Scratching is a natural and necessary behavior for cats — but sometimes a feline’s innate need to scratch her claws doesn’t fit neatly with our own ideas about home decor. This can be especially so if you live in a place with carpeted floors or rugs, which can prove alluring to a cat’s claws. But it doesn’t have to be that way: Let’s figure out how to stop a cat scratching carpet.
“Scratching is a normal behavior that’s important for not just a cat’s physical health but also their emotional and mental health,” says Andrea Y. Tu, DVM, the Medical Director and American College of Veterinary Behaviorists Resident at Behavior Vets of NYC. Dr. Tu adds that scratching is vital for a cat to shed her nails, which grow in layers; the motion also helps stretch out a feline’s back, which in turn releases tensed-up energy in her muscles.
Beyond the physical benefits of a cat scratching, Dr. Tu says there’s also a communication element involved in the action: “Cats in the wild will scratch along tree trunks and leave tracks and also pheromones, which they pass information through — so it’s kinda like cat Facebook.” Because scratching is such a big part of a cat’s daily operations, it’s natural they might find themselves drawn to using carpet as an impromptu scratching post.
The likelihood of a cat scratching a particular carpet comes down to a mix of personality and personal preference. “Some cats really prefer that deep carpet texture, but others prefer sisal,” says Dr. Tu. “It’s kinda like asking somebody if they prefer Charmin ultra soft or Charmin regular toilet paper! You just have to try it out.”
Cats can also be divided into those felines who like to scratch vertically, and those kitties who choose to scratch horizontally. A vertical scratcher is looking for something akin to a tree trunk — so you’ll need to provide a cat scratching post tall and sturdy enough for the entire cat to reach up to. But a horizontal scratcher will be perfectly happy scratching her claws on a carpet. Figuring out which camp your cat fits into is key to working out how to stop a cat scratching carpet.
“Cats are not scratching to be [jerks] — this is natural behavior that needs to occur,” reiterates Dr. Tu. “But in many households, people don’t understand that so they will oftentimes not provide a scratching post and so the cat needs an outlet and finds something to scratch.”
On this basis, to stop a cat scratching carpet, first you’ll need to redirect your cat towards an appropriate scratching solution: Figure out if you’re living with a vertical or horizontal scratcher and pick up a suitable scratching device. Dr. Tu says her previous cat, Hazelnut, gravitated toward upright sisal scratching posts, so she provided one that was very tall. She characterizes her current cat, Kahlua, as “a carpet scratcher who prefers horizontal scratching, so I got her a long scratching post because I know she likes that set up.” Before splurging on a new scratching post, watch your cat’s scratching habits and learn what her preferences are.
If your cat still seems reluctant to stop scratching your carpet, the next step is to look into humane deterrents. Dr. Tu recommends the Feliway brand of products, which are based around feline pheromone science and mimic the natural cues a cat uses to choose a certain spot to scratch; blue dye is applied to a scratching post to replicate the grooves a kitty would leave on a tree trunk, and the product also contains catnip. The idea is to attract the cat away from your carpets or furniture and toward the scratching post by tapping into the pheromones cats instinctively react to.
Ultimately, when you’re thinking about how to stop a cat scratching carpet, realize that it’s down to you as the cat’s guardian to provide a more alluring scratching option. As Dr. Tu says, “Scratching is a behavior cats have to do — so you need to redirect them to an appropriate outlet.”
Thumbnail: Photography © krblokhin | iStock / Getty Images Plus.
Phillip Mlynar spends his days writing about cats, hip-hop and craft beer, often while being pestered by his rescue, a mackerel tabby named Mimosa. When he’s not musing on the feline form for Catster, you can find his music articles at Pitchfork, Vice, Bandcamp and Red Bull Music Academy, and his beer insights over at CraftBeer, VinePair and October. He’s won various awards at the Cat Writer’s Association Communication Contests, some of which are proudly on display at his local dive bar in New York City. Twitter: twitter.com/phillip_mlynar