Categories: Cat Behavior

Cat Scratching Furniture

Reproduced under creative commons © Walsh

To stop a cat scratching furniture, may either save the life of the cat or at least its claws, in the United States . Under their rules (declawing policy), American veterinarians who are members of the American Veterinarian Medical Association can remove claws if the owner cannot successful train their cat to stop damage. The veterinarian has an obligation to educate cat owners with regard to declawing cats (feline onychectomy).

The policy is crazy from the point of view of the cat and is very unreasonable. The AVMA  openly admits in this policy that declawing can take place for non-therapeutic reasons. It could be strongly argued that it is a crime under the criminal code of most states of the USA to do this. It is a crime in the UK. Also we are told by the Cat Fanciers Association that veterinarians routinely suggest declawing. This would seem to fly in the face of veterinarians “to provide cat owners with complete education with regard to feline onychectomy”.

Well, that said, if cat owners could more successfully train their cats to use a scratching post it should prevent some declawing of cats. I don’t bother because my cat doesn’t do much “damage” and in any case I don’t care that much because I accepted that it would happen 40 years ago.

An acceptance of some scratching damage is a great release. It solves the problem of your cat scratching furniture at a stroke. No more worry about precious furniture that some cat owners value over the interests and claws of their cat companion. As a cat, I am not sure I would like to be the companion of a person who values their furniture over my life or my health! I’d run!

The following are some tips on how to stop a  cat scratching furniture. They come from a document that Harriet Baker produced and sent me. I have her permission to use it – thank  you. This is the PDF document: Slide Show (this is a 4 mg file & it loads with Adobe so please be patient).

  1. Ideally the scratching post should be about 30 inches tall and covered with sisal rope or sisal material. Carpeting is not ideal as it is too soft. The method is to make the pole more attractive to scratch than the furniture!
  2. Place the scratching post in front of the place on the furniture that is being scratched. One reason for scratching is as a form of communication, a marker (another is spraying, for example) and cats will tend to use the same or similar places. In the wild it is usually well used paths and routes or sites where major landmarks or features intersect.
  3. Put the scratching post in a place or room where your cat spends time.
  4. Catnip rubbed into the post be an encouragement to use it.
  5. We should scratch the post while our catch watches – cats can sometimes learn from imitating what they see (not sure about this one).
  6. Use positive reward and praise your cat when he or she scratches on the post. Rewards are food treats and clicker training can be introduced here (it is based on reward training).

In support of the above, which encourage use of the scratching post, preventative measures can be taken to stop or discourage a cat scratching furniture. Here are some ideas from Cats International (new window):

  1. Double sided tape can be used over areas where the furniture has been scratched. A product called Sticky Paws that comes in strips and rolls can be bought in the UK – not sure if it is available elsewhere. It is almost certainly available in the US and might be made in the USA.
  2. Another useful product (I don’t get commission!) is a spray called, Feliway Spray. This is a substitute for the actions of a cat when it rubs its head against objects and us or scratches objects. In doing this the cat deposits a scent on the object making it more friendly and thus creating a better, more friendly, environment for the cat. This  spray does the same (almost) and may help to calm your cat and preclude the need to mark through scratching.
  3. SSScat is another product that can gently control a cat’s actions. It is a small device that works by detecting the movement of your cat and emits a spray that gently (I hope) repels your cat from an area. This is quite expensive in the UK (almost £40) but if it saves your cat’s claws it is money well spent. It gets a 3 star rating from 2 reviews on pet products site.
  4. Vinyl carpet runner sometimes has a backing that is rough and prickly to stop it slipping. Another tip is to place vinyl carpet runner (underside up) to deter a cat from entering a certain area. If that area is one where they scratch furniture this may help prevent it.

A cat scratching furniture should be within our grasp to manage and certainly in preference to amputating the tips of its paws! The former is a longer harder route to prevent a cat scratching furniture but much more humane, ethical, decent, caring and proper. Oh, and cheaper.

From Cat Scratching Furniture to Declawing Cats

The following is an earlier article I made on this subject. It says similar things but from a slightly different angle so I have left it.

A cat scratching furniture is an all too common “problem”. A lot of people would call this poor behavior or unacceptable behavior etc. etc.

But to whom is this behavior unacceptable? My cat Binnie nearly always scratches the “wrong thing”. I’ll put a nice post down and she’ll ignore it. I’ll try something else, such as putting an old sweater over a scratching post and she’ll ignore that too and go back to being a cat scratching furniture again.

In fact she’ll just do what she wants to do whether its scratching something or sleeping somewhere.

Why is she so intent on scratching my favorite furniture, the chair I always sit in?

Well for a cat, of course, everything that she does is not a problem to her as it is natural to her. It helps if we consider that often “cat problems” are, in fact, our problems in not being able to accept cat behavior.

We have an unwritten agreement with our cat companions and our human companions. We accept each other for what we are. Your cat accepts your behavior remember.

There are three reasons why a cat scratches furniture.

She is is not sharpening her claws in the manner of sharpening a kitten knife, but forcing off the top layer of her claws (the outer sheath, which is worn out). This is a bit like  a snake shedding skin.

I often see my cat’s claw sheaths lying about the place. They could be anywhere. Sometimes she’ll pull then off with her teeth while grooming at the bottom of the bed. She leave behind, her claw sheaths, mud, hair and wet mess

The sheaths that are left behind on the bed that she pulled of with her teeth will be from her hind feet. I guess this is common sense as it is not possible to scratch in the same way with hind legs.

My cat also needs to exercise her claws (she exercises nothing else by the way, unless I push her hard). Claws come out and go back in before and after scratching and this mechanism needs to be used from time to time to keep it in good working order.

Thirdly, and this is why she loves wrecking your best chair,  she deposits scent on the object that she is scratching. The scent comes from the pads on her feet. The scratching action squeezes it out and rubs it in.

She deposits scent to make the place more friendly for her. She rub against you for the same reason, depositing her scent from glands on the side of her face for example. This is a form of greeting.

It can be a bit tricky stopping a cat scratching furniture. The answer, of course, is not declawing . I have discussed that on other pages of this site. Declawing takes away a part of your cat’s psyche as well as her body and it hurts like hell.

You can try putting some double sided tape on the bit she likes and at the same time encourage use of another object. For me the best answer is to have an old piece of furniture that you have used a lot (plenty of you on it) and don’t mind being scratched.

So the next time you’re thinking of buying some new furniture keep a piece of the old and make it “cat scratching furniture”.

One last thing. If your cat scratches you as in the picture, that is almost certainly your fault.

It is probably because in playing with her you went a bit to far and she converted play to practicing hunting.

It’s best to always be sensitive to your cat’s behavioral traits and fit around them rather than your cat fitting in with your behavior. Why?

Because she will act instinctively (reactively). We can act proactively.

Cat Scratching Furniture – The lower image is copyright alexanderthegreatest, reproduced under creative commons Flickr

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Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 71-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in many jobs including professional photography. I have a girlfriend, Michelle. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare.

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