The cat you love has destroyed the couch you love. It's a common problem pet parents face but there are solutions – including ones that don't require you to live without furniture and sit on the ground. The first thing to know is that scratching is a natural, healthy activity for cats. It removes dead husks from claws, stretches and works muscles, and allows cats to mark territory. You don't want your cat to stop scratching all together – you want your cat to stop scratching furniture and start scratching something appropriate (like a cardboard cat scratcher). You may be tempted to declaw your cat but we urge you not to – it's a practice banned in many countries and opposed by the Humane Society. Declawed cats can suffer infections and pain in the paws, and they're more likely to bite people and less likely to use litter boxes. The bottom line: let your cat keep the claws unless there's a real medical reason to remove them. With that out of the way, read on for simple tips and tricks to stop unwanted scratching.
Get a Cat Scratcher
They come in all shapes and sizes – from simple corrugated cardboard scratchers to sisal-covered posts to elaborate towers – and you can pick one up at almost any pet store. You might want to try out a couple to see what your cat likes best. The placement of the scratcher is important as well. It's best to put the scratcher close to any furniture they've been scratching or any spots that they frequent. Be sure the scratcher is on a solid surface – cats will avoid scratchers or perches that seems unstable. You can put catnip on the surface of the scratcher to get your cat interested and let them know the scratcher is for them. While you're training your cat to stop scratching things he or she shouldn't, you can protect surfaces that seem too tempting by closing off the room the furniture is in, covering areas with double-stick tape or plastic, or using a specially made spray (available at most pet stores) that discourages cats from scratching.
Positive reinforcement (affection, cat treats, etc.) is a great way to encourage your feline friends to tear up the right stuff, not your precious loveseat or La-Z-Boy. Whenever you catch your cat scratching furniture move them to the cat scratcher, then reward them with a treat. Punishing cats for scratching is far less effective and it can even make your cat avoid you.
Give 'em a Mani-Pedi
An easy way to reduce the need for scratching is to keep your cat's claws trimmed. This is particularly important if your cat lives completely indoors where they are less likely to wear down their claws naturally. You can buy clippers for just this purpose at most pet stores, and many veterinarian offices offer this service as well. If you're unsure how to trim your cat's nails yourself ask your vet or pet groomer to give you a simple how-to – it's not difficult once you know the basics but you can cause harm to your cat if you do it incorrectly.
By Jed M.