Understand the behaviour – Your cat isn’t trying to be naughty or spiteful scratching the furniture, their main motivation in clawing at the couch is to mark their territory. Cats have scent glands in the pads of their feet and every time they scratch the furniture it leaves a pheromone, undetectable to the human nose, that lets other animals know they have been there. Scratching is also a great way to stretch the tendons in their paws and help maintain their nails. Be patient with your cat: they are displaying a natural and necessary behaviour.
Provide alternative places to scratch – Your cat needs somewhere to scratch. Provide your cat with a few scratch posts and if you notice your cat going to scratch the furniture, pick up your cat and place them at a scratch post instead. Be consistent and place them at the scratch post every time you notice them scratching the furniture or carpet. If possible, have a number of scratch posts around the house; this will give your cat a few options other than your furniture. Remember if you have more than one cat in your household, make sure there are multiple scratch posts on offer.
Choosing the purrfect scratch post – You can find a huge selection of scratching posts available, from simple squares of corrugated cardboard to multilevel cat towers offering elevated sleeping spots, hiding places, hammocks and play accessories. Activity centre scratch posts can be great as they provide a range of interesting areas for your cat to investigate. Most cats enjoy tall scratch posts that allow them to stretch upwards, but some cats would rather to be on all four paws when they scratch. Take your cat’s scratching style into account when choosing their scratching post. It is also important to consider the texture or fabric of the post, options may include carpet, sisal rope, cardboard and seagrass rope. Many cats will show a preference when it comes to a favourite scratching surface.
Location, location, location – Consider the location of the scratching post: if you notice your cat using a specific side of your lounge or piece of carpet, then this is the ideal spot for the post. The post should be visible and in a location the cat frequents. A post that is hidden away is unlikely to be used. Cats love to sun themselves and look at the world outside, placing a scratch post or tower under a window gives them a great vantage point and provides a prime position for enjoying a catnap.
Positive reinforcement works a treat – It is important to encourage your cat to use their scratching post and reward them when they do the right thing. To entice them onto the post, you could try spraying or rubbing some catnip on the scratch post. Have some fun and dangle teaser toys or use a laser pointer to make the post exciting and encourage them to grab hold of the post. When your cat uses the scratching post, it is important to offer them a positive reward. This will help them create a positive association with the post. Positive rewards will vary from cat to cat, but can include praise, pats, food treats or even a grooming session.
For more information on Furniture Scratching see Cat Protection Society’s factsheet or visit their website www.catprotection.org.au For general advice on cat care and everything feline, call the Cat Protection Society of NSW on 02 9557 4818.