Destructive scratching can be a problem with cats but they're just exhibiting their natural instincts. As ever, knowledge is power so if you can understand WHY your cat is scratching your beloved sofa or bed, you're half way to solving the problem.
Cats usually scratch for one of three reasons:
- Marking their territory. Scratching is a territorial instinct to mark their turf. Not only do they leave visible claw marks but cat's paws also have scent glands that, in the wild, would tell other cats that this was their territory (much like spraying). This is the main reason they scratch the most visible parts of your house such as the corner of your sofa. Once their scent is on an object, they will return often to re-apply their scent and re-claim their territory. It is therefore an idea to remove the cat's scent from objects the cat has been scratching on but we don't want them to.
- Shapen their claws.Cats use scratching as a way to 'sharpen' their claws as it removed the dead outer layer.
- Exercise.Scratching helps to keep your kitty in shape by stretching the muscles in their front quarters.
- Pleasure.They just like doing it, it feels nice for them.
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You'll never be able to stop a cat from doing something they enjoy and which is a natural instinct to them. What you can do however, is to stop them scratching and destroying your furniture/walls/doors!
Firstly, buy a scratching post. Cats like rough surfaces like tree stumps, however, these aren't really practical to have in your house and you'll be forever hovering up bits of wood. Make sure the post you pick is tall enough so that your cat can fully extend their body and ensure it's really sturdy so it doesn't fall over on top of your kitty when it's being used. Sisal scratching posts are ideal (the textile material like carpet - not the rope) as your cat can shred it to pieces with great satisfaction. (Studies have shown most cats prefer to mark their territory with vertical shredding marks, sisal textile provides the perfect surface for this behaviour.) Don't throw it away when it's shredded. That's when it's broken it in to your cat's satisfaction and will be covered with their scent. There are plenty of examples of scratching posts in the 'Other Resources' section of our online shop.
As mentioned previously, one of the reasons catch scratch is to mark their territory so the scratching post should be placed in an area that is well used and not hidden away in a dark corner. Once you've got your cat merrily scratching away at the post and not your furniture, you can move it somewhere else, such as the corner of the room, but you'll have to do this bit by bit.
Encourage your cat to use the post by enticing them with attention and things they like. Try leaving a few cat biscuits near the post or rub catnip on to it. Play with your cat near the post, try dragging something for them to chase up the post to encourage them to dig their claws in to it. Ensure you reward your cat when they use the post, they'll then associate the post with treats and affection and will be more inclined to use it. Many cats love to scratch when they first wake up in the morning so it might be an idea to have one in the room they sleep in.
At first you may find that your kitty is reluctant to give up their old favourite scratching places. Try and discourage them by covering the area with either double sided tape or tin foil. Cats really don't like the feel of them. As mentioned previously, cats also use scratching to scent their territory to try and get rid of this. You can buy all sorts of different pet odour removers from supermarkets or pet shops or you could use citrus scented sprays around the area as cats really don't like the smell.
If all else fails and your kitty still insists on scratching the furniture, try squirting them with a water spray or clapping your hands loudly and saying 'NO' in a firm voice. However, to be effective, you have to do this when you catch them in the act so they associate scratching that piece of furniture with getting wet or that sharp noise.