4 Ways to Curb Cat Scratching

Veterinary Advice on Understanding and Curbing Pesky Feline Habit

Justine Lee, DVM, DACVECC

Because cats have scent glands under their paw pads, they like to spread the love around and make sure that other cats know that this part of the house is theirs — in other words, they are marking their territory.

Cats also scratch because it feels good, and it’s their way of naturally wearing down their nails or ripping them off in the process. Scratching also feels great — it stretches their front limbs and is the equivalent of our getting a hand massage.

Curb Your Cat Away from Furniture

There are a few things you can do to prevent your cat from scratching your favorite piece of furniture.

  • Keep your cat’s nails short by trimming them regularly as it’ll cause less damage and will hopefully minimize the urge to scratch.
  • Try making your furniture less appealing to the touch. You can do this by applying double-sided tape or aluminum foil to the scratched area — just make sure the tape doesn’t damage your furniture any worse (tip: don’t apply duct tape to antique wood).
  • Another way of curbing your cat’s couch habits is to use negative feedback. With this technique, you have to actually catch your cat in the act. If you do, a quick blast of water from a water gun will quickly teach him not to scratch in front of you.

Of course, when it comes to negative feedback, keep in mind that your cat may scratch all day long while you’re at work. Unfortunately, it’s unlikely your cat will learn to restrain himself in your absence, and unless you plan on quitting your job to protect your sofa, you may need to resort to other options.

Quality Scratching Posts Make a Difference

Most importantly, train your cat to use the right kind of scratching posts. If your cheap $2 scratching post is hidden in the dark, dank corner of the basement where nobody wants to go, it’s not going to be effective.

If the material doesn’t feel good to scratch (i.e., cheap cardboard), your cat won’t use it. Only the best for your cat! Try twine, coarse rope, carpet, or sisal (a type of material that looks like carpet).

Location, Location, Location

Make sure the scratching post is well placed and well constructed (if it falls on top of your cat while he’s scratching, I can guarantee you he’ll never use it again).

Although it may affect your feng shui, keep the scratching post in the center of the room or next to the vertical or horizontal surface your cat scratches, as cats always prefer to be the center of attention.

I have one of my scratching posts under the coffee table; it’s not glaringly offensive to those interior decorator friends who visit, but it’s in a central enough location where my cats will use it.