Ah, the unending struggle between human and cat. You bring home a new set of furniture and your cat thinks you’ve actually bought them the largest jungle gym / scratching post ever. I used to struggle a lot with scratching when I first brought Percival home, not necessarily with the furniture, but with the carpet. Percy used to be quite clingy (he still is at times) and would scratch at the carpet outside the bedroom or bathroom door when he wanted to be with me. I even thought about getting him declawed because he was basically ruining my chances of getting my security deposit back from my landlord. But it’s such an expensive and involved surgery with a long recovery time and potentially negative side-effects that I didn’t want to put him through it. I wouldn’t say I am vehemently against declawing, but it’s definitely not a decision to be taken lightly. Anyway, that’s how I discovered that by putting clear Gorilla tape on the areas of carpet that he was scratching at, I could simply prevent damage. And I don’t think it looked too tacky, being it was clear.
In our new apartment, however, we have all wood floors. In turn, Percy has now taken a liking to scratching our sofas. Granted they are not particularly fancy sofas, but we would prefer that they don’t look all tattered and shredded to pieces. If you find yourself in a similar situation, then here are some suggestions on how to stop your cat from clawing at your valuable stuff. Often based on my own experiences and experimentation, these suggestions are broken down into two main categories: (1) redirecting the behavior and (2) discouraging unwanted scratching.
Don’t stop the behavior. Redirect it.
First of all, scratching is a natural behavior and you don’t really want to stop your cat from scratching all together. Instead, you want to encourage them to scratch on appropriate items. That’s why buying scratching posts or mats is the most recommended tactic. You can buy them in a variety of materials and forms depending on your cats preferences. I have a cardboard one that worked fairly well, until Percy got bored with it, which inevitably happens. Just like any animal, your cat needs variety to stay interested in their scratching posts and toys. Personally, I find that buying such items in the pet store can be very expensive, although they certainly look nice and it is the convenient option. But for someone like me, who is trying to save some money, I am going to try to find some fabric or carpet that Percy should like and use it to alter my current scratching mat. I’ll let you know how that turns out.
The next step is to entice your cat into actually scratching on the the expensive thing you just bought. Like I said, different cats may have different preferences, but there are certain things you can do to encourage them to use the designated item. First of all, put the scratching post or mat next to the objects that your cat has been clawing at. Then, one of the most popular ideas is to use catnip to get them to interact with the scratching post. You can also use a toy to pique their interest. Some cats might even let you move their paw in a scratching motion or respond to you demonstrating scratching on the item yourself. I’ve tried this with Percy and he does watch me when I use my nail to demonstrate scratching, but it doesn’t usually result in him trying it himself.
Discourage them from unwanted scratching.
Once you have appropriate places for your cat to scratch, the final step is to deter them from scratching the inappropriate places. If you catch your cat in the act you could make them stop by using a loud clap, sharp “no”, or even tossing a bag of marbles or pennies in their direction to startle them. The problem with this is that your cat may come to associate you with the noise and then learn to scratch only when you’re not around. This is what has happened with Mr. Percival. Now if I clap he looks at me nonchalantly and then continues to sharpen his claws. The nerve! If you can somehow startle your cat without them knowing it’s you that would be ideal. I am moving onto a spray bottle which I will attempt to use sparingly and so my cat doesn’t see me. That way he simply associates scratching with a spritz of water.
There are also many passive tools you can try to deter your cat from scratching. These include double sided tape, called “Sticky Paws” (which I have also tried and Percy proceeded to just tear it up and chew on), plastic floor runners with the knobby side up (which I was also not successful with), citrus sprays which some cats dislike the smell of, and plastic caps to put on their claws, often called “Soft Paws.” It’s also important to keep your cats nails trimmed regularly. Once you have interrupted your cat’s scratching try redirecting their attention to either a toy or their new scratching pad.
These are just the most popular ways of dealing with your cat’s scratching. There are many more tricks out there if you look. Unfortunately, it’s a lot of trial and error and you may find yourself constantly having to adjust. I know it can be frustrating (believe me, I know!), but just remember to not lose your patience with your cat. Don’t rant and rave at them, and definitely don’t hurt them in any way. They don’t realize that they are doing something wrong and more importantly, unlike dogs who seem to want to please their owner, cats really don’t care what you think anyway. So yelling at them will only succeed in damaging the wonderful bond that you can have. Good luck!