Some cat owners, especially those raising their first cat or kitten, may see clawing or scratching as a behavior to be discouraged. In fact, cats need to scratch, for several reasons. Thankfully, this behavior is easy to redirect. Your cat does need to scratch, but that doesn’t mean your furniture needs to suffer!

Cats Need to Scratch

Why do cats scratch things? There are several reasons. It’s an instinctive behavior that usually can’t be stopped, even with intensive training. Nor should it be. Cats claw and scratch objects in order to:

  • Remove the dead outer layer of their claws
  • Stretch and flex their feet and toes
  • Stretch their muscles
  • Scent-mark their territory

Rather than trying to stop a cat from scratching—which can be rather like trying to stop yourself from blinking—cat owners can redirect the behavior. You may be surprised at how easily you can stop destructive scratching.

Redirecting Your Cat’s Clawing Behavior

Providing your cat with an approved surface or surfaces to scratch is crucial to keeping your furniture intact. It can help to watch how and what your cat prefers to scratch, so you can provide a surface he or she will enjoy. Some cats like to stand and reach up on a vertical surface; others prefer to get horizontal and stick their butts in the air while clawing.

Be aware of what texture kitty seems to prefer, and keep these things in mind when you shop for a cat scratching post. You can find them in various shapes, sizes and textures. Your cat may prefer rope, cardboard or carpet. You can also use natural wood with the bark still on—just be certain it hasn’t been treated with any chemicals before you give it to your cat.

Once you have an approved scratching post, you can make it more attractive by adding a toy or rubbing it with a bit of catnip. Put it near where you cat likes to scratch. Whenever you catch your cat scratching inappropriately, give kitty a firm “No” and place its paws on the scratching post. Don’t forget to praise or offer a treat when he or she scratches where it’s allowed! Larger homes may require multiple posts.

It won’t be long before kitty gets the message, “don’t scratch the sofa; scratch the post instead.”