The urge to scratch is an instinct housecats come programmed with, much like their insatiable desire to climb. Still wild at heart, they need cat furniture has evolved to meet these needs, but you may need to consider other factors behind this habitual behavior.
There is also an emotional element at play. Cats mark their territory as they scratch through scent glands in their paws. This form of expression is important for your cat’s self esteem and relaxation, and will keep them from lashing out against your sofa. By providing the right scratching outlet, claw maintenance, and deterrents, you can get your cat’s scratching spree under control.
Get the Right Scratching Post
A good scratching post is a key item for every cat owner. If your cats can’t keep their claws off of your favorite sofa, it’s key to provide an alternative that will appeal to them even more. Some key factors that may make or break your cat’s decision to go back to the sofa leg.
Your cat should be able to comfortably stretch out entirely while using the post. For some cats, a satisfying horizontal stretch can be accomplished with a simple cardboard toy on the floor or a horizontal scratching post. Climbing and perching instincts cannot be ignored, so if your cat is a climber, consider a wall-mounted shelf or a large multi-tiered scratching post. The higher the perching surfaces you offer, the safer your drapes will be.
Sisal is the widely-accepted first choice for most cat scratching surfaces. Cats tend to choose its rough-yet-pliable texture over sofa upholstery, which makes it ideal. Sisal is natural and has an incredible durability. Carpet may be cheap and colorful, but it wears out much faster and sheds its fibers. A much more appealing option for the budget-conscious is cardboard. If cats’ obsession with cardboard boxes is any indication, it seems to have a magic power over them. Pressed cardboard is used to make soft and durable scratching toys, and it’s also eco-friendly. The hidden incentive of a catnip infused toy can make the surface even more appealing.
If your cat feels the scratching post wobble, he or she is likely to feel so unsafe as to never use it again. Cats are used to the stability that trees provide in the wild, so aim for something with enough weight to keep it firmly on the ground. A sturdy post is also key for safety, especially of kittens.
Give Your Cat a Manicure
Declawing is a form of surgical amputation which should never be resorted to. More than painful and inhumane, it causes health and behavioral problems. Trimming works well for indoor cats who don’t need their claws for climbing and defense like outdoor cats do. One of the reasons cats scratch is to remove the dull outer layer of their claws.
How to Trim Your Cat’s Claws
With care and practice, you will find the tools and method that work best for your cat. Human nail clippers can work just as well as cat-specific ones with sliding blades. To prevent injuries, make sure the blade of your tool is sharp before you begin. In the case that the nail does bleed, keep cornstarch, styptic powder, or a dry bar of soap on hand to run across the nail.
Once your cat is properly distracted or restrained according to his or her temperament, press down on the top and bottom of the paw to release the claw. Quickly snip as little as possible, avoiding the sensitive pink “quick” area.
An herbal spray applied to your cat’s favorite corners of the couch works by replacing the scent marker left behind by the territorial scratching behavior. Clear double-sided tape works as well, and is also relatively invisible. Cats’ sensitive paws abhor the texture of tacky objects because they have evolved to detect the slightest motions of small prey in the wild.
When all else has failed, misting your cat with a spray bottle filled with water each time they attack your furniture can be effective. Other negative reinforcements such as loud clapping can be considered, but be careful that sensitive cats don’t start to associate fearful feelings with you, but with the specific piece of furniture. See our full training guide here.
With any luck, your cat’s destructive behavior will be channelled into a healthy and happy enjoyment of a scratching post, and a more peaceful home environment for everyone involved.