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Why Does your Cat Scratch your Furniture? Redirect their Claws!

Why Does your Cat Scratch your Furniture? Redirect their Claws!

Scratching is a natural instinct for cats! In the wild, cats scratch to mark their territory, much like domestic cats do - in your home you want to make sure they are still able to scratch, but not your furniture!

Why do cats scratch?

There are a number of reasons why cats scratch:

1. It’s a form of communication - as well as leaving a visible scratch mark, they also leave behind an invisible chemical pheromone message to alert other cats that they are trespassing on their territory.

2. Scratching is an important part of your cat’s grooming process, as it loosens and removes the outer part of their claws, leaving them nice and clean with a sharp new surface!

3. A good scratch is a way of exercising kitty muscles! Just like us humans like to have a good stretch when we wake up, you will see your cat also having a nice stretch after their cat nap, as well as scratching their claws into a surface close by - so remember to ensure you have a scratching post close to their bed, so that this can be used rather than your furniture!

4. Your cat may be scratching to get your attention! Kittens love to play, and pouncing and scratching your hands and feet may be a way they have learnt to get your attention when it’s playtime! As endearing as this might be when they are little and very cute, it’s something that you need to help them redirect to a scratching post or toy, as it can be very painful or cause accidents when they get older. Cats can be mischievous creatures, and they often work out that scratching your furniture gets your attention - whether they want feeding or are just in the mood for playtime, redirecting the scratching onto a scratching post will save your favourite things!

5. Have you made any changes like moving furniture or decorating? Is there a new baby in the home? Cats are creatures of habit, so think of it from a kitty’s point of view; they don’t like change and may be feeling insecure or a little stressed if you have moved furniture or if there’s a new little human around, with new noises and smells that they don’t recognise. Changes around the home could be causing them to scratch in order to mark their territory and feel more secure.

6. Finally - your cat might just be bored! Cats like mental stimulation and, particularly if your cat is a house cat, there might not be enough stimulation around the home to keep them occupied.

Why do Cats Scratch your Furniture?

When cats are outdoors, they will scratch wooden objects like fences or trees, so furniture with vertical areas (like the legs of a table or a door frame) can seem like a very good substitute for a tree. Stair carpets can also be very attractive to a cat - usually hard wearing, but a forgiving surface with various different angles, this can be a great place for a cat to exercise their claws. Each cat has their own preference, some may prefer to scratch vertically, some horizontally, and this may influence the parts of the house they target.

It’s important to remember that cats are not scratching because they are being destructive - and they should never be punished for doing so. Instead, you need to redirect their claws to areas that will protect your home and give them the scratching satisfaction they need!

 

How to Redirect Kitty’s Claws!

Love them as you do, you want to deter them from scratching your furniture and the best way to do this is to provide them with a dedicated scratching post or board where they can redirect their claws:

  • Look at the area where your cat is scratching the most; is it wooden furniture, are they clawing your wallpaper, or are they digging their claws into the stair carpet? Are they leaving scratch marks on horizontal or vertical surfaces?
  • Provide a scratching post that will simulate the areas they are scratching; scratching posts come in all shapes, sizes and materials - some made with wood, some with rope or sisal or cardboard - that cats can get their claws into nicely. They also usually have dangling toys and hiding spots that will keep your kitty busy for hours.
  • Make sure it’s tall or long enough to take their whole body length - remember they like to have a good stretch when they wake up - so a post that is not tall enough will not satisfy their stretching and scratching needs!
  • Most cats like to leap and pounce too - so having a post with at least one platform gives them an opportunity to perch and keep an eye on their territory too.
  • Provide scratching posts and boards to give choice between vertical and horizontal scratching. Some cat towers have both.

Put the post(s) in the right location - you may find you need more than one post to redirect their claws:

  • Placing the scratching post close to where your cat sleeps is a good place to start, as they frequently like to stretch and scratch after they’ve had a snooze. You may find they like to snooze in an elevated safe place during the day, so placing one post underneath the shelf and another close to their cat bed at night, would be a good idea.
  • Don’t hide the post behind furniture - it must be accessible if you are to deter them from scratching your furniture.
  • Use soapy water or an enzymatic cleaner to thoroughly clean the area or furniture they have scratched, this will remove the cat’s scent so they will not be attracted back to that area. Place the new post close to the same area, and introduce them to it. Your cat should then investigate the post and leave their scent, marking it as their new territory
  • If you already have scratching posts but your cat is not using them, consider:
    • Are they in the right place - is it close to where your cat is scratching?
    • Are they the right design for your cat’s scratching habits - for example if you purchased the post for a kitten, they may have outgrown it and it’s not offering enough stimulation for them. Or maybe it’s not tall enough now that they are a fully grown cat. Maybe they prefer horizontal scratching to vertical scratching.
    • Do you have more than one cat in the household? Every cat needs their own resources, including food bowls, litter boxes and scratching posts. Cats don’t like sharing!
Teach them how to use a scratching post:
  • After cleaning your furniture to remove feline scents, place the post close to the same area - it’s now time to introduce your cat to its new scratching post! Give them time to sniff around and discover this new object themselves. Cats are inquisitive, so they may well explore it themselves and not need a lot of encouragement.
  • Place some treats on the platform area of the post to encourage your cat to explore and find them.
  • If they have a favourite toy, play with it for a little while with your cat, then place it on the post - or if they like chasing a feather on the end of a string, pull it across the post so that your cat chases it.
  • However, don’t hold their paws against the post and try and force them to scratch - this will only make them nervous and reluctant to return to the post.

Once your cat has started to use their scratching post, their scratch marks and pheromone messages will be left behind on the post which will, in turn, encourage them to scratch there again - and lose interest in your furniture!

If your cat is showing signs of being anxious or nervous, a FELIWAY DIFFUSER will help them feel more comfortable and secure in their home. Using FELIWAY SPRAY on the furniture that cats have damaged previously can help reduce scratching by encouraging them to feel relaxed and less motivated to scratch in that location. However, if you are concerned about your cat’s scratching or the underlying reason for it, consider a vet health check and ask for professional behavioural advice.

 

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