Cats scratching your furniture can be frustrating, but it’s important to understand that scratching is a natural behavior for them. Instead of labeling it as “inappropriate,” consider finding a suitable outlet for your cat to express this instinctual behavior. By providing them with alternatives and redirecting their scratching, you can protect your furniture, carpet, and personal belongings. Let’s explore why cats scratch and how you can address this behavior effectively.
Why Do Cats Scratch Furniture?
Scratching is an instinctive behavior deeply rooted in cats. From marking territory to sharpening their nails, scratching serves several purposes. Cats scratch surfaces to leave visual and chemical cues for other cats, indicating their presence and status. It’s also a way for them to stretch, release tension, and relieve anxiety. In the wild, scratching tree trunks is common, but in our homes, your furniture may become their target due to their natural preference for vertical surfaces.
Why Do Cats Scratch the Floor or Carpet?
While cats are inclined to scratch vertical surfaces, they may also scratch horizontal surfaces like carpet. Although it may not serve as a territorial marker, it allows them to stretch, sharpen their nails, and alleviate anxiety. Carpet’s texture and immobility make it an appealing scratching option.
To prevent undesirable scratching, it’s crucial to identify your cat’s preference—vertical, horizontal, or both—and provide appropriate solutions.
How to Stop Cats From Scratching Couches and Other Furniture
The first step is to offer your cat suitable alternatives. Scratching posts are excellent tools for this purpose. Choose a tall scratching post that allows your cat to stretch fully, ensuring it has a sturdy base to prevent tipping.
1. Find the Right Scratching Post Material
Since each cat has their own preferences, pay attention to their scratching behavior to determine the best material for the scratching post. Experiment with upholstery fabric, sisal rope, carpet, wood, or cardboard. Adjust the angle and position of the scratching post to accommodate your cat’s preferences.
2. Put the Scratching Posts in the Right Places
Place the scratching posts near your cat’s favorite furniture in areas where your family spends time. Cats are social creatures and enjoy having their resources close to other household members. Avoid hiding the scratching post in a secluded area. For multi-cat households, provide multiple scratching posts to prevent resource competition.
3. Teach Your Cat To Use Scratching Posts
Encourage your cat to use the scratching posts by modeling the behavior yourself. Run your fingernails over the posts to pique their interest. Sprinkle catnip on the posts or offer high-value treats and praise each time they use the scratching post instead of the furniture.
4. Keep Your Cat Away From the Furniture
Discourage your cat from returning to scratching furniture by using motion-detection air spray cans near the furniture. These cans emit a hissing noise when triggered, interrupting the behavior and redirecting their attention to the scratching post. You can also try other deterrents such as citrus-based sprays, double-sided sticky tape, or covering furniture with blankets or plastic sheets. Additionally, use odor-neutralizing enzymatic cleaning products to eliminate their scent-gland pheromones from furniture.
5. Soothe Your Cat’s Anxiety
Excessive scratching may indicate underlying anxiety. Calming supplements and medications prescribed by a veterinarian, such as Purina Pro Plan Calming Care probiotic powder or fluoxetine (Prozac) and sertraline (Zoloft), can help address anxiety-related behaviors. Prioritize an appointment with your vet to discuss the best options for your cat.
6. Give Your Cat Plenty of Enrichment Activities
Providing enrichment activities can help reduce excessive scratching. Cat trees, perches by windows, interactive playtime, leash training, and a protected outdoor space (a “catio”) can engage your cat’s senses and fulfill their natural instincts.
7. Work With a Cat Behavior Specialist
If the scratching behavior persists, it’s beneficial to seek guidance from a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist (CAAB) or a board-certified veterinary behaviorist. These professionals can offer expert advice on reducing excessive scratching through a combination of medications, supplements, and behavioral modification techniques tailored to your cat’s needs.
How to Stop Cats From Scratching the Carpet and Flooring
Similar principles apply to address scratching on horizontal surfaces such as carpet and flooring. Experiment with different materials for scratching boards that closely match the type of flooring your cat prefers to scratch. Fabric-based or cardboard-based scratching boards that tear easily and provide a satisfying scratch are typically appealing to cats.
Place multiple scratching boards in high-traffic areas, close to the locations where your cat scratches. Use deterrents like Feliway Classic spray, enzymatic cleaners, or citrus sprays to discourage scratching the carpet. Reward your cat with high-value treats, toys, catnip, and praise for using the scratching boards instead. Regular nail trimming and plastic nail caps can also help minimize carpet damage while training your cat to use the scratching boards.
If anxiety contributes to excessive scratching, consult a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist or board-certified veterinary behaviorist, who can help develop a comprehensive plan that includes calming supplements, medications, and behavioral modifications.
What Not To Do When Your Cat Scratches Furniture and Carpeting
Certain approaches are ineffective or even harmful when trying to address your cat’s scratching behavior:
Declawing Your Cat
Declawing is an extremely painful procedure and should never be considered. It doesn’t remove the drive to scratch; it only frustrates cats and can lead to anxiety and aggression.
Punishing Your Cat
Punishing your cat for scratching with yelling, water spraying, or throwing objects is counterproductive. These techniques create anxiety, fear-based aggression, and damage your bond with your cat. Instead, focus on positive reinforcement to encourage desirable behavior.
Forcing Your Cat To Use a Scratcher
Avoid physically forcing your cat to use a scratching post or board. This can cause anxiety, fear, or aggression. Let your cat explore it naturally and reward them for using it voluntarily.
Remember, with patience, appropriate alternatives, and positive reinforcement, you can redirect your cat’s scratching and protect your beloved furniture and carpets. For more information, visit Katten TrimSalon.