spot and leave a message for other cats nearby.
  • It’s a way they stretch their bodies, especially just after waking up from a nap.
  • They may scratch when stressed out or upset as a form of stress relief.

Wild By Nature

Hence, cat scratching isn’t a destructive behavior that needs to be corrected. Instead, it’s a natural, innate behavior that needs to be redirected when a cat is living indoors. This is especially true of an indoor-only cat who doesn’t have the opportunity to go outside and scratch on trees, logs, and other surfaces. Some cases of destructive scratching may result from a behavioral issue. Still, it’s important to realize that scratching is a built-in need that all cats share; therefore, working with it is better than working against it.

Scratch, Meet Your Match

All indoor cats need a good scratching post or scratching box. There is a wide variety of scratching posts and boxes that are available. Some are made of jute or sisal, and some boxes are made of corrugated cardboard arranged in a wavy pattern within a box that cats can stand in as they scratch. For cats that tend to scratch vertically, such as on couch or chair arms or drapes, a good scratching post may be your best bet. For cats that tend to scratch carpets or lower stairs, a scratching box may be better. However, it can’t hurt to have one of each in your home.

Make sure to buy a scratching post with a sturdy base, so it doesn’t easily topple over. You also want to purchase a tall post for your cat to be able to scratch if they are standing up at their full height on their hind legs. Here’s a variety of scratching posts, boxes, and hanging scratchers for your feline friend Chewy – Cat Scratchers. Also, check out the selection at your local pet store or the pet section of a department store.

Encouraging the Use of Appropriate Scratching Areas

If your cat isn’t attracted to their scratching post or box, there are ways to get them interested; including sprinkling catnip on the corrugated cardboard, treating the scratching post with catnip spray, or leaving some kibble on it. Other ways to encourage your cats to use the post rather than your furniture. You can use positive reinforcement by giving them a few cat treats after using the scratching post or box. Be sure to provide healthy doses of praise and pet them when using the proper scratching areas.

While cats rarely understand English (even the most talkative of felines!), they certainly do get messages from our tone of voice, energy, body language, and overall interactions with them. This is particularly true if you have a strong bond with your cat. You can use this to your advantage to encourage and positively reinforce proper scratching behaviors.

Discouraging Destructive Scratching Behaviors

Conversely, if your cat scratches the furniture, drapes, carpeting, or anything else they’re not supposed to, ignore them and do not give them any attention. It might take a while, but they will get the message. Giving them negative attention, in the form of scolding them or spraying them with a water bottle, is not a good idea. First of all, your cat will merely become afraid of you. Secondly, it won’t stop them from engaging in the negative behavior you wish to discourage.

What About Declawing?

Declaw surgeries are on the decline because more pet owners understand the extent of a declaw surgery on their cats. Declaw surgery removes your cat’s claws by removing the last bone in your cat’s toes to ensure that the claw doesn’t grow back. As you can imagine, this can be quite painful for cats and potentially cause health issues in the future. If you must declaw, please consider finding a veterinarian who uses a laser to remove the claws and is aggressive with pain management to give your kitty the best chance of a healthy and less painful declaw.

If you live in NW Wisconsin, Purple Cat Mobile Vet Clinic is here to help you keep your cat healthy and happy. We’re a high-quality, high-volume, low-cost spay/neuter clinic. We see cats exclusively. Scheduling information is available on our website. You can also check out our Facebook page for more helpful information on all things feline!


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