It’s not 100% guaranteed that you can get your cat to keep his or her claws off the couch, but there certainly are a lot of techniques you can try to get kitty to avoid your innocent furniture.
These techniques, for the sake of getting your cute-but-naughty feline friend to not only go around but also to stay around the furniture destruction corner, have been broken down into two sections: techniques that discourage your kitty from scratching up your furniture, and techniques that encourage your kitty to scratch elsewhere. For best results, I’d encourage you to use both types of methods. And I’d say your in-the-process-of-being-destroyed sofa agrees with me.
I’ve gotten best results when encouraging kitty to scratch elsewhere; and this makes sense, as kitty’s need to scratch is a biological one that shouldn’t be repressed. Kitty needs to work on his or her nails every once in a while, and if there’s no place to scratch, or if you have a little minx on your hand and he or she just doesn’t want to scratch where you tell him/her to, well it’s about time you find some way of compromising – some scratch-able place you can both live with, so that the main chunk of your furniture can finally have some well-needed peace.
Okay so let’s get on to it, so that you can start saving your sofa!
Part I: How to Discourage Kitty From Scratching Up Furniture
Again – this is only Part I. I don’t recommend doing any of these without also doing things in section II, but let’s get into the ways you can use to discourage your cat from scratching up the furniture you’ve got.
1. Shoo kitty off the furniture when the claws come out.
Yeah, it may seem obvious, but if you catch kitty in the act and just let it happen – kitty’s going to think his or her behaviour is perfectly okay. So don’t let the bad behaviour train turn up just because you didn’t say no.
2. Pick kitty up and place him/her elsewhere when the claws come out.
If saying no isn’t working, this is the next step. Physically pick up your cat and move him or her. (Preferably to an approved scratch location – but that’s #6 found in part 2.)
3. Not Recommended: Using keep off sprays to discourage cats from getting on specific furniture.
Really, I don’t even know if sprays like these work, but even if they did, there’s plenty of other tricks to try. Again, just check out the second section of this article.
4. Not Recommended: Use a spray bottle to squirt water at kitty whenever he/she goes on the furniture.
It’s not that I’m against spraying a cat with water to discourage specific behaviours in theory – I mean it doesn’t hurt a kitty, so if it worked, I’d likely be fine with it; it’s just that in my opinion, spraying with water is almost completely ineffective.
Why? Well either it outright doesn’t work because your cat doesn’t care about water sprayed at him/her (mine became like this after the first spray or two), or it works while you’re present/in the room, but really doesn’t get rid of the scratching on furniture problem when you leave the room or are away from the house.
Kitty knows you’re the one doing the spraying, and if you’re not on the premises, there’s no reason not to do the unapproved action anymore if spraying was the only thing keeping kitty away in the first place.
Last plug – look at the second section to get kitty’s good behaviour (avoiding scratching up the furniture!) to stick a lot better.
Part II: How to Encourage Kitty to Scratch Elsewhere
Yes, it’s important to do at least a few of these in combination with the tips you’re trying from Part I. I promise, it’ll be worth the energy and effort, and your couch will thank me personally later.
5. Make sure you have a scratching post kitty’s actually happy to use in your house.
Have a scratching post already? Great! Have you seen your cat use it before? If the answer is no, you do not have a scratching post kitty likes – or kitty needs to be trained to like it.
Trying to train kitty to like a scratching post? Use these tips:
- Rub catnip on the scratching post
- Put kitty’s paws on the post over and over
- Make scratching motions on the scratch post yourself
- Use a cat toy on the scratching post to encourage kitty to engage with it
Scratching should ensue.
But if it’s a no go and kitty just won’t do it about a month in – it’s time for a better post; one that kitty will actually take to.
I’d advise getting an angled scratching post if you have one of those regular upright cylinder ones. I’ve found cats really prefer the angled ones because they can stretch out easily while doing it. I have a tall cat and so he particularly hates those cylindrical ones.
If you’ve got a lightweight scratching post made of cardboard, weigh that thing down, otherwise chances are good your cat is never going to use it. Cats want to be able to scratch without the object they’re scratching moving – so therein lies your issue. Either weigh the sucker down with some heavy exercize weights, or get a new, heavy scratching post.
6. When your cat starts scratching something you don’t want scratched, pick kitty up and place him/her on an object that’s meant to be scratched.
This is an important one. Kitty needs to know you’re not disapproving of the scratching, you just want the scratching to take place elsewhere. So every time scratching occurs where it’s not supposed to, pick that feline up and move him/her to a scratch approved location.
7. Did kitty scratch on the approved object after being moved? Reinforce this behaviour! Say things like, “Good job!”
Cats don’t just have it in for you and want to make your life miserable (contrary to what a “dog person” may tell you). If your cat knows you want him/her to do something and they’re cool with that behaviour themselves, chances are, they’re going to do it just the way you want them to. Let your cat know you’re happy with him or her scratching on the scratching post by encouraging kitty with positive words when he/she is using the post.
8. Did kitty scratch on the approved object after being moved? Give him/her a treat.
Your cat’s favourite form of positive reinforcement: treats, snacks, yummy food, & catnip!! If you’re in the giving mood, do yourself and your cat a favour for being good, and dole out a treat or two. Kitty will be ever so thankful and may end up scratching on the post instead of the couch the next time around, especially if he/she’s come to associate the post with yummy treats.
9. Make sure you have at least one scratch approved object in every room.
Okay yes, if your house is a studio like ours, or a one bedroom, chances are you’ll only need one or two scratch approved objects in total – but if you have multiple rooms that kitty freely goes in, you can’t very well expect kitty to go back to the other room to get his/her scratching needs out of the way every time. Have a scratch approved object in every single room you’re in.
If you’re not fond of having a scratch pad or scratching post or cat tree in every single room of the house, check out this article on scratching post alternatives. Essentially, use things like a scratch approved rug in every room in order to keep kitty scratching where it’s okay, and not scratching where it’s not okay.
Obviously, you need to also make sure kitty knows that these objects are scratch approved – but that’s where #6 from this section comes in. If your cat starts scratching something you don’t want him or her scratching on in the room, simply move him/her to the scratch approved object in the room. Either your cat will then immediately start scratching the scratch approved object, or he/she won’t and you’ll need to get a different approved object for scratching in – one that kitty likes better.
Over time, after being moved enough, kitty will get that this is the approved scratching area, and by him/herself, start to go there instead of the furniture.
Any Tips for Pet Owners Whose Cats Scratch Up Furniture?
Please let us all know about your experiences with cats scratching up furniture.
Have you had this problem yourself before? Was it ever solved or does your cat still freely roam the house taking claws to whatever he or she pleases?
If you managed to get your cat to not scratch up anything you don’t want scratched up, how did you manage to do it? If you still have this problem, do you think you’ll try any of the methods mentioned above? Is there a good method I’ve forgotten to mention?
Let me know in the comments!