So you have a cat that loves to scratch. Well, there is nothing wrong with that as it is natural for cats to love to scratch furniture and other objects. So what do you do if there is destructive scratching? For example, when your $5,000 sofa is the object of your cats claws? Well the simple answer is train them to scratch appropriate items.
Cats scratch for a variety of reasons. Some cats scratch furniture to burn energy or to stretch. After all, who doesn’t like to stretch now and again. Scratching also helps remove the dead outer layer of claws, similar to humans clipping your finger nails. Another possibility is territory marking as scratch marks are a visible sign and scent glands (in the paws) add olfactory smells to say this is my spot/territory/area.
As scratching is natural, it is not right to punish your cat for what it instinctively does. Punishing your cat for scratching only makes him or her more likely to be more aggressive and fearful of you as the trust between you can be destroyed. It also does not help because your cat doesn’t know any better if they have not yet been trained to scratch another item. The best form of punishment, should you feel it’s absolutely necessary, is to make a loud noise or squirt it with a squirt bottle if you catch your cat in the act of scratching the wrong object. However you must have given the cat an alternative to scratch beforehand or the cat will not understand. If the cat learns to associate the noise with you, then the cat may stop scratching while you’re present, but probably resume once you’re gone. This is why training your cat to scratch scratching posts and other proper objects is so important.
Now that you know why your cat scratches and what not to do, you can train him or her to scratch appropriate objects and not your prized furniture. The first step involves seeing what objects your cat likes to scratch. What type of material is the object – is it smooth, coarse, rough? The height of the object and how high up the cat scratches is also important information. Is the object flat or upright? Finally, knowing where it is located is another important step – sleeping area, entrance area of a room, etc. Observing the characteristics of items your cat likes to scratch means you can find or buy a similar item for your cat.
Put whatever stationary object you end up getting – a scratching post, a rope, a log, etc. – very close to the object you do not want your cat to scratch. However, make sure it will not fall over or otherwise move as your cat uses it or else your cat will not use it again. Then cover up the item your cat scratches with something he or she does not like – some material (double-sided tape or aluminum foil works well) or a non-harmful odor that he/she doesn’t like (try citrus). Your cat should now work its way to the new object as it resembles what your cat likes and will start scratching it instead.
As your cat starts scratching his or her new object, you can slowly move it to a new spot. However, only move it a couple inches each day as your cat won’t like sudden changes. Best results can be achieved when the object is as close as possible to what you do not want your cat to scratch. As a reminder you do not want to remove whatever covering you have put on your valuable furniture, drape or object for many weeks, even up to a month! When you do start removing your coverings, do so gradually to reinforce in your cat that he or she is not supposed to scratch it.
A final piece of advice on training is to start when the cat is young as it is easier to train a kitten than an old cat. Regardless of age, a cat can always be trained if you put in the time.
Congratulations! You now know how to train your cat to scratch objects you want, not your $5,000 sofa.