How to Get Your Cat to Stop Scratching Your Furniture to Shreds, According to Experts
Furniture scratching. Many cat owners have experienced it. Coming home from work or waking up in the morning only to find the living room sofa, carpet, or armchair now sporting holes, tears, or rips. And, of course, there is only one culprit who could have committed such a crime: the mischievousness cat.
But why does your kitty scratch the furniture? And how can you protect your beautiful furniture from your sassy furball? POPSUGAR turned to the experts to help us understand more about this common feline behavior and ways to stop your cat from turning your furniture into mere shreds.
Why Does My Cat Scratch the Furniture?
Cats scratch because it's in their nature, said Jackson Galaxy, cat behavior and wellness expert, host of Animal Planet's My Cat From Hell, and New York Times bestselling author. "By scratching, they are producing both a visual mark on their territory, as well as a scent marker, as they have scent glands in between all of their pads," he said. "Every time they scratch, they're leaving a scent, and because cats are very territorial, they need to do this." Scratching also helps cats exercise the muscles in their chest and arms and remove any dead sheaths of nail that have built up, Galaxy said.
How Do I Stop My Cat From Scratching the Furniture?
"Having multiple scratching posts throughout your home increases the chance that your cats will use them instead of furniture," said Mikel Delgado, a certified applied animal behaviorist, a postdoctoral veterinary fellow, and Smalls' resident cat expert. She further explained that because every cat has a distinct preference for the texture, sturdiness, size, and angle of scratching posts, it's important to have adequate scratching options that suit your cat's needs. For example, many cats love vertical scratching on tall, sturdy sisal posts, while some enjoy horizontal scratching on a cardboard pad or lounger. If your cat prefers vertical stretchers, it's important to make sure they are tall enough that your cat can stand on their hind legs and get a full stretch, she said. The location of the scratching posts is also very important. Dr. Delgado suggests positioning them in high-traffic areas in your home where your cat sleeps, eats, and plays as well as near any of the furniture your cat scratches. If your cat responds to enrichment, you can use catnip, toys, or treats to motivate your furball to investigate the scratching post, but you should never force the issue, Dr. Delgado said. "What you don't want to do is carry your cat over to the scratching post and move their paws on it," she said, explaining that instead, to encourage appropriate scratching, you should give your cat lots of praise and treats whenever they use the scratching post.
Another way to prevent your cat from scratching on furniture is using Feliscratch by Feliway, said Michelle Burch, DVM, veterinary writer and adviser at Catological. "Feliscratch is a product that has been created to help train your cat to scratch on the appropriate post," she said. "This product replicates feline territorial messages to encourage cats to put their scent on the scratching material." In clinical studies, within the first week of use, Feliscratch helped 85 percent of cats exhibiting destructive scratching to reduce or stop their destructive scratching and 79.7 percent of cats exhibiting unwanted scratching to start using scratching posts.
Discouragement tactics can also help solve inappropriate scratching, Dr. Burch said. One option is placing a piece of aluminum foil on the area in question. "With the foil being slick and shiny, they cannot leave an appropriate scent or groom their nails," she said. Another option is applying plastic tips like Soft Paws to your cat's nails. "Application of the plastic tips will allow your cat to place their scent and stretch on what they perceive is their territory," Dr. Burch said. Ranging from clear to a variety of colors and designs, the plastic tips tend to stay in place for six to eight weeks. They can be glued in place at home, or many veterinary hospitals can apply them for you. One last option is using a double-sided tape product like Sticky Paws. "Cats do not like having sticky substances on their paws, and this will help discourage that inappropriate scratching," she said. The transparent adhesive strips can be applied directly to furniture and other household items. They are unlikely to harm most furniture and won't leave a sticky residue when removed. "Once these products have done their job of discouragement and you have retrained your cat to scratch in an appropriate location, you can remove the distractors," Dr. Burch said.
If all else fails, Dr. Burch suggests using loud noise or spray bottles to prevent your cat from scratching the furniture. However, such methods should be used as a last resort since they're considered negative reinforcement. "Negative reinforcement can, at times, backfire and result in cats scratching more on furniture," she said. "In some cases, it does help prevent the destruction of your furniture."
Will Trimming My Cat's Nails Curb the Clawing Habit?
"Nail trims are good for your cat's health, but they don't take away your cat's need to scratch!" Dr. Delgado said. That's why it's so important to have a few good scratching options. That said, trimming your cat's nails can be helpful in reducing any damage done during scratching and preventing your cat's claws from getting stuck in everything, she said. If you decide to trim your cat's nails, Dr. Delgado suggests using treats to help your cat accept nail trims, going slowly, and reaching out to your vet if you have any questions or concerns.
Should I Have My Cat Declawed to Prevent Destructive Scratching?
Many experts do not recommend declawing your cat as it can lead to medical and behavioral problems. "Long-term medical problems include lameness, constant pain, and rarely chronic self-mutilation of the surgical region," Dr. Burch said. She further explained that 33 percent of declawed cats develop long-term behavioral problems, including increased aggression and urinating or defecating outside the litter box.