by Ben Team
Wild cats may use their claws for catching prey, dissuading predators and climbing trees, but our domestic cats don’t have any of these things to worry about. Instead, they primarily use their claws to ambush unsuspecting toes dangling off the side of the bed and keep the family dog in line.
Cats also use their nails for one other purpose: destroying your furniture. And they don’t seem to care whether it’s a new leather couch or a prized antique chair — they just want to dig in their claws and leave deep gashes in the furnishings you’ve left in their territory.
But there are a few things you can do to help eliminate your feline’s need to mar your furniture. Below, we’ll explain why cats like to scratch, provide a few strategies for discouraging the practice and discuss the use of cat calming treats to prevent stressed cats from scratching.
Why Do Cats Scratch Things?
There are a few biological reasons cats tend to scratch things. For starters, it helps to maintain their claws and remove the old keratin layers that stick to their nails. It also serves as a way for cats to mark their territory; cat scratches are not only visible, but they also have a distinct odor that other cats can detect.
Cats also enjoy scratching as part of their daily feline-yoga routine. It just feels good to stretch out, dig their claws in and leave long scratches in things within their domain.
How to Keep Cats from Scratching Furniture: Winning Strategies
There are several ways you can try to prevent your cat from scratching your furniture. A few of the most effective solutions include:
- Provide your cat with things she can scratch. If you select a scratching post with a texture your cat finds appealing and put it in a feline-friendly location, your cat will likely start using the post instead of your furniture. You can also smear a bit of catnip on it to help draw your cat to the post.
- Protect your belongings with cat-repelling odors. There are a variety of cat-repelling sprays on the market, featuring scents derived from citrus trees and other plants cats find repulsive. Just be sure to test the spray on a hidden corner of your furniture before using it on visible sections — you don’t want it to cause stains.
- Directly discourage her scratching behavior. If you can catch your cat in the act of scratching, you can clap your hands or make other loud, startling sounds to discourage her. Just note that this won’t work 30 seconds after your cat has moved on to other things — the correction must be immediate.
- Keep her claws trimmed. Trimming your cat’s nails — or even better, rounding the tips with a file — is a simple solution owners often fail to consider. You can (and should) learn to trim your cat’s nails at home, but if you’re worried about getting caught in the cross-fire, most vets, groomers or pet shops will do it for a small fee.
Cat Calming Treats: Another Way to Protect Your Furniture
Any cat may decide to start scratching up your furniture, but stressed cats are often some of the worst offenders. In these cases, owners should try to remove or address the source of their cat’s stress and then take steps to help their feline relax.
Some owners have also begun using CBD — short for cannabidiol, one of the active ingredients in cannabis — to help their cats cope with external stress in their environments. Speak with your vet if you think CBD may be right for your cat, and if you get the green light, be sure to check out Heelr’s selection of CBD tinctures and chews to find a good option for your pet.
Declawing Is Not an Option
Scratching is such a frustrating problem that some owners consider having their cat’s claws removed -- but you should never consider this as an option. Declawing is a traumatic, invasive procedure from which many cats never fully recover.
Cat owners need to understand that declawing isn’t just a nail-removing procedure — it actually requires the removal of several bones in your cat’s foot. This can cause a variety of long-term problems, ranging from chronic pain to lameness. Some vets perform claw removal by simply snipping a cat’s claw-extending tendons instead, but this often triggers similar health problems.
So, do what you need to do to protect your furniture, but please keep your cat’s claws intact.
Ben Team is a lifelong environmental educator and animal-care professional, who now writes about animals, outdoor recreation and the natural world. He lives in Atlanta, Georgia with a spoiled-rotten rottweiler, who is probably begging him to go to the park at this very moment.