It can be frustrating and even expensive if your cat scratches your furniture or carpets. However, it is important to understand that scratching is a normal behavior for all cats and serves important functions as well.
Cats Scratch for a Variety of Reasons
- To maintain the necessary claw motion used in hunting and climbing, as well as a way to stretch their body.
- A means of communication between cats, leaving both scent and visible markers that this is their territory.
- To keep their nails well-groomed, remove the old nail sheaths, and expose the new nail growth inside.
So, instead of trying to get your cat to stop scratching, train her to a scratching post or cat tree that is acceptable to you – and your cat!
What Makes a Good Scratching Post or Pad?
- Size and Shape: Most cats like to scratch vertically and need a post that is taller than their body length so that they can fully stretch and give a good scratch. If your cat is scratching carpet, try using a horizontal scratcher, to see if she prefers that shape.
- Texture: The texture of the scratching posts is also important. Many cats prefer sisal rope; others prefer corrugated cardboard or carpet on the scratching post.
- It is important to experiment with a variety of textures and types of scratchers to determine which your cat prefers.
Ways to Train Your Cat to Use the Scratching Post
- If your cat is scratching on furniture or carpet, do not punish her. Instead, pay attention to your
cat’s position when scratching and the texture of the material to identify better choices for scratching posts for your cat.
- Place the scratching post next to the furniture being scratched and reward your cat when she uses scratching post. You may need to try multiple scratchers with different types or textures before learning your cat’s preference.
- Location is very important.
- Cats often stretch or scratch when they wake up, so place one near your cat sleeping area.
- Consider placing a scratching post or pad near where your cat is currently scratching that is undesirable (i.e. in front of a couch leg).
- If your cat scratches somewhere other than the scratching post or pad; gently pick her up, take her to the scratcher, and then reward her.
Other Important Tips to Keep in Mind
- Regular nail trimming – By regularly trimming your cat’s nails, you can prevent injury and damage to household items. Visit our nail trimming page for tips and a video.
- Synthetic facial pheromone sprays/ diffusers – If your cat continues to scratch on undesired objects, it may be related to stress, anxiety, attention seeking, or lack of perceived security in her environment. Anxiety can be intensified by punishment, thus driving your cat to increase her undesired scratching behavior. Consider trying synthetic facial pheromone sprays and/or diffusers to help relieve your cat’s anxiety or stress. Apply the product on objects or areas in your home where your cat has exhibited undesired scratching. First make sure to clean with soap and water to remove the communication marketing scents left by your cats paws. Apply daily comforting pheromones to help prevent your cat’s need to mark these areas again. The product should not be sprayed on the desired scratcher you want your cat to use.
- Appropriate environmental enrichment – Make sure you provide your cat with an enriching environment so she has appropriate objects to scratch and play with in your home. Destructive scratching can occur if your cat’s needs have not been fully met.
- Temporary synthetic nail caps – these can be glued over your cat’s nails and usually need to be reapplied every 4-6 weeks therefore they may be a less desirable alternative to the other methods listed here.
- Rewards and positive reinforcement – Remember that your cat learns best through positive reinforcement. As you are redirecting your cat to use her new scratching post or pad, try and make sure you give your cat a reward immediately (within 3 seconds) to really reinforce the positive behavior. It is important to remember that you need to find a reward that your cat likes. Examples include: treats, catnip, interactive play, and petting or grooming.
Continued scratching by cats may be related to stress, anxiety, attention seeking, or perceived lack of security in their environment. Please speak with your veterinarian to discuss your concerns, advice for your cat’s situation, and to develop an appropriate plan for your household.