Cats have a natural instinct that causes them to climb and scratch. Additionally, scratching provides several benefits to cats, such as helping remove old layers of skin on the cat’s claws and marking their territories in the home to ward off intruders. If you are not providing the proper environment and tools for your cat to use this energy on, they will use what they can, instead, such as furniture, drapes, counter tops or any other accessible objects.
Here's what we can do to help your cat learn good behaviors for scratching.
Firstly, do not spray a cat with water if they are scratching on higher surfaces such as the counter top; they may think that this is a game and jump off or run. Instead, immediately remove them from the surface and let them know that this is not acceptable behavior by using a firm voice. Alternatively, using loud popping noises may help associate this negative behavior with unpleasant sounds, therefore discouraging them from repeating it. Try experimenting by placing some coins in a can, securing it with tape, and shaking it as a tool for creating loud noises.
Providing a scratching post or tree for your cat is another, and arguably the best, scratching substitute for furniture. There are many different types of scratching posts available on the market. Some are stand-alone posts covered in carpet-like material, while others have cubbyholes for nesting, napping and hiding. Be cautious when allowing your cat to use posts with carpet-like material, as their nails can occasionally get stuck in the fabric and cause injuries.
Teaching a cat to scratch on a post or tree is also necessary in training them not to scratch furniture. You may even have to scratch at the post yourself in order to show them that this is its designated area for scratching. Using the post for playtime and offering treats can also encourage your cat to establish its scratching behaviors here. Learn more about training your cat to use a scratching post by reading our blog post.
Another alternative that you may consider using to help your cat not scratch your furniture is aluminum foil, which cats do not like the feel or touch of. Temporarily wrapping your furniture in aluminum foil, until your cat learns not to scratch it, is a less conventional method of training your cat, though still effective. Likewise, putting netting or some type of woven fabric over your furniture can have the same effect, as cats do not like getting their claws stuck.
Providing a suitable environment for when your cat is home alone is vital if you want to avoid damage to your furniture. The environment should contain only items that your cat is allowed to interact with. This may include, but is not limited to, scratching posts or trees, toys, bedding, food, water and litter boxes
(two litter boxes per cat is typically enough, plus one additional box for multi-cat households).
Regular trimming of the nails will also help prevent damage to your furniture. There are plenty of professional pet groomers who are trained to do this for a small charge. You may also have this service done at the veterinarian's office. Learn More on nail trimming by reading our blog post.