Seeing your furry friend ruin your couch is frustrating, and you likely wonder how to keep a cat from scratching furniture.
Although the habit is annoying for the owners, cats don’t scratch furniture intentionally but instinctively.
As you may already know, giving a cat an angry look and shouting “bad kitty, stop!” doesn’t work – the cat will keep returning to its favorite scratching spot.
Understanding why cats claw furniture is the first step to finding an effective solution to keeping your little friend’s paws away from prohibited areas.
Remember that scratching is vital for cats, so you will have to substitute the couch or armchair for a legal clawing target.
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Get a Substitute
Cats have valid reasons for scratching furniture, but owners often fail to consider them when disciplining their pets.
Cats scratch furniture, trees, and other surfaces to maintain healthy claws, relieve stress, mark territory, and stretch their backs.
Since a cat’s habit of scratching furniture is instinctive, the owner can’t simply prohibit their pet from doing it. It’s not like the kitty is clawing the sofa out of spite.
The only effective way to prevent a cat from clawing furniture is to provide it with an alternative. Get your kitty a scratching post to meet the natural needs of your four-legged friend but save your furniture from abuse.
Unfortunately, cats often refuse to use the new scratching post, sticking with the good old chair or bed, so owners should know how to pick a cat scratching post to appeal to their pet.
Firstly, cats prefer tall scratching posts enabling them to fully stretch their body. Choose a scratching post that’s at least 31-inch tall.
If your cat loves to scratch the carpet, consider getting it a scratching post with horizontal and vertical surfaces that facilitate two positions – stretched and hunkered down.
Secondly, the post should be sturdy. Wild cats use trees as scratching surfaces because they’re very stable, and furniture is the sturdiest thing in your house. Pick a post that doesn’t wobble, with a heavy base that prevents it from tipping over.
Thirdly, pick the correct material. Some cats like scratching posts with a carpeted surface, but most favor sisal rope or sisal fabric posts. Avoid materials similar to your furniture or carpet because your cat may not understand the difference.
Some scratching posts also serve as resting spots or playing areas, featuring cat condos on the top or hanging toys. Such scratching posts are more appealing to cats because they are more entertaining.
Build Interest in Scratching Posts
Buying a scratching post and placing it in your living room’s corner isn’t sufficient to make a cat use it. The kitty doesn’t care how much money you’ve spent, how much time you’ve invested in choosing it, or how you struggle with damaged furniture.
You should encourage your cat to use the scratching post by rewarding it. The most effective way to train a cat is to reward it for desired behavior. Give your cat a treat every time it scratches the post or climbs on it.
You may buy cat treats in a local pet store or give your cat pieces of tuna, salmon, boiled chicken breast, or meat. Ensure that the treats don’t affect your pet’s diet.
However, not every cat is equally food-motivated, and some kitties have a strict diet. Other ways to reward a cat include petting, grooming, interactive play, and catnip.
Maintain Consent Response
The golden rule of cat training is maintaining consistent responses to specific actions. Suppose that you’re trying to teach your cat to use a scratching post by rewarding it. However, you constantly switch the rewards.
Your cat may not be able to draw a connection between its actions and your reaction if it gets a different reward every time. It may perceive treats, catnip, or play as a given, not associating them with scratching the post.
On the other hand, if you pick one reward and stick with it, your pet will soon notice it receives it every time it uses the scratching post. The same rule applies to negative reactions.
You can combine rewards with clicker training for better results. A clicking sound communicates the precise moment when your cat does something right, helping it draw connections between actions and consequences quicker.
Avoid Harsh Punishment
One of the most critical mistakes in cat training is using harsh punishment. Yelling, hitting, or closing the cat in the bathroom for extended periods is ineffective for two reasons.
Firstly, a cat can’t understand that it’s receiving punishment for scratching furniture. From the cat’s standpoint, it was following instincts and didn’t do anything wrong to deserve the punishment.
The second problem with harsh punishment arises from the cat’s inability to draw connections between its actions and the negative consequences.
Since your cat sees no reason for you to yell at it, it will think that you scare it out of pure hate. Pain or fear will cause the cat to resent you, avoiding interaction.
In the worst-case scenario, the kitty may attempt revenge on you by peeing on your bed or attacking you. However, it won’t stop scratching furniture.
The “no harsh punishment” rule doesn’t mean that you have to patiently watch your cat destroy your favorite couch while it’s learning to use a scratching post with varying success.
Whenever your cat starts clawing furniture, say “no” loudly and firmly to distract it, but don’t yell. Repeat until your cat stops. You can ignore the cat for some time afterward to show that you disapprove of such behavior.
Make The Furniture Less Attractive
Training a cat takes time. If you’re looking for a quick solution on how to stop a cat from clawing furniture, make it less attractive to your cat using sticky tape.
Cats can’t stand the feeling of sticky tape on their paws. Your cat will likely find a different place to scratch after attempting to claw your couch a couple of times.
You can also use products to keep cats off furniture. Pet stores typically carry a wide selection of cat deterrent sprays, but professional products are costly and not always as effective as one would hope.
Fortunately, you can make a DIY cat deterrent spray from ingredients you probably already have in your kitchen. Dilute some vinegar and liquid soap in water, then spritz your furniture – the odor should ward off your cat.
Alternatively, add a bit of citronella oil into a spray bottle. Citronella is just as effective against cats as it is against mosquitoes. Lemon, lime, or other citrus oil or juice will also do the job because cats hate citrus.
Another recipe involves mixing a few drops of clear dishwashing liquid with ten drops each of lemon and eucalyptus essential oils in water. Such a deterrent spray will not only keep your pet off furniture but also fill the air with a pleasant fragrance.
Consider your furniture material before using any spray. Vinegar and essential oils don’t cause harm to the fabric when diluted but avoid pouring them directly onto your furniture. Don’t use vinegar on wood.
Some cats are highly stubborn and refuse to use a scratching post. Perhaps, a person who invented furniture protectors from cat scratching struggled with precisely that problem.
You can find furniture protectors against cats in pet or homeware stores. They are usually made from transparent plastic or vinyl attaching to furniture using double-sided tape.
However, such protectors usually don’t cover the entire furniture area, and cats still manage to claw particularly susceptible areas, such as corners.
Another option is using furniture protectors that double as cat scratchers. Such protectors usually have a carpeted surface and are an excellent solution for cats that refuse to change their favorite clawing spot.
The main drawback of such protectors is that they negatively affect the furniture’s look.
Fabric furniture covers are a great alternative. Although they won’t prevent a cat from clawing your sofa or armchair, they will keep the fabric underneath unharmed.
Furthermore, furniture covers are an easy way to liven up your interior and are washing machine-friendly.
Lastly, you can get sofa armrests from wood or plastic that double as small coffee tables and will prevent your cat from clawing the armrests.
Trim Cat’s Claws
Knowing how to trim cat claws is crucial for every feline owner wishing to maintain their furniture’s look for years and avoid scratches during petting or play. Start by getting your pet acquainted with the clipper – let it sniff the tool.
Then, wait until your cat is in a good mood and put it comfortably on your lap. Take one of the paws in your hand and press it gently to make the claws show.
Cut the sharp end of the claw and avoid the quick. The quick is a darker section in your cat’s claw that contains nerves and blood vessels.
If your cat starts to complain, release the paw and give it a reward. Rewarding your cat encourages it to be patient and shows that claw trimming isn’t all stressful.
Image credit: Pixabay