If you’re owned by a cat, it’s likely you’ve come into contact with his or her claws more than once. They really mean well, but it’s damn annoying when your favourite feline decides to redecorate your new couch, your carpet, your curtains or whatever else they can get their scratchers on.
Before we can figure out how to stop cats scratching, we need to understand the reasons they do what they do. Yeah. Let’s try to understand a cat. Stick with me, it’s really not as hard as you think.
Why Do Cats Love Using Their Claws?
First of all, your cat is not doing these things because he’s bad, evil or spiteful. Your cat does not hate you and your cat is (probably) not going to tear you to shreds while you sleep. Cats just really love using their claws. It’s one of the ways they mark their territory. Those little slashes you have on your arms are your cat’s way of saying “MINE!”. You should feel honoured.
Cats use their claws to mark their territory in a couple of ways: the first one is visual and the other is to do with scent. Not only do they like the look of their own artwork, it provides a visual marker for other cats to show that they’ve been there. Cats also have scent glands in their paws, so when they scratch things a scent mark is left behind to communicate with other cats. As for what they’re trying to say…who knows?
Scratching also helps kitty to remove the dead outer layer of the claws, which helps to prevent ingrown or overgrown nails. There’s an element of enjoyment in all this scritching as well – think about that look of joy your cute little furball gives you before sinking his razor blades into your couch, or the long lazy stretch as those claws dig up your carpet. But this is not just about feel-good destruction, it’s also a good opportunity to flex and exercise the toes and stretch the whole body.
Here’s the bottom line: cats need to scratch. It’s not something you can stop, but it is something you can direct, with a bit of patient training.
Why Declawing is Not the Answer
I’m pretty sure we’re all on the same page about this these days, but just in case you think declawing a cat is ok – it’s not. It’s cruel and inhumane and completely unnecessary. It’s also illegal in an increasing number of places. Declawing involves removing the last bone in your cat’s toes, where the nail lives. It’s the equivalent of removing your fingers at the last knuckle.
This is a surgical procedure that is not only painful during the initial recovery period but also has the potential to hurt for a long time afterwards. Declawed cats have to relearn how to walk, run, jump, climb and do just about everything without part of their toes.
As we learned above, scratching is a natural instinct for cats. Removing their claws removes part of what makes cats the amazing creatures they are. Just don’t do it.
How to Stop Your Cat From Scratching up Your Entire Life
So we’ve established that cats are going to scratch and that they need to keep their claws and their toes attached, like they should be. There’s nothing that we can or should do to stop this natural instinct. What we need to do instead is direct their scratching to an area that suits both human and cat. Here’s my latest favourite cat expert with a bit of advice:
Things That Might Help
The first thing you can do to prevent the carnage all over your stuff is to keep your cat’s claws trimmed. This is a relatively quick and painless, routine maintenance thing that will help maintain the health of kitty’s claws and minimise the damage your cat causes when he’s doing his thing. Check out my guide to clipping your cat’s claws here and my favourite claw clippers here.
Investing in a good scratching post is the first thing you need to do to save your furniture. The kind of post you choose will depend on what your cat likes – it’s a good idea to start with something inexpensive until you’ve figured out if your cat likes cardboard, sisal, carpet, vertical, horizontal or something else. Once this experimentation phase is over you can fork out the big bucks for something that will last.
After you’ve established what kind of scratching post your cat likes, you’ll need to place it in a spot that is territorially significant to your cat, or in other words, somewhere that he already likes to scratch. Even the best, most delicious scratching post will be ignored if it’s in the wrong place, so keep it close to other areas that your cat has already marked. You can make the scratching post more appealing with a catnip spray or a supply of treats and plenty of praise when you catch your cat scratching the right spot.
As far as protecting your furniture goes, I’ve found double sided tape to be the best way to discourage paws where I don’t want them. Cats do not like the sticky feeling on their paws and will learn to avoid that spot. It doesn’t need to stay there forever, either – usually, a week or two will do the trick and keep the claws away from your couch for good.
No matter what you do, cats are going to scratch things. It’s just what they do. The best way to help the situation is to keep kitty’s nails trimmed and provide appealing scratching surfaces that you don’t mind being shredded. It’s the best way to keep both you and your cat happy and your furniture safe.
How have you solved this cat scratch dilemma? Share your success stories in the comments below…