Cats are great pets. They’re soft and furry, make adorable faces, and can be affectionate (when they feel like it). They’re pretty low-maintenance too, as you don’t need to take them out for walks or let them out to do their business. Just change their litter box regularly, give them food and water, and they’re pretty happy. However, a common drawback to having a cat is their claws, and their need to scratch things.
It’s a natural act, and they have to do it to keep their claws healthy1. Unfortunately, scratching can leave your furniture damaged and shabby. It used to be that cat owners would have their pet de-clawed to fix this, but today it is almost unheard of outside of the United States and Canada2.
So how to keep your cat safe and happy without damaging your home? Here are some helpful tips to help protect your furniture from your cat:
Cut and dull the nails
Cut your cat’s nails often. You can have it professionally done, but you can save time and money by learning to do it yourself. If you are inexperienced you can hurt your cat if you get it wrong or cut them too short. Ask your vet or groomer to show you how to trim nails properly3.
Stay firm and confident. If you’re uneasy about cutting them, then your cat will be uneasy too and they might jump, flinch and get hurt.
It’s never a bad idea to give them a little treat as a reward for letting you cut their claws, and soon they will begin to associate the painless task as a positive experience.
Since your cat is going to scratch no matter what, you might as well give them a specific place to do it. Make sure you put the post in a place where your cat enjoys spending time so that it’s convenient for them, as otherwise they’ll just scratch whatever’s in the room they like best.
To be safe you can buy posts for every area of your house so there’s always one handy. And when you first buy them it’s recommended to put some catnip on the posts to entice your cat to use them.
Don’t yell or smack your cat to correct their behaviour. Cats don’t always understand context, so if you yell or hit them when they do something wrong it won’t necessarily stop them from doing it in the future. They’ll just do it when you’re not around to avoid that punishment.
The key is to get the cat to associate the “punishment” with the negative act, and not with you. This involves some stealthy tricks on your part. For one, misting your cat with a spray bottle is a great way to get them to stop, but you should do it in a way so that your cat doesn’t know that it’s you spraying them. You can also place a deterrent like double-sided tape on the surface so that your cat won’t find it appealing anymore4.
Certain scents may work as well. Many air fresheners, especially those with a citrus scent, are deterrents simply because cats can’t stand the smell.
Scratching provides comfort, so if the spot they’re scratching isn’t comfortable, they’ll move on – hopefully to the scratching post.
Calm your kitty
Cats can get stressed just like the rest of us. Change can be stressful for them, such as introducing a new piece of furniture to your home, and when cats are stressed they tend to scratch.
If new furniture is the reason for the stress, then there’s a good chance they’ll scratch at the offending piece. You can pick up pheromone sprays to apply directly to the furniture, or to plug into the wall that will act as calming agents for your cats.
Entertain your cat
As with all animals, a bored mind can lead to destructive behaviour. Even if scratching isn’t a concern, you should give your cats plenty of exercise and playtime to keep their minds and bodies in shape. It’s when your cat is bored or has energy to burn that you’ll find your favourite sofa in tatters.
Different cats like different games, so try out a selection to see which game yours likes. For example, you can get toys with strings that you can pull around the floor. Your cat will then try to “hunt” the toy, and get perplexed when it hops away just in time. There are toys with treat rewards for when a cat figures out a challenge. And even the old “laser pointer on the floor” game is a great way to keep them moving and thinking.
Tire your kitty out, and you’ll only have worry about fur on the couch where they sleep, and not scratches.