How to deter your cat from scratching the furniture

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If your kitty could get a manicure, no doubt she would, but your sofa will do just fine to sharpen her claws. Here's advice on how to get your cat to stop scratching the furniture, from the ASPCA's Dr. Katherine Miller.

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  • Dr. Katherine Miller

    Dr. Katherine Miller Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist Dr. Katherine Miller is a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist and Certified Professional Dog Trainer with the ASPCA’s ® (The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals®) National Programs Office. more about this expert »

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How to deter your cat from scratching the furniture Scratching is a normal part of feline behavior and an important communication tool. Cats scratch in order to leave behind their scent and visual clues, plus it just plain feels good to stratch. If scratching has gotten out of hand, here are some ways to alleviate the problem:
  1. Give your cat a scratching option other than your furniture, such as a scratching post.
  2. Match your scratching post option to what your cat has demonstrated as its preferred location, position and substance. Vertical vs. horizontal. Rough vs. Smooth. You may have to find the best fit by trial and error.
  3. Always place the scratching post in a prominent location, near a location that they have scratched in the past (say, that favorite chair).
  4. Discourage scratching on furniture by covering it with double-sided tape.
  5. Cats also dislike citrus scents. So spray or place citrus stand-alone air fresheners in areas your don’t want your cat.
  6. Take action immediately once a cat starts scratching. It’s important to nip inappropriate scratching behavior in the bud.
  7. De-clawing is painful and not recommended. Instead trim your cat’s claws frequently, and start early to get them used to it.
  8. You can also try rubber nail caps—replace them every few weeks as the nail grows out.
  9. Reward your cat for appropriate scratching with praise and treats.
Transcript

RON: I'm Ron Corning for howdini.com and we have solutions for cat owners. How do you exactly get your cat to stop scratching and clawing the furniture? It's a problem I know you probably dealt with and Dr. Katherine Miller, an animal behaviorist with the ASPCA, is here with some answers.  So Dr. Miller first and foremost, every cat, it's just simply in their nature, they're going to claw and scratch and they're going to want to claw and scratch to some degree, right?

DR. MILLER:  Scratching is a natural and normal behavior for cats and is something that cat owners need to realize because cats just need to do it. It feels good, it leaves behind a scent mark that only cats can smell. It's an important communication tool for them and also a visual mark, an important signpost that they're leaving for other animals in the area. 

RON: So the key then is to make sure early on that you, I would think, give them another option. But if you've gone awry in that way what do you do? 

DR. MILLER:  Take a clue from where the cat has been scratching. Cats have preferences for different types of locations and substrates. So they might want to scratch on a vertical surface or a horizontal surface. They might want to scratch something that feels rough to the touch, or something that feels smooth and soft. So, take a clue from what they've already scratched. Try to match the scratching post that you offer to that type of preference. And also, the location of it. Cats like to scratch in prominent places. Like I said, it's a signpost. So don't hide the scratching post down in the basement. Put it in the spot where your cat seems to prefer scratching anyway. 

RON: Let's say they're scratching on a chair. 

DR. MILLER: Mm-hmm. 

RON: Should you move  the chair and put the scratching post in place of the chair hoping they'll come back to that same location?

DR. MILLER: You could put the scratching post next to the chair and encourage the cat to use the post, and at the same time, discourage them from using the chair by something on the chair that doesn't feel so good to scratch. Some simple solutions are putting double-sided tape on the scratched areas. Cats don't like the feel of that stickiness on their paws. You can also keep them away from particular areas by using a citrus scented air freshener. Cats don't seem to like that strong citrusy smell. So they'll tend to stay away from those areas. 

RON: Is it more challenging the longer you've allowed that behavior to continue?

DR. MILLER: Yes any behavior could become a habit the longer it's been going on. So nip it in the bud. Take action with these tips. And really praise them when they use it and that way they know what you want them to scratch. They're going to scratch so just let them know where to scratch. 

RON: De-clawing is controversial and is in no way something you want cat owners to do. 

DR. MILLER:  De-clawing cats is a very painful procedure and there are some very simple solutions to prevent the need for de-clawing. Keep your cat's nails trimmed. They can do very little damage with short nails. So get your cat used to trimming it's nails from the very beginning. Make it an easy process involved praise and treats and clipping just one or two at a time. Also it's possible to get little rubber nail caps that slide onto the cat's nails and they're glued in place. Your vet can do that for you or if you're a good handler you can do it yourself. And those last for about three weeks, then they'll just fall off naturally as the nail grows and you just replace it. 

RON: All right. Dr. Katherine Miller thank you. And I'm Ron Corning for howdini.com. 


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