Scratching is a natural, instinctual behavior for cats. Cats scratch to remove the dead outer layer of their claws, to mark their territory, and to stretch their bodies. The best way to prevent your cat from scratching your furniture, carpeting, or draperies is to provide and encourage your cat to use a scratching post and to make objects you don’t want your cat to scratch less appealing to her.
Choosing a Scratching Post
Cat scratching posts come in a wide variety of shapes, sizes, and materials. Choosing the right one for your cat may involve some trial and error as well as observing your cat’s scratching behavior.
Cardboard scratchers are good to try out first if you aren’t sure what kind of scratching post your cat will like since they are relatively inexpensive and many cats find them appealing to scratch.
If you’re looking for a more durable option, you may want to choose a carpeted or sisal scratching post. Many cats will enjoy scratching a carpeted post, but the problem is they may not be able to differentiate between the carpet on the scratching post that they’re allowed to scratch and the carpet on your floor that you don’t want them to scratch. A scratching post covered with sisal rope avoids this confusion.
Cats who currently or have previously spent time outdoors are likely used to scratching on trees and may enjoy a wood scratching post for indoor use.
Another thing to consider is whether your cat prefers a vertical or horizontal scratching surface, and whether vertical or horizontal, the length of the scratching area should be at least one and a half times the length of your cat to allow him to stretch fully when scratching. The post should also be sturdy enough not to wobble when your cat uses it.
Introducing the Scratching Post to Your Cat
Place at least one scratching post on each floor of your home in the areas where your cat spends the most time. Place a post in front of any piece of furniture that your cat has already shown an interest in scratching to encourage her to scratch the post instead. You can also increase the new scratching post’s appeal by rubbing some catnip on it.
Also, when it comes time to replace a scratching post that’s starting to look ragged, don’t throw the old one out right away. Chances are your cat finds the old post familiar and comforting because it is impregnated with her scent. Instead, place the new scratching post next to it, and wait until you see your cat routinely using the new post before removing the old one.
Deterring Unwanted Scratching
Now that your cat has an alternative to scratching your furniture, you need to make the things you don’t want your cat to scratch less appealing to him. Double sided tape, aluminum foil, sandpaper, or plastic carpet protectors with the pointy side up all have unappealing textures to cats and can be placed in areas that your don’t want your cat scratching as a deterrent. You will need to leave these items in place until your cat is consistently using the scratching posts, then you can remove them one at a time.
If you catch your cat scratching something he’s not supposed to, don’t yell, hit, scold, or otherwise punish him. Your cat won’t necessarily make the connection between his scratching and your actions, and may become fearful of you instead. Gently remove your cat from the area he’s not supposed to be scratching, place him on or near the scratching, reward or praise him if he scratches, and use one of the methods above to deter him from scratching in the wrong place again.
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