How To Keep A Cat From Scratching Furniture
Dr. Joyce Ashamalla
Dr. Joyce Ashamalla is the managing partner at Hinsdale Animal Hospital with Kremer Veterinary Service, as well as a partner at CARE Animal Emergency Hospital. She received her BS in Animal Sciences from the University of Illinois- Champaign Urbana, where she also completed her Doctorate in Veterinary Medicine in 2007. She is AO certified, USDA-APHIS accredited, and is a member of the CVMA, ISVMA, AVMA.
It’s a beautiful Saturday morning. You are in the kitchen making some of your favorite morning java. As the coffee pot hisses and gurgles away, you hear a distant, but distinct ripping sound from the living room. You realize it can only be one thing as you rush out of the kitchen. Turning the corner, you see a little earnest but strained cat face staring at you, as the side of your new couch is getting thrashed by a set of razor sharp kitty claws.
For any cat lover/owner, this scenario has happened many times. A cat’s claws can do a lot of damage to chairs, carpet, couches and drapes. Let’s take a look at why cats scratch things and what we can do to help protect our possessions from the ravages of the silly kitties in our lives.
Why Do Cats Scratch?
It’s easy to think that a cat who scratches on stuff is being a bad kitty. However, it’s important to not assign malicious intent to our beloved felines when they go on a scratching bender. This behavior is normal and instinctual.
Here are some of the main reasons why cats scratch furniture and other things:
- • To remove the outer layer of their claws to keep them sharp and new.
- • To mark territory, leaving not only a visual mark but also their scent.
- • To stretch their arms and legs, as well as a way to flex their paws.
Saving Your Stuff – How To Deal With Scratching
Accept the fact that you are never going to eliminate your cat’s tendency to want to scratch with their claws. But by giving your favorite kitty more constructive outlets to get their scratch on, she can fulfill her natural tendencies and you can keep your furniture and carpets in good condition. Here are some strategies that allow your cat to scratch when they have the need and avoid damage to your stuff:
- • Soft Claws – Not everyone has heard of this, but soft claws are actually little nail caps that you can glue on to kitty’s claws. If you trim the cat’s nails before putting them on, they should last for a few weeks. They will however, eventually fall off once the nails grow back. This product does work really well, but you will have to be watchful that they stay on the nail as long as possible. Think of them as little glove tips on kitty’s claws!
- • Cat Condo – Many people have seen cat scratching posts, but these go one step further. Cat condos are multi-level climbing houses, usually covered in carpeting or rope material. Not only can kitty scratch away at the fabric on the cat condo, but she will love to climb it and sit on one of the various perches it has to offer. The goal for this product is that your cat will eventually prefer to scratch her condo instead of the side of your leather couch. The best part about a cat condo? No monthly maintenance fees!
- • Frequent Nail Trims – In the spirit of minimizing damage to your stuff if kitty does happen to scratch, be sure to keep her claws as short as possible. Trimming a cat’s nails might take some getting used to, but luckily unlike most dogs, you can see the vein (quick) inside of the cat’s nail, so it’s easy to do a good job and avoid injuring her. If you are not comfortable with clipping your cat’s claws, a groomer or vet can do it for you.
- • Fun Toys – Sometimes cats scratch because they are bored. By having some stimulating toys and play things around, you might be able to distract her enough (for the moment) to make her forget about scratching the couch.
Declawing – A Controversial Topic
The most effective way of stopping a cat from damaging your possessions with regard to scratching is declawing. This is a procedure where a vet surgically removes the claw and the area (bone) from which the claw grows. Recovering from the surgery can be painful for a cat and there is a recovery time involved. This procedure has been done for many years, but the topic is very controversial today. In some cases, cat owners who have bleeding issues or are on blood thinners are advised to declaw their cats as an important health precaution. You’ll find that many humane societies are not in favor of declawing and prefer the other methods listed above as alternatives to dealing with scratching problems.
Cats are wonderfully unique animals who bring joy and comfort to millions of grateful owners. It’s important to understand that you are not going to "cure" a cat from their scratching tendencies. In addition, you should never punish a cat for scratching, because they will not understand what you are doing and could learn to fear you. There are some effective strategies to divert the behavior to have less destructive consequences. Work with your kitty on better ways to get her cat scratch on and you will both be a lot happier. The only one who won’t be is the owner of the local upholstery shop!
READ MORE ABOUT PET SAFETY