Do you want to stop your cat from scratching furniture? Your good relationship and your patience with your actually idolized cat is slowly crumbling? You may have already spent a lot of money on one or even several scratching posts and still prefer your expensive, beautiful furniture and other furnishings? Your wallpaper is hanging in shreds or your favorite carpet can now be seen the many attacks of your cat’s claws? You just don’t understand your cat anymore and don’t know what to do next? Then this post is your must-read!
This post is supposed to be about why. Why do cats scratch at all and why also on the furniture and not on the expensive (new) scratching post. The second part is about the scratching post and its suitability. Only when you learn to understand your cat better can you significantly reduce or even completely train this undesirable behavior through education and with targeted tricks and measures, which is what the third part of my contribution is about. But what I can tell you now is that it will take time. This requires patience and perseverance!
The 4 steps to saving your furniture and the good cat-human relationship:
Step 1: understand why every cat scratches and cannot do anything else!
- Cat scratching is a natural, innate behavior and there are several reasons.
- The cat has scent glands on its paws under its bales. By spreading these fragrances (by scratching) they mark their territory . It lets other cats know that this is their territory and that the intruders have no business there.
- The scratching just feels good because it is a kind of paw massage for cats . Because scratching stretches the front limbs. Similar to what we humans do when we treat ourselves to a hand massage again.
- But scratching is essential, above all, for daily claw care . Cats instinctively try to keep their claws in tip-top condition because they help them to survive in the wild. Outside, the claws wear out much faster because they have a lot more exercise space and countless tree trunks and other things to scratch. On the one hand, the claw care is used to sharpen the claws, because over time they simply become dull. On the other hand, the old, top layers of the claws must be removed. Sometimes they just tear off this outer shell with their teeth. Now you also know why claws are lying around on the floor in the apartment.
- In addition to the natural scratching behavior, there is also the unnatural, pathological scratching. Excessive scratching can be a sign of stress and insecurity . Maybe you have several cats in the house and your cat feels uncomfortable due to bullying, arguments or other disagreements in the cat group. Perhaps she is of the opinion that she has to mark her part of the area particularly strongly in order to survive in the group. Large changes such as moving or moving furniture or a new human family member ( jealousy ) can also lead to this protest behavior. Boredom too can be a reason and is also part of unnatural scratching behavior because it doesn’t get enough employment.
- Another very banal reason is that cats have fun ! Especially on your beautifully soft microfiber sofa.
- So you see: it is not possible to get used to general scratching. You have to offer her good alternatives.
Step 2: the right scratching post. Is the cat tree that you have in the apartment also cat-friendly?
- A good, sensible cat tree is the prerequisite for getting used to scratching furniture can also be successful.
- A cat tree must be stable and not wobble. Tipping over should therefore be excluded. There are scratching posts with extra heavy and large floor slabs. A wall bracket can also help. Ceiling tensioners are inherently very stable. Once the tree has tipped over with the cat, it will understandably avoid it in the future.
- Scratching possibilities: First and foremost, the beauty and design of the scratching post is not important. The tree may be beautiful, but if it is not adequately scratched, it just makes little sense. The sisal trunks should be at least 9 cm in diameter and long enough so that the cat can scratch them. It is not uncommon for the scratching posts to have trunks that are far too short. 70 – 90 cm length with at least one scratching stem is a good guide – depending on the size of your cat.
- Of course, it is never wrong to provide the cat with several scratching furniture. Scratching boards or scratching posts can also create additional scratching possibilities.
- Take a look at your scratching post and check whether these basic requirements are really met. If not, then it is understandable why your cat is looking for other – better – objects to scratch. Here you should retrofit quickly!
Step 3: Stop your cat from scratching furniture with targeted measures, education and some tricks
1.) targeted measures:
- Moving the scratching post: Sometimes this is a success. It is best to place it where your cat prefers to enjoy scratching. It is best to place it centrally in the living room. Because here your cat has the best overview of what is happening. It makes sense to set up the scratching post near your sleeping place (if it is not the scratching post itself), because cats particularly like to scratch and stretch right after waking up.
- Offer more scratching options / alternatives: So that she almost trips over it. There are cats who simply do not like to scratch vertical sisal trunks, but rather prefer horizontal scratch carpets. Some prefer sisal, others carpet, etc. If your cat is constantly scratching the carpet, this can be a sign of it. Lay out scratch carpets! If your cat is particularly scratching the wallpaper at one point, you can try hanging or nailing a scratching board or scratching carpet right there. And praise your cat as soon as it scratches it. And give her negative feedback in the form of a strict, firm “NOIN” (don’t scream) if she tries to scratch the wallpaper elsewhere. It may also be feasible on your sofa to attach a scratching board to the scratching point.
