One of the most common distress calls I receive is from cat parents upset about their cat’s destructive claws and how to stop cat scratching. While we humans may feel like our cats must secretly hate us (why else would they ruin our brand-new designer sofa?!), they’re really just following their natural instincts when they do a little redecorating with their claws. Here’s how to stop cat scratching that’s destructive and teach cats appropriate scratching behaviors instead.
Why cats scratch
Before we discuss how to stop cat scratching, let’s discuss why cats scratch in the first place. Scratching is a necessary part of every cat’s life. Using those claws helps your cat strengthen the muscles in his paws and, at the same time, it hastens the shedding of the outer layers of the nails to keep them clean and new. It’s the feline version of going to the nail salon.
Using the scent glands in his paws, your cat leaves his mark on the places he likes best to let other felines know to stay away. It’s part of his natural hunting instincts, done to keep his claws at the ready for the next big pursuit.
Simply put, cats must scratch to maintain good paw and nail health. In nature, this would be necessary so they can hunt for their dinner. Plus, it just feels good.
You’ll never be able to stop cat scratching altogether, but you can redirect those urges to more acceptable places.
Create no-scratch zones … with appropriate alternatives
Stop cat scratching that’s unwanted by letting your cat know that certain places in your home are off-limits to his paws of destruction. Stop a cat from scratching furniture by making your furniture unpleasant for your cat to touch. Cover sofas and chairs temporarily with plastic to make it impossible for claws to take hold. Use double-sided sticky tape on furniture, as cats don’t like the sticky feel.
You can also spray furniture and carpets with an orange-scented spray, as most cats don’t like the smell of citrus.
If you do find your cat clawing the no-no places, clap your hands or throw a soft toy for him to chase so he’s distracted. Because your cat must scratch somewhere, have appropriate scratching alternatives available to guide him to those “good” scratching places and away from the no-no spots (see below).
Stop cat scratching from destroying furniture by trimming your cat’s nails!
Trimming your cat’s nails regularly renders them relatively harmless. You can take your cat to a groomer or learn to do it yourself at home. If you’ve never trimmed a cat’s nails before, ask your veterinarian to show you exactly where to cut.
You can also put nail caps over your cat’s front claws to make them harmless to the objects in your home. You can put them on your cat at home or have your veterinarian or groomer do it for you. Nail caps last about six weeks and come in many fun colors, too.
Get your cat to love his scratcher
Offer appealing scratching items to stop cat scratching from destroying your furniture, carpets, etc.
Types of cat scratchers
- If your cat is a rug scratcher, a flat horizontal scratching pad or box works best.
- Cats who like to claw on sofas tend to prefer a vertical scratching post.
- Offer your cat a variety of types and textures, so he won’t get bored with just one. Scratchers let your cat flex his paws and keep his nails filed, while keeping him away from your rug and furniture.
Put scratching pads around your home where your cat likes to hang out.
A place central to the household’s action is ideal, especially if it’s a place where you tend to be. Tucking scratching pads away from everyone won’t stop cat scratching because your cat won’t go out of his way to find and use them.
Put catnip on the scratcher, and lead your cat toward it with toys and treats.
When he chooses the scratching post over your sofa, give him praise and a yummy treat to make it a memorable positive experience.
Should you find him scratching your sofa or carpet, gently guide him to the “good” scratching spots and give him a treat. Bribery works, and he’ll soon get the idea that he gets a reward when he uses the pads and posts instead of the sofa.
Give your cat lots of love and playtime.
One of the most important things to consider when trying to stop cat scratching that’s destructive? Boredom can cause your cat to create his own excitement by attacking your furniture, enabling him to release his pent-up energy at the expense of your décor. Play with your cat daily to tire him out, so he won’t redecorate your house with his claws.
This post was originally published in 2016.
Editor’s note: This article appeared in Kittens, a special issue from Catster magazine. Look for Kittens on a newsstand near you!
Thumbnail: Photography ©w-ings | Getty Images.
About the author:
Devoting her entire life to cats, Rita Reimers is founding owner of JFCATS.com, a feline health and wellness company. JFCATS has been providing cat behavior services and cats-only pet-sitting for the last 15 years. Rita and her business partner, Linda Hall, are also starting a line of USA-made cat toys and bedding called Gracie & Esther. You can reach Rita directly on Facebook and Twitter @TheCatAnalyst and on Instagram @RitaReimersTheCatAnalyst.