Cats like to scratch. They scratch
during play. They scratch while stretching. They scratch to
mark territory or as a threatening signal other cats. And
because cats’ claws need regular sharpening, cats scratch on
things to remove frayed, worn outer claws and expose new,
sharper claws. Unfortunately, all this scratching can cause
a lot of damage to furniture, drapes and carpeting!
What to Do About Your Cat’s
The best tactic when dealing with
scratching is not to try to stop your cat from scratching,
but instead to teach her where and what to scratch.
An excellent approach is to provide her with appropriate,
cat-attractive surfaces and objects to scratch, such as
scratching posts. The following steps will help you
encourage your cat to scratch where you want her to.
Provide a variety of scratching
posts with different qualities and surfaces. Try giving
your cat posts made of cardboard, carpeting, wood, sisal
and upholstery. Some cats prefer horizontal posts.
Others like vertical posts or slanted posts. Some prefer
a vertical grain for raking, while others favor a
horizontal grain for picking. Once you figure out your
cat’s preference for scratching, provide additional
posts of that kind in various locations. Keep in mind
that all cats want a sturdy post that won’t shift or
collapse when used. Most cats also like a post that’s
tall enough that they can stretch fully. (This may be
why cats seem to like drapes so much!)
Encourage your cat to investigate
her posts by scenting them with catnip, hanging toys on
them and placing them in areas where she’ll be inclined
to climb on them.
scratching by removing or covering other desirable
objects. Turn speakers toward the wall. Put plastic,
double-sided sticky tape, sandpaper or upside-down vinyl
carpet runner (knobby parts up) on furniture or on the
floor where your cat would stand to scratch your
furniture. Place scratching posts next to these objects,
as “legal” alternatives.
your cat’s nails regularly. To learn how, please see our
article, Trimming Your Cat’s Claws.
Consider putting plastic caps on
your cat’s claws (Soft Claws®) so that he’ll do no
damage if he scratches on something in your home. These
special caps attach to claws with an adhesive. They’re
temporary, lasting four to six weeks.
If you catch your cat in the act
of scratching an inappropriate object, you can try
startling him by clapping your hands or squirting him
with water. Use this procedure only as a last resort,
because your cat may associate you with the startling
event (clapping or squirting) and learn to fear you.
need help, don’t hesitate to call in the experts. Please
see our article, Finding Professional Help, to locate a
Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist (CAAB or ACAAB) or
a board-certified veterinary behaviorist (Dip ACVB).
What NOT to Do
- Do not hold your cat by the
scratching post and force her to drag her claws on it.
This practice could seriously frighten your cat and
teach her to avoid the scratching post completely. (She
might decide to avoid you, too!)
- Do not throw away a favorite
scratching post when it becomes unsightly. Cats prefer
shredded and torn objects because they can really get
their claws into the material. Used posts will also
appeal to your cat because they smell and look familiar
Should You Declaw Your Cat?
Some people declaw their cats to
prevent or resolve a scratching problem. The term “declaw”
is a misnomer. It implies that declawing only involves the
removal of a cat’s claws. In reality, declawing
involves amputating the end of a cat’s toes. Cats
suffer significant pain while recovering from declawing. An
alternative surgery, a tendonectomy, severs the tendons in a
cat’s toes so that she’s unable to extend her nails to
scratch. This procedure may or may not cause less pain.
However, if you choose this type of surgery, you must clip
your cat’s nails regularly because she’ll be unable to
maintain them herself.
The ASPCA discourages declawing and
tendonectomies because of the extreme pain that these
surgeries inevitably cause. Both procedures are illegal in
some European countries because they’re considered cruel to
animals. We only recommend such surgeries if a cat caretaker
has unsuccessfully tried everything else to resolve
scratching behavior and is considering euthanasia.