- Cutting claws: To minimize the destructive power of the sharp claws, you should keep your cat’s claws short. I know that is not an easy task and really not possible for every cat. I can sing a song about it! If you have a young cat, you’re in luck. Start right away and practice cutting the claws with her. Very slowly. It is more difficult with older cats. It is not uncommon for this to backfire or your own arm to become a scratch target. And that hurts and is not without danger! I too was sitting in the emergency room because of a scratched arm – but that’s another topic! Back to the topic. Buy good claw scissors for cats. They are cheap and easy to use. Make sure you are smart about the procedure beforehand – not that your cat is (still) injured.
- More activity: deal with your cat as often as possible. Especially when you are not at home during the day, she has to get your attention even more in the evening. Address a lot, often stroking, brushing, playing several times and intelligence training. Feeding games, hide and seek games, hunting games. It is also the same with humans. If you are always bored, you will come up with stupid ideas at some point. Every neglect lets your cat feel you!
- Attention when buying furniture: if you plan to treat yourself to a new couch (perhaps also because the old one is already completely torn apart), then you should think about the fabric. As already mentioned, a firm microfiber couch is very popular for scratch orgies. Leather, on the other hand, is often too smooth and gives way too quickly. Cats don’t find wool-like furniture that interesting either. It is better to think about a soft, woolly, smooth or particularly fluffy (giving way) couch than a square, firm one.
2.) Educational measures:
- Zero tolerance limit for undesirable behavior and much praise for correct behavior: As soon as you catch your cat scratching furniture, you have to react immediately with a strict, hard “NEEEINN” or a sharp, hissing “AUSS”. Do not shout your cat together completely, this is anything but beneficial. Even a hissing like cats would do if something does not suit them is a clear signal for your cat: “My behavior is not ok.” Then carry her calmly to her scratching post. If she scratches her trunk afterwards, praise what she can do. Give her treats and then play with her – there is something to celebrate! The zero tolerance limit also applies to all other undesirable behaviors, such as stealing food from the kitchen or from the dining table
- The water sprayer:(Toy syringe or spray bottle without a hard jet) is an option, but very controversial. If you catch the cat in the act, you can give the cat a short spray from an ambush (without the cat seeing where the nasty jet is coming from). Such a jet of water is very uncomfortable for cats. They would run away immediately and let go of the piece of furniture. But: Even if this method is painless. Cats are clever animals and they will know exactly who they owe the wet shower to after the 3rd time at the latest. And then trust and good relationships may be over. For one thing, it could pose a threat to the cat, which can lead to aggressive behavior towards you. Second, there are cats who are extremely panicky about water and these unexpected water splashes, are completely frightened and no longer feel safe in their own 4 walls. Therefore, the water spray should be used with caution. On the other hand, there are also water rats among the cats who don’t care about a splash of water!
3.) Apply tricks:
- Catnip, catnip: Many cats love the scent of catnip. Spray or rub the scratching trunks or other allowed scratching objects with catnip. This can help make the scratch object more interesting.
- Cat pheromones: If the excessive scratching is stress-related, so-called pheromones such as “Feliway” can help. When cats rub their heads on chair legs or human legs, they mark their comfort zone with their feel-good fragrances. These pheromones are formed in the lower part of the face and released into the environment through special glands. You then perceive this smell and feel comfortable and safe. If for whatever reason the cat is now exposed to great stress and therefore scratches more, these pheromones can be sprayed onto the affected areas. The cat feels more comfortable and the stress subsides. As a result, the cat scratches less. There are also pheromone plugs for the outlet. This exudes the feel-good fragrance throughout the apartment.
- Protect furniture: If you are not at home, it is difficult to prevent furniture scratching. Then you can protect your furniture that your cat likes to scratch with double-sided adhesive tape or aluminum foil. Plastic film (e.g. tarpaulin) that you throw and fix over the entire sofa can also help. The sensitive cat paws don’t like sticky surfaces, any more than the smooth, crackling surface of the aluminum foil. You can also place noisy objects that tip over on the couch when touched. As soon as she scratches it, they fall down – the cat will look far.
- Fragrances: cats hate citrus fruits. Place oranges or lemon peels around the sofa or on the backrest or spray the areas with a water-orange / lemon fragrance mixture. This can prevent your cat from scratching for a short time.
- Bribery through toys, treats: Try to keep your cat from scratching the sofa or wallpaper as often as possible by distracting them. Quickly cast a cat fishing rod or the beloved valerian pillow and she runs after and has forgotten it. Just offer her something better than the furniture. Deal with her.
The most important thing is to be patient and not to give up so quickly. Punishment usually only helps in the short term. You should provide enough alternatives and deal with them extensively.
If all of this does not lead to any improvement (because perhaps the stress in the cat group is just too great), then there is the option of visiting an animal trainer or animal psychologist who will come to your apartment and analyze your cat and behavior closely and helps you actively.