Furniture and felines

Cats don’t set out to destroy your furniture - scratching is natural for them. Fortunately, there are ways to stop their scratching...

Has your cat ruined another couch? While you can’t stop your cat from scratching completely, there are ways to make it less destructive.

When you bring a new cat into your home nothing is safe from their claws. Not because they go out of their way to be destructive (however much it may feel that way) but because scratching is simply part of their nature.

Cats scratch for a number of reasons, including marking their territory, sharpening their claws, having a good scratch for exercise, or even when they’re excited. So, while stopping your cat from scratching completely is almost impossible, there are ways you can reduce how destructive their scratching is to your house and furniture.

Here are some tips to get you started:

1. Get them a scratching alternative

There are now many products on the market that you can offer your cat as an alternative to scratching your couch, carpet, or curtains, including scratch mats and poles.

Before deciding which one you think your cat might like, take note of what kind of surfaces they like to scratch and try to match this as closely as possible. However, if your cat likes to scratch anything and everything, having a few different options on hand may be the way to go.

You may also consider getting more than one if you have multiple cats, as felines are not always keen to share.

2. Get them used to their new scratching post

Once you’ve purchased their new scratching post or pad, it’s time to get your cat interested in it. They may naturally gravitate towards them, or you may need to entice them with catnip, treats, or their favourite toys.

If your cat likes to play with you, incorporate the acceptable scratching surface into your games.

Where you place the scratching post is also important, as cats are creatures of habit. So, if they’ve enjoyed scratching your couch, place their new scratching post right next to it.

3. Remove their favourite scratching items

This might be difficult – especially if your cat is used to scratching at items you use every day. However, minimising your cat’s contact with their favourite table leg to scratch may help them break the habit and direct them instead to scratch the item you got them instead.

If you can’t remove the item, then make it less desirable for your cat to hook their claws into it. Doctoring the surface to make it slicker or stickier, or otherwise unpleasant to scratch – like using sandpaper – will discourage your cat from scratching it.

Finally, keep in mind that stopping your cat from scratching could be a process that takes a while, as it’s unlikely your cat will make the switch overnight. Be patient and use every opportunity to redirect your cat's scratching as appropriate, and don’t resort to punishment or other negative association techniques. This could stress your cat or cause them to become afraid of you.