Use the Scratching Post, Not the Furniture!

Are the sides of your upholstered furniture shredded? Are claw marks running down wooden furniture? Can you train your cat out of a bad habit and into using a scratching post instead?

Sisal, cardboard, carpet or wood? Scratching posts come in different sizes, textures and shapes. There may be a few failures before you find one your cat will like. What is your cat clawing now? Try to match that texture. 

Most cats prefer to get a good upward stretch while clawing, but there are some who would be just as happy if the post were laid horizontally, as a natural fallen tree would be, so they can relieve tension or manicure their nails. It’s going to take some trial and error. What they need most of all is something sturdy enough for them to put all their weight into without it shifting or falling over.

In the meantime, you can get scratch deterrent spray to put on furniture. Cats have scent glands in their paws. They are actually marking the couch as theirs. Counter that with a pet-safe odor neutralizer spray. Be sure to test the spray on a hidden spot first. 

Other suggestions include putting sheets of sticky film on the area they like to scratch, putting aluminum foil on the floor beside the favorite area, or spritzing an off-putting scent there to break the habit. 

Encourage playing around the new post, hang batting toys on it or hide treats beside it. Put some calming pheromone spray or catnip on the scratching post to make it more attractive. Scratch the post yourself to show the cat that this kind of activity is allowed on the new ‘furniture.’ But don’t try to drag your cat’s paws on it. This could frighten him and turn him away from it permanently. 

Cats are territorial even when they are friends. If you have more than one cat, he may try to claim a post as his alone, so put several scratchers around the house. An alternative is to get a multi-level cat tree with a variety of surfaces built in. The chance to climb a multi-level cat tree will be good exercise, high adventure, and will also require them to claw as they work their way to the top.

When they claw, they are removing dead or damaged parts of the nails and sharpening them. Keep the tips of your cat’s nails trimmed. Your vet or a groomer can do this for you. It is important to examine a cat’s claws regularly to make sure they are healthy, a normal length and not curling inward where they can harm the cat’s paw pads or cause difficulty walking.

It will take some time for your cat to change his habits, but it can be done. Once he finds a scratcher that he loves, don’t throw it away, no matter how bad it looks. Your cat’s well-worn scratching post will be something he treasures.