How to Stop a Cat from Scratching the Couch

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25-01-2019, 20:00
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Scratching is a normal and healthy behavior for cats. It helps them stretch their muscles and groom their claws. However, when pet cats are kept indoors, this natural behavior may conflict with their environment. If you're at your wit's end trying to keep your cat from scratching the couch, help your pet redirect the behavior by providing an acceptable place for scratching.

Using a Scratching Post Effectively

  1. Buy a scratching post that you think your cat would like. Scratching posts come in different sizes and shapes and are made of different materials. Look at what your cat normally scratches on for clues as to what your cat prefers. Then try to find a scratching post that is similar.
    • For example, if your cat enjoys scratching your couch and it is covered in a soft fabric, this can be a clue that a carpeted scratching post would be preferable to one covered in a hard or scratchy material, such as sisal.
    • Watch your cat’s scratching behaviors and determine whether it prefers to scratch vertical or horizontal surfaces. If your cat likes to scratch carpets, get a horizontal scratching post. If it likes to sharpen its claws on doorframes or furniture, get an upright post.
    • Keep in mind that you and your cat may have very different ideas of the ideal scratching post. You may prefer something neat, inconspicuous, and out of the way, while your cat may not be satisfied unless it can produce a mound of shredded cardboard.
  2. Look for a stable base for a vertical scratching post. If the scratching post is wobbly, your cat probably won't use it. A vertical post with an insecure base could also topple over onto your cat. Even if your cat escapes uninjured, it will likely never return to that scratching post.
    • Try to find a post with a heavy, double-thick base. If you're going to place the post on a carpeted floor, find a base with feet that will anchor the base into the carpet.
  3. Choose a scratching post tall or long enough for your cat to stretch. The scratching post should be at least 28 inches (71 cm) tall or long. This gives your cat enough room to stretch out to its full length.
    • Cats sometimes hunker down when they're scratching. This is a normal position that works to stretch other muscles. It doesn't mean you don't need a taller or longer post.
  4. Place the scratching post in a desirable location. When you take your scratching post home, put it in a place where your cat frequents. Since the problem is scratching the couch, you might want to start by placing the scratching post next to the part of the couch your cat typically scratches.
    • Keep in mind that cats scratch to mark their territory. Even if you would prefer the scratching post to be out of the way, your cat will be unlikely to use a post in a back corner where it never normally goes.
    • Cats often scratch after waking up. If your cat has a cat bed it uses, or if it normally sleeps in a favorite chair or windowsill, you might try placing the scratching post near there.
    • If your cat normally scratches before or after eating, you might try placing the scratching post near the cat's food and water dishes.
  5. Secure the scratching post so that it stays in place. Your cat likely won't be interested in a scratching post if it has to chase the thing around to scratch it. After all, your cat already likes to scratch your couch, which is a fairly stable piece of furniture. Tug on the scratching post before you introduce it to your cat to test its stability.
    • If you have a vertical scratching post, a sturdy base should keep it from moving around. You might also want to put it next to a wall for additional stability.
    • For a horizontal scratching post, try securing it under another piece of furniture or attaching it to the floor using strong, double-sided tape.
  6. Keep the same scratching post even when it's worn down. As your cat continues to use the scratching post, it will likely start looking tattered and worn. You may find it visually unappealing or think it needs to be replaced. Your cat, however, likely thinks the post has been perfectly worn in.
    • If small pieces fall off the scratching post onto the floor, feel free to sweep or vacuum them up. You can also run a vacuum hose over the scratching post itself occasionally to keep it looking a little neater.

