How to Train a Cat Not to Scratch the Furniture
Bodie the cat uses his scratching post. (Photo courtesy of Angie's List member Lynn Newbill of Alexandria, Va.)
Many cat experts say declawing feline forefeet should only be a last resort, after nonsurgical solutions have been exhausted. If you want your cat to keep its claws intact, but don't want shredded furniture, you must first understand why cats scratch in the first place, then take appropriate action to train a cat not to scratch.
Why do cats scratch?
While dogs urinate to mark their territory, cats have another method of scent-marking: By using their claws, they mark an area with the scent from their paw glands. They also mark visually by leaving shredded material behind as evidence and to display dominance in front of subordinate cats.
But cats don't use scratching solely as a social cue. Often, they scratch as a way to stretch and exercise their legs or to condition their claws by removing their old nail sheaths.
RELATED: Should You Declaw Your Cat?
Cat scratching alternatives
Use scratching posts. Providing cats, preferably starting when they’re kittens, with stable, sturdy and rough-textured scratching posts and pads, will help them develop healthy scratching habits. Catnip may help attract a cat to a post or pad, as can providing treats and praise for using designated scratching areas.
Trim the cat's nails. Cutting down nails will keep cats from needing to scratch so much, so be sure to clip nails every one or two weeks. It’s easiest to get cats used to this if you start when they’re kittens.
Use deterrents. Stick double-sided tape on furniture, which makes the surface unpleasant for cats. Use feline pheromone spray, which reduces the cat’s desire to scent-mark. Spray the cat with a water bottle if they're scratching somewhere other than a scratching post.
Use nail covers. Glue soft plastic covers onto the cat’s nails every four or six weeks. You can buy these at most pet stores for about $15 to $25.
“To avoid destructive cat behavior and clawing, you’ll need to be willing and able to invest time, effort and money,” says Lynn Newbill, a cat-owning Angie’s List member in Alexandria, Va., who’s successfully tried several of these methods. “I’d urge people to learn about cat behavior before adopting. Understand what you’re getting into before bringing a cat into your home.”
Also, consult with a general veterinarian, a feline practitioner or animal behavior expert. Angie’s List can help you find a top-rated professional. Members have access to local consumer reviews on veterinarians and service providers in more than 550 other categories.
Editor's note: This is an updated version of an article originally posted on Nov. 26, 2012.