There’s just something so alluring to cats about scratching things. They seem to derive a kind of subtle pleasure and mischievous satisfaction from scratching up the tables, pillows, sofas, or just about anything they can get their claws on. Though you may dislike their constant scratching, cats aren’t doing it to be disobedient or because they despise your furniture. There is a real benefit for cats to scratch; it helps them mark their scent on an object, and it also removes small sheaths on their claws. It’s no wonder they’ve instinctively developed this behavior, but that doesn’t make it okay for them to carve up your furniture.
Since this tendency for them to scratch is instinctive, you shouldn’t completely prevent them from scratching. However, you can dictate what they are free to scratch, and what objects are off-limits. To make it easier on yourself, training should begin when your cats are young so they never have the chance to develop the habit of scratching your things. It is also possible for an adult cat to learn not to scratch furniture if you are strict and consistent with your teaching.
The first thing to do, especially for indoor cats, is to provide them something that they can scratch with no consequences, such as a scratching post. This is essentially your decoy. You may also use toys made from cardboard to keep them occupied. You are essentially taking their attention away from your valuables all-the-while satisfying their urge to scratch.
If your cat(s) start scratching the “off-limits” objects, then you must discipline them. You need to immediately show them that you are not happy with them the instant they scratch something else so they can put together that if they scratch your furniture, they get punished. Lots of cats detest the sound of pennies rattling in a can, so a few shakes when they are scratching should irritate them enough that they run away or stop.
Another simple method is to have a spray bottle full of cold water. When they are slashing up your rug or couch, spray them a few times to make them stop. Furthermore, cats usually dislike citrus smells, so spraying your drapes, rugs, or furniture with a citrus smelling deodorizer may discourage them from trying to ruin your valuables.
Conversely, when they are using the scratching post or cardboard toys, reward them with treats for their good behavior. You must do this right away, or else they may not make the connection that you are encouraging them to use the scratching post. You may also place some catnip on some approved objects to entice them to scratch it. Over time, you may want to reduce the treats, or else your cat might expect treats every single time. Expect this process to take a few months before they successfully develop the habit.
This next method can be morally dubious for some people, and we would be remiss if we didn’t educate our readers about it. Some people consider declawing their indoor cats so they never have to worry about their scratching ever again. There are numerous ethical arguments against this, and a fair share of veterinarians will refuse to assist you with this painful procedure. We’ve written our own article on this sensitive matter. In the end, we leave this decision up to the owners.
Lastly, you can reduce the damage your cats do by regularly trimming their nails. Unlike the method described in the previous paragraph, trimming your cats’ nails is painless (assuming you don’t cut the quick) and not much different from human nail clipping. Follow our guide on how to trim a cat’s nails for a more in-depth look into this process. If you follow the steps outlined in this guide, you are sure to reduce the amount of scratching your cats do on your furniture.