Why do cats scratch furniture?
Cats scratch to remove worn parts of their nails and to mark their territory with scent and visual markings. They choose scratching sites that have short-napped surfaces, won’t tip over, and tend to be near sleeping areas. As far as cats are concerned, couches and upholstered chairs fit these criteria nicely. Most cats will use a scratching post instead, if their owner teaches them to use it.
Tips for buying or making a scratching post
- The post should be tall enough for the cat to completely stretch out and have a base wide or heavy enough that it won’t tip and scare the cat.
- Short-napped carpeting, the burlap backing of carpeting, upholstery material, sisal rope, tree bark or cardboard are good surfacing materials.
- Post alternatives include: nailing a log to a base, or tacking the covering to a door, corner of a wall or other vertical surface.
- Spray the post with catnip or attach a catnip toy to it with heavy elastic to entice the cat to play there.
Training your cat to use the post
- To prevent inappropriate scratching during training, temporarily cover scratched areas on your furniture with a less desirable scratching material such as heavy plastic, or confine your cat when you can’t watch it. Put the post near the place your cat scratches or sleeps.
- Praise the cat when it uses the post. You can try leaving a treat on the post as a reward, too.
- If you see your cat scratching elsewhere, squirt it with a water bottle or make a loud noise. The cat will associate this negative experience with the furniture instead of you. Then place the cat’s feet on the post and praise it.
- As the post gets scented by the cat’s feet and torn up, it will become more attractive to the cat. Once your cat is using the post consistently, you can move the post a few feet each day until it is located in a more convenient place.
Trimming your cat’s nails every two weeks can reduce damage to furnishings during training.
Extend the cat’s nail by pressing on its toe pad, then use human or pet nail trimmers to snip off the hooked end of the claw. Avoid cutting the quick (a pink area in the center of the nail) that contains a nerve and blood vessel. Your vet or shelter staff can demonstrate this for you. Temporary plastic nail caps, are another option you can discuss with your vet.
Declawing is an operation that amputates the last bone in each toe. There is pain and risk of infection during recovery. Because of these factors, we do not recommend such cruel alternative.
If you absolutely must have a declawed cat, we encourage you to adopt one that has already been declawed. Shelters almost always have declawed adults available for adoption.
Owners of declawed cats should keep the following points in mind:
- Declawed cats must be kept indoors for their safety. This may be difficult to ensure if there are small children in the home.
- If cornered or provoked, a declawed cat may bite to defend itself, since it can’t scratch. This may also be a concern if there are young children in the family.
- Cats and especially kittens, declawed or not, may cause damage by running and jumping. Persons intolerant of any damage should carefully consider whether a cat is the right pet for their household.