Behavior help: My cat is scratching—and ruining—my furniture!

Behavior help: My cat is scratching—and ruining—my furniture!
Photo Credit To Lukasz Szmigiel

Q: Why does my cat scratch the furniture?

A: Scratching is natural behavior for cats. Cats scratch to sharpen their nails and remove old sheaths on their claws, to stretch their muscles and to mark their scent. But if you don’t want them to scratch your leather sofa or upholstered chair, you must offer appealing alternatives.

Provide a variety of scratching posts (most cats prefer sisal or cardboard). Some cats like vertical posts, some horizontal—you may need to try a few different types. Make sure the standalone varieties are sturdy enough to withstand the scratching action so they don’t get knocked over and scare your cat. Because cats often stretch and scratch upon awakening, place the posts near where your cat sleeps. Cats often prefer to scratch on a centrally-located piece of furniture, such as the sofa, so place a post there, too. Encourage your cat to investigate posts by scenting them with catnip or placing treats on or near them.

If you catch your cat scratching something he shouldn’t be, calmly move him and redirect his attention to the scratching post. Reinforce this good behavior with praise or a treat—whatever he likes the best—when he uses his post. Because a cat’s territory is important, he also may scratch to mark his scent in areas he feels are not safe. To prevent this, provide an enriching environment for each cat in the household with all that they need—play, food puzzles and cat towers for climbing, hiding and perching.

By Arricca SanSone

Expert advice provided by Ilona Rodan, DVM, feline specialist at the Cat Care Clinic in Madison, Wisconsin.


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