You love your cat and want her to feel perfectly at home in your space, but a boundary must be drawn when she begins scratching your furniture or carpets. The reality is that scratching doesn’t mean she’s being a bad kitty—scratching is an instinctive behavior for cats, and it’s perfectly normal. At the same time, no one wants their furniture to be ruined by claw marks! There are many reasons why great cats scratch furniture and carpets, and our team at Anasazi Animal Clinic in Gilbert wants to assist you in understanding why it happens and how to keep a cat from scratching things she shouldn’t be.
Why Do Cats Scratch?
There are many reasons why cats scratch everything around them. The primary reason is that cats need their claws trimmed and maintained regularly. If a human does not clip and maintain their claws for them, scratching is the next best solution. Scratching removes the dead outer layer of their claws. Most cats love to stay prim and proper, so they regularly groom their fur and nails. It feels good to them to stretch and flex as they scratch.
Cats also scratch to mark their territory. When your cat scratches the corner of the couch, she’s leaving her mark visually— as well as leaving her scent on the couch. All of this is normal behavior for a cat, and it’s important not to discourage it completely. Instead, we want to encourage you to find scratching alternatives for your fur baby. If you can train your cat to scratch designated scratching objects, like scratching posts and pads, your cat and your furniture will be better off!
The first thing you can do to help your cat change her scratching behaviors is to cover off-limit surfaces with unpleasant textures. Cats dislike the feeling of aluminum foil, double-sided tape, or a plastic rug protector (nubby side up). If you cover off-limits surfaces with these types of textures, your cat’s impulse to scratch that particular spot will subside.
Another way to deter scratching is by using a spray bottle full of water to spray your cat each time you catch her scratching an off-limit surface. A gentle blast of water will not harm your cat, but will provide an unpleasant sensory experience each time she scratches furniture, which can train her to leave it alone. You can also clap your hands or shake a can of coins if you catch her in the act. Again, this is an auditory sensory experience that will not harm her, but she will associate the unpleasant sound with the behavior. You can also deter your cat by using various scents like citrus and menthol on off-limit surfaces. Cats hate the smell of citrus and menthol, and will not be interested in scratching the off-limits surface if it smells unpleasant. If you catch your cat scratching an off-limit surface, don’t yell or physically punish your cat.
We highly recommend gently re-directing behavior, using the above methods, and giving lots of positive reinforcement when she chooses to scratch her scratching posts and pads.
Healthy Scratching Alternatives
Cats love textured surfaces that they can dig their claws into. They like to scratch both horizontal and vertical surfaces, as these stretch different areas of their bodies. They tend to want to scratch when they awaken from sleep, when they’re excited, and when they’re marking their territory. For this reason, it is important to strategically place scratching posts and pads near your cat’s sleeping spots and close to the off-limit surfaces that she used to love to scratch.
Put one near the door so she can scratch right after excitedly greeting you after work. Place them all over the house, so she doesn’t have to go far to indulge herself. Rub catnip into the scratching posts or pads to attract her. Give her praise and affection each time you see her using the scratching posts or pads. Give it several weeks or even months. Once your cat is using her designated scratching spots regularly, you can remove the deterrents and leave the healthy scratching alternatives in place.
Schedule Your Nail Trimming Appointment Today!
So if you’ve been wondering how to keep a cat from scratching, we hope this has helped. Again, one of the best things you can do to create good scratching habits in your cat is to have her claws trimmed regularly. We can help with that if you have a difficult time with this task yourself! Send Anasazi Animal Clinic in Gilbert your questions online or give us a call at 480-426-8364 to discuss your cat’s scratching habits and schedule a nail trimming appointment for your fur baby!