Scratching furniture

cat scratched furnitureHow do I stop my cat from scratching the couch?

This can be a really frustrating thing to deal with – couches, chairs and other furniture can be rather expensive to replace.  So how do you stop them?

Do not punish your cat

Your feline is not a human child and will therefore not respond well to guilt trips, lectures or yelling.  It will also not respond well to being tapped on the nose like you would a dog.  Spraying your cat with a water bottle will probably only reinforce a fear of water and not much else.  It may feel quite natural to punish your cat for doing something wrong but you will get much better results reinforcing good behavior.  You can use a stern voice to let your cat know you are not happy with their actions, but leaping up and yelling or spraying the cat with water can cause more issues in the long term.

Reinforce good behavior not bad.

If your cat is using an appropriate place to scratch its claws such as a scratch post – gently praise them!  Offer them a food treat every time they scratch an “approved” surface, give them some pats or even give them a brush if that is something your cat enjoys.  We always want to reinforce the good behavior.  You can even use “clicker training” to reinforce to your cat what behaviors they are being rewarded for.  Clicker training is  using a “Clicker’ to make a sound with when your cat does something good i.e. scratches its scratch post.  They then get a treat every time the clicker goes off.  The “click” itself should be made while the cat is preforming the desired action.  This all reinforces to your cat that every time they do this desired action, they will be rewarded.  Over time you can replace the treats with pats and smooches.

Have approved places your cat can scratch

So your cat is ripping apart your furniture – why?  Cats need to scratch things, it is important for their claw health and mental health.  If you have a pristine house with no scratch posts or scratch mats available to your cat – it will just find a substitute place to scratch ie your sofa.  Ideally you will want a scratch post with a wide, firm base so that it doesn’t fall over too often.  It should also be tall enough for your cat to have a good stretch when using it.  Having a scratch post that is comfortable to use (height), sturdy and stable (wide base) will help your cat want to use it.  You can experiment with placing your scratch posts in areas your cat has been scratching naughtily.

But what if these suggestions don’t work?

If you have tried all the normal ways to change your cats behavior and its not working, there are a few “Nuclear Options” you can try.

            • Time out:

              Try shutting your cat in a boring place for a couple of minutes.  You can shut them in the toilet room, a laundry – anywhere they will likely get bored and have their “fear of missing out” triggered.  Pick up your cat without being angry or rough then without saying anything deposit them in this boring room for 2 minutes.  Set an alarm if you need to – you don’t want to forget your cat is in time out!  Again without saying anything, release your cat and carry on as normal.  Smart cats will pick this up quite quickly.

            • Scent reinforcement:

              There is a product by Feliway, called “Feliscratch“.  It uses scent to redirect your cats scratching towards using its scratch post instead of undesirable places.

            • Motion sensor compressed air:

              These tools are excellent as they do not hurt your cat, are always “on” even when you are not present, and can be placed anywhere.  Products such as StayAway can monitor “out of bounds” areas and if your cat enters that area the device releases a spray of compressed air – which just so happens to sound like a cat hissing.  If your cat is quite close to the device the blast of air will also help shoo them away and make this area less desirable to enter.  Can refills are available to help bring the cost down.

            • Physically cover problem areas:

              If you have one of New Zealands most willful and defiant cats where nothing seams to work, you may just end up having to physically cover the areas of furniture being targeted.  You can make or buy thick mats or plastic covers to place on couch corners for example.  This may not stop your cat from attacking these areas, but it will stop any damage!  There are a large variety of these online to fit most furniture items.  An alternative is to drape a thick blanket over your couch to protect it.

And lastly be consistent and don’t give up!

Cats thrive on routine and consistency.  If you are not being consistent with what you are asking them to do or not do, they will just choose to ignore you.  Give a cat an inch – and they’ll take a mile!

When you are strong and consistent with your cats training it will be much easier, faster and your furniture will take less damage!