Making the Couch Unappealing

  1. Spray your couch with an enzymatic cleaner to remove your cat's scent. When your cat scratches the couch, it also secretes oils and scent markings through glands in its paws. Since your cat scratches in part to mark its territory, it will return to the couch to renew that scent.
    • Enzymatic pet-odor removers can help eliminate the scent. You can buy these sprays online, or at a pet supply store. Don't waste your money on deodorizers that only mask the scent but won't eliminate the enzymes that cause the scent only your cat can smell.
  2. Place undesirable items on the couch to prevent scratching. Materials such as double-sided tape, aluminum foil, and sandpaper will make scratching your couch difficult or uncomfortable for your cat. If you place them where your cat normally scratches, your cat will avoid those spots.
    • It might take anywhere from several weeks to several months before your cat stops trying to scratch your couch. Leave these items on the couch as long as possible, then remove them slowly, an item at a time.
    • If you find the items unsightly and want to remove them when you have guests over, make sure you replace them as soon as possible, or your cat may try to scratch the couch again.
  3. Surround your couch with smells that are unpleasant to cats. Like undesirable items, unpleasant smells will cause your cat to avoid the area surrounding the couch. This may prevent inappropriate scratching. Fortunately, many of these smells, such as menthol and citrus, are not unpleasant to people.
    • A cotton ball soaked in perfume or cologne might also work as a deterrent. Remember that cats’ noses are more sensitive than yours – you don't need an overwhelming amount to deter your cat.
    • If you're using an unpleasant smell as a deterrent, don't place your cat's scratching post too close to the couch. If the scratching post has the same unpleasant smell, your cat won't use it either, thus defeating the purpose.
  4. Refrain from physically punishing your cat. Physical punishment doesn't work with cats, because your cat won't associate what you're doing with the act of scratching the couch. Although it may help relieve some of your frustration, your cat will get angry with you and may not trust you. Over time, this can do serious damage to your relationship with your pet.
    • Even if your cat does associate the physical punishment with scratching the couch, it will simply wait until you're not around to scratch the couch. This continues the behavior while avoiding the negative consequence.

Redirecting the Scratching Behavior

  1. Feed and play with your cat near the scratching post. When you feed and play with your cat in the vicinity of the scratching post, your cat will develop pleasurable associations with the post. Eventually, curiosity will overtake your cat and it will likely want to explore the post and start scratching on it.
    • Your cat will become more comfortable and familiar with the post by spending more time around it. This is especially important if you have a cat that is naturally shy or fearful of new things.
    • Play with your cat every day to help it release pent-up energy. Sometimes cats scratch out of boredom.
  2. Use catnip and toys to make the scratching post look and smell appealing. If your cat enjoys catnip, try sprinkling some dried catnip leaves or powder around and on the scratching post. The catnip will attract your cat, and it will likely start scratching at the post to get the catnip.
    • Place items that are familiar to your cat around the scratching post. This will encourage your cat to start thinking of the post as one of its things.
  3. Move your cat to the post when it scratches the couch. If you see your cat scratching the couch, immediately pick it up and move it to the post. This redirects the cat's natural behavior to an appropriate scratching target.
    • If you find you have to redirect often, it's a good idea to have the scratching post as close to the couch as possible. Your cat will likely resist being carried any distance to another location. When your cat gets to the point that it seldom scratches the couch, you can relocate the scratching post if you want.
  4. Reward your cat for scratching on the scratching post. Whenever you see your cat using the scratching post, immediately give it a treat or an encouraging pet. This positive reinforcement helps teach your cat that the scratching post is an appropriate place for scratching.
    • As the behavior becomes more frequent, don't reward your cat every time it uses the post. Reward randomly so your cat doesn't only use the post with the expectation of a treat.

Tips

  • If at all possible, start redirecting the behavior while your cat is still young. Older cats will take longer to learn to scratch in the appropriate place.
  • You can also use a product, such as Soft Paws, to cover your cat's claws. While this won't stop the scratching, it will minimize the damage while you teach your pet more appropriate places to scratch.
  • Trim your cat's claws or visit a groomer. This ensures your cat won't damage your couch quite as much.

Warnings

  • Do not have your cat declawed. Declawing is actually illegal in many places. The procedure is very painful for your cat and can have serious consequences. If done improperly, declawing can damage the tendons in your cat's paws, affecting its ability to walk. Declawing also may make your cat less likely to use the litter box or more likely to bite.
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