I completely understand how frustrating it is when your cat is relentlessly scratching your furniture.
Destroying your house with their sharp, deadly little claws…
When I first came home with my cat Nia, she scratched on all of the surfaces in the house, other than the ones I wanted her to scratch.
I will admit, I knew nothing about cats at this point.
And I mean nothing.
All I knew was that I loved her, and I wanted her to be safe from the predators and unpredictability of the outdoors.
(She was an outdoor cat who had gotten attacked by some sort of animal, and almost died. See more on Nia’s story here.)
I honestly don’t even think I had a scratcher for her at first.
So, not surprisingly, she took to scratching up everything in the house…
The couch… The chairs… The side of the bed… The carpet… Door and window frames… The way my kitchen table was designed even provided a nice stable spot for her to scratch.
Basically, anything she could sink her claws into, she did.
The first, and most important, thing to understand is that scratching is a normal, and necessary feline behavior.
So, the idea is NOT to stop it.
The idea is to redirect it.
Even declawed cats hold onto the urge to scratch.
Please don’t ever have a cat declawed to fix a problem!
If you’re someone who has a cat, or maybe more than one, and you have nothing in your house that is specifically for them, then be prepared to make a much needed positive change in your life!
If you’re someone who just can’t get the cat(s) to scratch the objects/surfaces you have provided for them, I promise, you are most likely just missing one or more crucial pieces of the puzzle. This was the case with me for quite some time when I began providing places for Nia to scratch.
So here are all of the puzzle pieces in one place…
The 3 Steps to Stop Your Cat from Scratching Your Furniture and Carpet…
Step #1: Deter
This was a game-changer for me.
You need to make the inappropriate surface that the cat is scratching unpleasant for them even to touch.
There are products you can buy to deter your cat from the furniture/carpet, or you can be creative and use something you already have in the home.
Some good products are:
- Panther Armor has an adhesive backing that can be stuck onto furniture, such as chairs and couches. This makes the surface slippery, so your cat will be unable to scratch it.
- X-Mat is a product that can either be draped over the backs of furniture, set on top of cushions, or put over carpet that is being scratched. It’s a plastic sheet with little nubs that are uncomfortable to walk on. It also works on counters, and underneath of drapes. Useful if your cat loves to go drape climbing!
- You can also use a plastic carpet runner with nubs on the bottom, like this one.
- This is my favorite brand of double-faced tape for scratching troubles.
Some decent home remedies to try out are:
- Aluminum foil: This can be laid over, or wrapped around the arm of a couch, or other furniture.
- A tightly fitted sheet: This is a good option if the entire piece of furniture, and not just one or two areas, is the target.
*I do NOT recommend using citrus deterrents or perfumes as a deterrent. (These don’t usually work, and can be harmful to your cat.)
**I also do NOT advocate the use of a squirt bottle as a deterrent. This never has the desired effect, and can damage the human-cat relationship.
KEEP IN MIND: A DETERRENT IS ONLY TO BE USED IN CONJUNCTION WITH AN APPROPRIATE PLACE TO SCRATCH.NEVER USE A DETERRENT WITHOUT AN ALTERNATIVE PLACE FOR THE CAT TO SCRATCH. THIS WILL ONLY CREATE THE NEED FOR THE CAT TO FIND ANOTHER INAPPROPRIATE PLACE TO SCRATCH.
Lastly, deterrents should be used until the cat is in the habit of scratching their newly designated object.
Once a routine is established, and the scratcher has clearly become your cat’s new territory marker, you may remove the deterrent. (As long as the scratcher is in the same area/room as the inappropriate object.)
Step #2: Redirect
Redirecting the behavior to another object is absolutely essential. If you do not want your furniture scratched, you must provide alternative objects that your cat can OWN.
Scratching behavior is essential to a cat. It is instinctual, and ingrained in them.
Cats Scratch to:
- Mark their territory visually
- Mark their territory through scent from glands in their paws.
- Territorial marking is crucial in order for a cat to feel safe and secure in their environment.
- Shed the dead outer layers from their nails
- Get a good upper body stretch.
Therefore, all you really need to do is redirect that behavior from something you don’t want scratched, to something that is designated specifically to be scratched. Something your cat is able to own and mark freely.
The two most important things when it comes to redirection are:
- what kind of scratchers to get
- where to put the scratchers
Tips For Where to Put the Scratcher(s)
PUT THE SCRATCHER IN FRONT/ON TOP OF THE OBJECT THEY ARE ALREADY SCRATCHING.
You may be thinking… “Uhm, obviously. Where else would I put it?”
This was a stupid mistake I made before I knew any better, and a surprisingly easy mistake to make. So, if you have made it, forgive yourself. It happens to the best of us.
I put the scratchers in places I thought were ideal, instead of paying attention to the spots Nia was clearly telling me were actually ideal for her. You know, the one actually doing the scratching…
It’s easy to put them somewhere that is ideal for you.
Like, “Hey this corner behind the La-Z-Boy is perfect! There’s nothing back here but a giant dust bunny and a dirty sock.”
Well, I can tell you right now that there is a reason those are the only things that are back there…
Remember… Visual and scent marker.
Scratchers need to be in areas that are occupied often by people and cat(s). They need to be relatively out in the open and easily accessible.
For example: If your cat is scratching the couch, use whatever deterrent you have decided on, and stick a scratching post right in front of the spot they’re scratching.
This way, there is very little room for error, and your cat will more than likely be scratching their new spot right away!
*Eventually, after the scratcher is being used exclusively, you can begin to slowly move it away from that spot. If you don’t mind it there, then it’s better not to move it.
Tips for What to Look for in a Scratcher
Choosing a scratcher is just as important as these 3 steps! This can make or break this process.
*Check out this article on what to look for when purchasing a scratcher, and how to assess the one you already have: 3 TRAITS EVERY CAT SCRATCHER MUST HAVE
Step #3: Attract
Now to ensure that your perfect scratcher, that is thoughtfully and perfectly placed, is going to get used you need to entice your cat into using it by making it irresistible.
To Do This:
- Use interactive toys (such as toys with a wand and string attached with toy at the end) or your cat’s favorite toy.
- While you are playing with your cat, move the toy toward the scratcher. This will create a positive association with it, and should peak your cat’s curiosity.
- Rub fresh or dried catnip on the scratcher.
- If your kitty isn’t particularly fond of catnip, try using silvervine instead. All four of my cats love this kind.
- Scratch on it yourself with your nails. I know this sounds a little crazy, and it may feel a little crazy when you do it. But often times the sound will entice cats into scratching it, themselves.
- If you use clicker training with your cat, you can click and reward whenever your cat uses their new scratcher.
- Give your cat treats close to and on the scratcher. Work on that positive association!
This is the ideal type of toy to use to entice your cat:
All 4 of my cats love this toy. Like really, really, love.
Extremely Important Note:
*Do NOT take your cat’s paws and make them scratch any surface (this frightens and confuses them. It will make them even more unlikely to scratch the surface you’re wanting them to.)
Most changes don’t happen overnight. But, geared up with these tools, getting your cat to stop scratching your furniture will be much easier, and a very attainable goal.
These are the tools I wish I’d had when I brought Nia home.
Please leave me a comment below, and let me know if there is a specific topic you would like me to write about, or if you have any questions or comments regarding inappropriate scratching.
Thanks for reading!