Cats and kittens bring us endless joy with their cute and quirky behaviour and affectionate cuddles. But their inherent desire to scratch can sometimes leave our beloved furniture in tatters.
Cats naturally want and need to scratch. So what can you do, as a responsible pet parent, to keep your cat happy and also preserve your furniture?
By understanding the complexity behind this natural behaviour, you can approach the challenge of redirecting your cat’s need to scratch with empathy and insight. Instead of punishing your pet cat, you can provide them with the right outlets and encourage good behaviour with positive reinforcement. Read on to discover how you can satisfy your cat’s natural needs while also protecting your furniture.
Understanding Your Cat’s Need to Scratch
Scratching isn’t just something cats do for fun—it’s a deeply ingrained instinct. By understanding the reasons behind this behaviour, we can better address the root causes and find effective solutions to stop cats from scratching furniture. Here are just some of the reasons why cats need to scratch:
- Territorial Marking: Cats have scent glands in their paws. When they scratch, they’re not just leaving a visible mark but also depositing their unique scent. This acts as a message to other cats, signalling that the area is claimed.
- Nail Maintenance: Just as we trim our nails, cats scratch to remove the dead outer layer of their claws. This keeps their claws sharp and ready for hunting, even if they’re indoor pets.
- Stretching and Exercise: Scratching also provides cats with a full-body workout. They stretch their back, neck, and paws, which helps in keeping their muscles toned and flexible.
- Stress Relief: Just like humans might tap their feet or bite their nails when anxious, cats scratch to relieve stress and frustration. It can be a way for them to work off extra energy or cope with changes in their environment.
- Communication: In multi-cat households, scratching can serve as a form of communication between cats. The frequency, location, and intensity of the scratches can convey different messages.
How to Stop Cats From Scratching Furniture
Protecting your furniture and curtains isn’t simply about getting your cat to stop scratching. Cats need to scratch, so you’ll need a strategy to help them satisfy their natural instincts while protecting your furniture.
Offering Appropriate Scratching Alternatives
Before you can teach your cat where not to scratch, you need to guide them on where they can. Enter the world of scratching posts, pads, and cat trees. These tools, available in various textures and materials, cater to individual cat preferences, which means that experimentation is key. Some cats might prefer a vertical post, while others might lean towards a horizontal pad.
Enhancing the appeal of these alternatives with catnip and toys can further entice your cat, making them less likely to target your sofa or curtains. Remember, it’s all about providing them with a better option than your expensive couch.
Making Furniture Less Appealing for Scratching
So, you’ve got the scratching post, but your cat is still eyeing that new leather couch. It’s time to make your furniture less appealing.
Deterrents like double-sided tape, aluminium foil, and even a homemade spray to stop cats from scratching furniture can be quite effective. These textures and scents are often unappealing to cats, making them think twice before digging their claws in. Additionally, furniture covers can serve a dual purpose: preventing scratches and providing a comfortable resting place for your feline friend.
Create a Homemade Spray to Stop Cats from Scratching Furniture
Cats have much more sensitive noses than humans, so using scents to prevent them from scratching the furniture can often help redirect your cat’s attention. Creating a simple homemade spray that can be sprayed onto your furniture or in other areas of the house can be an easy, homemade solution.
A few drops of essential oil (rosemary, citrus or peppermint)
Clear spray bottle (preferably glass)
- Fill the spray bottle ¾ of the way up with water.
- Add the essential oil to the mixture.
- Replace the lid and shake the bottle well to mix the ingredients.
- Spray the mixture on the areas of the furniture where you want to deter your cat from scratching. It’s recommended to test a small, inconspicuous area first to ensure the essential oils do not mark or stain your furniture.
Cats don’t like the smell of rosemary, citrus or mint. So using these natural smells should help to stop your cat from scratching anything this homemade recipe has been sprayed onto. This simple recipe won’t harm your cat, but it’s important to make sure you monitor your cat’s reaction when introducing any new deterrent to ensure they don’t have a bad allergic reaction.
How to Train Your Cat Not to Scratch Furniture
Training a cat is a unique experience, distinct from training other pets. Cats are independent creatures, and their behaviours are deeply rooted in instinct. However, with the right approach, you can guide them towards more desirable habits. Here are some tips on how to train your cat to stop scratching your furniture.
Just as young children are more receptive to learning new skills, kittens too are more adaptable to training. Introducing them to appropriate scratching outlets during their formative weeks can set the foundation for lifelong habits. Their innate curiosity and playful nature at this age make it an opportune time to guide their scratching instincts towards designated posts or pads. By establishing these boundaries early on, you’re not just preventing potential damage to your furniture but also ensuring that your feline friend grows up understanding and respecting the household norms.
Cats don’t respond well to negative reinforcement. In fact, using negative reinforcement when training your cat can lead to a lack of trust between you and your cat, stress, fear and aggressive behaviour. Your pet cat isn’t scratching your furniture or curtains out of spite, so punishing them doesn’t address the root cause of the problem.
Cats respond best to positive reinforcement. Whenever your cat uses their scratching post or pad, reward them immediately. This can be in the form of treats, verbal praise, or affection. Over time, they’ll associate the act of scratching the designated areas with positive outcomes. This will help to strengthen the special bond you and your pet cat share.
If you catch your cat in the act of scratching furniture, gently redirect them to their scratching post. Avoid shouting or punishing them, as this can create fear and confusion. Instead, use a calm voice to guide them, reinforcing the desired behaviour with praise when they comply.
Consistency is Key
It’s crucial to remain consistent in your training efforts. If you allow your cat to scratch the furniture occasionally, they’ll receive mixed signals. Ensure all household members are on the same page regarding the rules and training techniques.
Engage your cat in interactive play sessions near their scratching post. Toys that mimic prey, like feather wands, can be used to guide them towards the post. Once they’re done playing, they’ll often feel the urge to scratch, leading them to the nearby post. You can double down by spraying the scratching post with an attractive catnip spray, or placing potted catnip, cat grass or catmint nearby.
Cats have a reputation for being fussy. So when it comes to their scratching posts, regular inspections ensure that these items remain effective and appealing for your pet.
Over time, wear and tear can reduce the tactile satisfaction a cat derives from scratching. A frayed or flattened post might not offer the same resistance or texture your pet craves. Therefore, it’s essential to either refresh the material or replace the post entirely. Investing in the upkeep of your cat’s scratching posts and pads not only sustains your cat’s interest but also reinforces the training, ensuring they consistently choose the post over your furniture.
Peace of Mind for You and Your Fur Baby
Cats like to scratch. Scratching feels good, helps to maintain your cat’s claws and can act as a stress relief. With all this in mind, you need to care for your fur baby by giving them plenty of safe cat scratching options to keep them in the best of health, both mentally and physically. For more tips on creating a welcoming home for your pets, check out this guide on “How to create a welcoming home for your pets”.
Pet insurance is another way you can help your beloved pet remain in peak condition. Accidents and illnesses can happen, and having pet insurance can provide peace of mind in such situations. After all, a healthy cat is a happy cat.
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