8 Tips to Decrease Feline Destructive Scratching

The only issue that causes more complaints from cat owners than litterbox issues is destructive scratching.

It’s hard not to take it personal when your well-loved cat seems like she’s on a mission to ruin your new sofa. Your cat has no issues with your sofa, though, or you for that matter. Cats scratch to remove a clear covering over their claws and to deposit their scent on the furniture from glands in the paws. You may also see your cat stretch her body before scratching; it feels good.

Cat Trees are Awesome

Before the introduction of reasonably priced cat trees, redirecting a cat who was scratching was more difficult. Today you can find cat trees in various shapes, with different materials, and in many price ranges. Choose a good sized cat tree with more than one material (such as rope and carpet). It should have a sturdy base so that it doesn’t wobble or rock. Whether it has a bed, a hammock, or other amenities isn’t nearly as important as are the vertical poles or surfaces for scratching.

More Than One

If you have a large house think about getting more than one cat tree. Place one near the cat’s litterbox and another where your family and the cat relax in the evening. If your cat is destroying furniture (or carpet) in one area, make sure a cat tree is placed in that part of the house.

Make the Cat Tree Attractive

You want your cat to like the cat tree so make it appealing. If your cat likes catnip, sprinkle some catnip in spots on the tree. Don’t cover the tree in catnip; too much will drive your cat away. But some sprinkled here and there on the tree to tempt your cat is great. Every once in a while refresh the catnip. If your cat doesn’t like catnip, hide a few treats on the cat tree.

Hang a Toy from a High Spot

A tempting toy can attract your cat to the cat tree too. Hang a toy made of feathers, perhaps with a small jingle bell, hung from the highest shelf on the tree will catch your cat’s attention and she’ll climb the tree to play with the toy.



Make the Old Spots Unappealing

With some new spots for your cat to scratch now available, you need to make those previous spots unappealing. Carpet can be sprayed with white vinegar (test in a hidden spot to test for staining). The edges of furniture can be covered with a piece of clear carpet runner with the nubs out. This way when your cat tries to scratch the nubs of the runner will be uncomfortable on the cat’s paws. Use the vinegar and/or plastic runner pieces for several weeks.

Claw Caps may be an Option

Most pet supply stores sell cat claw caps that fit over the cat’s nails. When wearing these, your cat can go through the motions of scratching but doesn’t cause any damage. The caps need to be replaced regularly (usually every two months) and of course to put them on, you need to be able to handle your cat and manipulate her paws.

Don’t Declaw

Surgical declawing is not recommended by most experts because it’s a major surgery with the potential of lasting problems. Although the removal of the claws does stop destruction of your things, it is painful for the cat and has a difficult recovery. In addition, after the surgery many cats have problems with their paws for the rest of their lives; including developing arthritis in the paws.

Punishment Doesn’t Work

Cats rarely learn from punishment; instead, they are more likely to fear the one who does the punishing. Your cat may avoid you, run away from you, and develop other behavior problems. Instead of punishing the cat, put your efforts towards making her cat tree appealing so she uses that instead of your furniture.

It’s also fun to offer your cat different items once in a while that can be clawed and destroyed. A piece of firewood with bark on it is great. A cardboard box is too, as is a long heavy cardboard shipping tube. The cardboard tube and box can each hide some treats or catnip to attract the cat.

Meet the Author: Liz Palika, CDT, CABC

Liz Palika is a Certified Dog Trainer and Certified Animal Behavior Consultant as well as the founder and co-owner of Kindred Spirits Dog Training in northern San Diego county. Liz is also the founder of Love on a Leash therapy dogs; her dog, Bones, goes on visits on a regular basis. A prolific writer, Liz is also the author of more than 80 books. Many of her works have been nominated or won awards from a variety of organizations, including Dog Writers Association of America, San Diego Book Awards, the ASPCA, and others. Liz shares her home with three English Shepherds: Bones, Hero, and Seven, as well as one confident and bossy orange tabby cat, Kirk. To relax from work, or to take work on the road, Liz and her crew travel the West and PNW in their RV. If you see an RV on the road named "Travelin' Dogs", honk and say hi!

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