Coming home to a tattered sofa is a cat owner’s worst nightmare, and it’s one that all too many are familiar with. If you think you've tried everything to get your cat to stop scratching and you're still not finding success, you're probably going about it the wrong way.
Scratching or “clawing” is a natural feline behavior, which means punishment and declawing won't do you any good. Read on to find out how to satisfy your kitty's urges the right way, without sacrificing your sofa!
Accept that scratching is normal.
It’s crucial to first understand that you can't keep your cat from scratching. As you’re probably aware, it’s impossible to make a cat do anything she doesn't want to do, and getting her to stop something she enjoys is just as difficult. What you can do is redirect your kitty’s instinct in a more acceptable direction.
Avoid punishment. (It just doesn’t work.)
Unlike dogs, cats don't understand punishment. They have a difficult time connecting the punishment with the crime, and it only increases their anxiety. In fact, punishing your cat is more likely to drive her to scratch than it is to stop her. That means it’s time to think smart and work with her, not against her.
Understand why she’s scratching.
Understanding what’s driving your cat to scratch will help you redirect her energy in a way that’s acceptable for everyone. Chances are your cat is scratching for one of these three reasons:
- Territory marking. Scratching is a territorial instinct. It allows your cat to make her mark and “move into” a space. Think of it as her version of interior decorating.
- Exercise. Scratching is also a great way for your cat to keep in shape. It’s one of the few movements that allows her to stretch and work the muscles of her front legs.
- Stress relief. When your cat is anxious, happy, excited or frustrated, scratching is one way for her to release built-up emotion.
It's important to recognize that scratching is not malicious; it’s a vital part of feline life. That means you’ll need to be strategic and kind if you want to effectively keep her away from your furniture. How? By providing an alternative that meets her needs.
Give her a new place to scratch.
You can’t shoo her away from the sofa forever. Instead, you'll need to invest in a scratching post to keep her occupied and satisfied.
But not just any post will do! It's important to make sure your post is the correct texture and size, and in the optimal location, or else she'll have nothing to do with it!
Requirement #1: Texture
Cats like rough surfaces they can really dig their claws into. Carpet-covered posts are too soft, and many cats end up getting their claws caught in the carpet loops. The most appealing surface is sisal. Sisal's rough texture makes it easy for your cat to dig in and work her muscles. It's the perfect strength and grain for her to shred.
Requirement #2: Size
The height of the post should allow your cat to extend her upper body. If it's too small, it won’t create a good back and neck stretch, forcing your kitty to seek out a taller option (i.e. your sofa!).
But even more important than size is weight. It must be secure. If it topples or shakes, she won't use it. Scroll down to see the post we recommend with the ideal base shape and size to satisfy your cat’s primal urges.
Requirement #3: Location
Remember that an important part of scratching is the cat's desire to mark her territory, so a scratching post should be in a well-trafficked area. Initially, put the post where your cat goes to scratch. This may be by a sofa, a chair or wherever she chooses to spend the most time. Keep in mind that you may need more than one post to successfully reform her habit!
Make her prefer the post.
Chances are your kitty won't make the switch without a nudge from you. Entice her by feeding her near the post, rubbing dried catnip leaves on it, and rewarding her with a favorite treat when she uses it. Engaging her with string/feather toys around the post is also a great tactic. Given time, she will begin to think of it as “her space.”
Troubleshoot bad scratching behavior.
If your cat is reluctant to give up her old scratching areas, there are a few tactics you can use to discourage her. Covering the former scratch zone with aluminum foil or double-sided tape is a great deterrent as these textures won't feel good under her claws.
You may also need to remove her scent from the areas she’s previously scratched. Pet odor removers like this one can be life savers.
A final option is to blow a loud whistle or other noisemaker whenever you catch her scratching the protected area. Keep in mind that you must employ these deterrents while she is scratching for them to be effective.
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