Cats scratch objects in their environments for a variety of reasons. Scratching stretches the muscles (especially after a nap), removes the outer sheath of the nail, marks the area with the scent from the gland in the cat’s paws, and sometimes, it’s just fun! Because scratching is such a vital part of a cat’s well-being (which is why even declawed cats will “scratch” surfaces), it should not be punished. Rather, the cat should be taught to scratch on a scratching post or another place that is acceptable.

Provide your cat with a variety of appropriate scratching objects around the house. When it comes to cat scratchers, size, texture, and location are key.

Size and Shape:  Provide a scratching post that is taller than your cat’s body length. This will allow them to stretch out completely and give a good scratch. It should also be sturdy enough to not topple over when the cat scratches. Horizontal scratchers should be provided for cats who like to claw carpeting or furniture armrests.

Texture: When it comes to texture, most cats prefer sisal rope, corrugated cardboard, or carpet on their scratching post. Providing your cat with a variety of textures will prevent your cat from losing interest and therefore deviating to more undesirable objects such as your furniture. 

Location: As for location, place the scratching posts in front of the furniture pieces your cat is prone to scratching. Cats often stretch and scratch when they first wake up. So, make sure to also place a scratching post near your cat’s sleeping area. 

If your cat is choosing to scratch furniture rather than scratching posts, try covering the furniture with double-sided tape or bubble wrap. Spraying the furniture with synthetic pheromone can also help reduce scratching that is done to mark territory. 

If you catch your cat attempting to scratch the furniture, interrupt her by making a noise (but not so loud as to scare the cat), and then take your cat to the scratching post and encourage her to use it by dragging a toy up the side. 

Do not place your cat’s paws on the post and attempt to make her scratch. Most cats don’t enjoy this, and you could form a negative association with the scratching post.

Make sure to reward your cat with praise any time you see her using the post. In the initial stages of training, a treat or other special reward should help to ensure that your cat chooses the post again in the future.

If you would like information from an Anti-Cruelty Behavior Specialist regarding this behavior topic, please call 312-645-8253 or email behavior@anticruelty.org.

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