Although it may seem that way at times, your cat doesn’t scratch your furniture or carpets to annoy you, he does it to clean the outer sheath of his nails, remove cuticles and sharpen his claws – think of it as a feline manicure! While you can’t stop your cat from clawing, there’s a lot you can do to protect your furniture and redirect your cat’s behavior. Here are our top tips for keeping your cat from scratching your furniture.

Invest in a scratching post

When your cat digs his claws into your old furniture, it’s easy to lose his cool and scream. This will only upset, confuse and provoke your cat. The best thing to do at these times is to pick him up and put him near a scratching post to condition him.

Scratchers allow cats to express their scratching instincts while tidying up furniture and carpets. “Choose a scratching post that looks like the material your cat likes to scratch the most,” says Meghan Herron, DVM and assistant professor of behavioral medicine at Ohio University.

Most cats prefer scratching posts made of a rough material that they can scratch. Herron says scratching posts made of sisal (a coarse natural fiber) are ideal because they are pleasant to scratch and durable enough to withstand repeated use. Try different types of scratching posts, such as hemp, cedar, cardboard, or rope, to find the one your cat prefers.

Cats that scratch the legs of chairs or the corners of their couch will prefer a vertical scratching post, while those that scratch carpets and rugs will prefer a horizontal scratching post or carpet, Herron said, adding that vertical scratching posts should be tall enough for the cat to reach out to scratch. Scratchers should also be stabilized to prevent them from moving or tipping over and scaring the cat while using them.

“Cats scratch to leave scent marks that define their territory and indicate to other cats that they have passed them. They often scratch visible objects near resting areas and bedroom entrances,” Herron said. “Scratching posts should be placed in these and other areas of the house. In households with multiple cats, multiple scratching posts, both vertical and horizontal, should be placed throughout the house.”

Here are some tips for getting your cat used to scratching a post rather than your furniture:

– Make the post more inviting by rubbing some catnip or spraying catnip oil on the post.
– Every time your cat uses the scratching post, give it a treat.
– Show your cat how to scratch the scratcher using its claws.
– Wrap a toy around the scratcher so that it rubs against the post. When your cat slips on the toy, he may discover the joy of scratching the post behind it.

Sprays, tapes, and other cleaners

Not all cats will fit on scratching posts. Alternatively, try covering their favorite scratching spots with double-sided tapes, such as Sticky Paws. Cats’ paws are extremely sensitive. This acute sensitivity makes sticky surfaces exceptionally irritating, and cats will avoid scratching in such unattractive places.

Herbal sprays can also keep your cat from scratching unwanted areas of your home. “Don’t use anything that will harm your cat if he ingests it, and be careful of strong odors, because you don’t want even acceptable objects nearby to smell unpleasant,” Herron warns.

Keeping your cat’s claws trimmed is another way to reduce claw damage. Herron recommends trimming the sharp part of your cat’s nails about once a week, being careful not to cut quickly (the pink part of the nail), which would cause bleeding and be painful for your cat. Use nail clippers designed specifically for cats, not humans or dogs. If you’re not sure how to safely trim your cat’s nails, ask your veterinarian for a demonstration.

You can also dull your cat’s claws by lining them with Soft Paws, plastic pads that fit over your cat’s claws. However, your cat must be patient enough to let you or the veterinarian put it on and trim the claws underneath. Some cats remove them, but many tolerate them. They adhere easily, last four to six weeks, and do not interfere with normal claw extension.

Dangers of declawing

Declawing, or toe amputation in cats, is illegal in most cities in the United States and Canada. It is considered cruelty, and if the cat gets out, it cannot climb a tree and defend itself. It can also cause chronic pain. Many shelters and adoption agencies have a “no declawing” clause in their contract. Before considering this drastic procedure, talk to your veterinarian about safer alternatives.

The sooner you provide your cat with adequate alternatives to scratching furniture and carpets, the happier you and your cat will be.

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