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How Do I Stop My Cat From Scratching My Furniture?

Cats not only like to scratch, they have a biological urge to scratch. It’s a natural behavior; they don’t need to be taught how – just where. According to the book Cat Be Good, by Annie Bruce, scratching strengthens a cat’s chest, back, stomach, and shoulders. This exercise releases physical and emotional stress. Cats might scratch because they are bored or frustrated.  Make sure they get plenty of exercise and attention.  See Cats and Exercise for more information. 

Provide cats with enticing alternatives to your furniture, such as scratching posts or trees.There are many types of scratching materials available for cats. Some prefer carpeted surfaces while others prefer a shredable material, like sisal textile. Most cats prefer a vertical surface that allows them to fully stretch their bodies, ideally at least 28 inches tall. A vertical scratching post must have a secure base so it won’t tip over. Some cats prefer horizontal scratching surfaces such as the cardboard scratching boxes that are available at most pet supply stores.

The best way to encourage a cat to use the new scratching post is to place it in the cat’s favorite area. This might be where she was scratching the furniture or where she likes to sleep. Make scratching a pleasant experience; sprinkle catnip on the scratcher and praise the cat copiously when she scratches in the correct place. Cats usually scratch after waking or eating; gently place her by the post at these times, but don’t force her paws on the post. Wiggle a toy near the post so she bats it and praise her as soon as her paws touch the scratcher. Cats learn quickly, especially with positive reinforcement.

As for the furniture . . . cover the areas that were scratched. If the cat was an avid furniture shredder, cover as much furniture as possible with slippery, vinyl-type material to discourage her presence on it. Never yell at the cat or spray her with a water bottle for scratching inappropriately. This only teaches the cat to fear water bottles and the person operating them; it doesn’t teach the cat to stop scratching the furniture. A quiet, but firm, “no” is enough. Then gently carry the cat to her scratcher. Try to avoid reprimands altogether, though, by encouraging use of proper scratchers.

It is a good idea to have multiple scratching posts, even for a single cat. It might take some trial and error to determine her favorite type of scratching material and placement. Scratchers should never be blocked by obstacles or difficult to access. The easier access she has to a scratcher, the less likely she is to use the furniture.

Types of scratchers:

Cat Posts – These are good for working the upper body, taller is better; available in a variety of materials and textures. Find them in pet stores, department stores, and via the internet.

Cat Trees – These are tall scratching posts, usually with platforms or pedestals on which cats can lie; the height helps work upper and lower body. Find them in pet stores and via internet
Tree Limb – Find a long tree limb four to six inches thick with rough bark; secure it in an upright or slanted position by leaning it against something solid or leave it lying horizontal on the floor.

Other – Scratch pads made out of corrugated cardboard are designed to lie flat on the floor; these should be used in addition to posts, not as replacements.

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