Why do cats scratch furniture?
Cats are not scratching merely to sharpen their claws, but to mark the territory and demonstrate their possession.
It’s important to realize that scratching is not a behavioral problem, but a natural behavior of all cats, which makes them feel safe and in control – tigers have been observed to jump with all four feet on the trees to perform the marking behavior.
Within cat’s paws, there are special scent glands which felines use to mark objects and pass information on to other cats. Scratching is a fundamental part of marking behavior in order to denote territorial possession.
If your cat loves scratching the best thing is to let her outside to scratch on the trees. If you decide to let your cat outside you should think of putting her into a special cat harness in order to not let her escape. Here is a list of the cat harnesses, which will help you pick the best cat harness no escape for your cat.
Punishing cat for a ‘bad behavior’
Punishing cat for a ‘bad behavior’ with aversion methods such as spraying with water, shouting, or hitting is not only ineffective, but can even be counterproductive. Ambushing a cat can increase a cat’s anxiety and lead to mistrust between the feline and its owner.
Looking from a psychological point of view, for cats – the attention seekers, even bad attention in the form of scolding and fussing is a great thing. Therefore, if your cat notices and remembers that scratching your furniture triggers your attention, it will only make your feline reinforcing this unwanted behavior in order to get more of your attention.
If you think your cat scratches furniture in order to acquire your attention, it may mean that you should spend more time with her. If you are a busy cat owner, a great solution to keep her more entertain is to provide your cat with the best interactive cat toys for indoor cats.
Methods to stop your cat scratching furniture
1. Use cat scratching posts
An effective solution to stop cat scratching furniture is to redirect your cat’s unwanted behavior to more appropriate places, like scratching posts.
If you would like to know how to choose the best cat scratcher, here is our guide on how to choose the best cat scratching post on the market.
Put as many scratching posts as possible, so that you give your cat more possibilities to scratch on. A good strategy is to put a scratching post in every place with a valuable piece of furniture.
Scratching posts should be tall, to allow the cat for a full extension of her body.
To encourage the cat to use a scratching post:
– start accustoming your cat to scratching posts from an early age
– spray catnip on the scratching post
– use food treats and a sound clicker (classical conditioning)
2. Trim claws regularly
Clipping the cat’s nails regularly will diminish the extent to which your furniture can be destroyed. The less sharp the claws of your cat are, the less damage can be done to the furniture. Make sure to clip your cat’s claws with sharp cat nail clippers regularly.
3. Try behavioral therapy
Sound signal training – classical conditioning.
4. Use plastic cat nail caps
While training your cat to scratch their claws on the scratching posts, in the meantime you can try to put special plastic cat nail caps on your cat’s claws.
It’s important to start working on eliminating an unwanted behavior of your feline as quickly as it has been observed, because cats have a tendency to re-mark in order to show they already possess an object which has already been marked. Once they mark the same place a few times, marking becomes habitual and very difficult to eliminate.
What is declawing (onychectomy)?
Declawing is a surgical removal (amputation of the third joint and claw of each toe) of the cat’s claws permanently. The procedure is actively discouraged by many associations as it deprives the cat of its natural means of defense and may result in behavioral problems from stress and physical problems from developing an unnatural posture.
Heidi Bickel, in the article “Declawing and Alternatives”, says:
“Physiologically, cats walk on their toes. Because of the structure of the toe and claw, declawing requires the removal of the last joint of the cat’s toe. Cats use their claws for balance, jumping, climbing, self-defense, and grooming, and declawing forces your cat to walk unnaturally. There is some evidence that some declawed cats develop arthritis as a result of the unnatural posture forced upon them as a result of the declaw surgery.”
International Cat Care, in the article “Declawing: an act of mutilation” describes the results of recent research from the Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery:
“This new research shows that declawing increases long-term pain in cats, leading to behavioral changes such as increased biting behavior, inappropriate urination or defecation, over-grooming, and aggression. As a result of ongoing pain from declawing, cats will often choose a soft surface, such as a carpet for toileting, in preference to the gravel-type substrate in the litter box; and a painful declawed cat may react to being touched by resorting to biting as it has few or no claws left to defend itself with. This is not only detrimental to the cat (pain is a major welfare issue and these behaviors are common reasons for cats ending up in a rehoming center), but also has health implications for their human companions, as cat bites can be serious.
In addition, the study highlighted that a declawed cat was also almost three times more likely to be diagnosed with back pain than a non-declawed cat (potentially due to shortening of the declawed limb and altered gait, and/or chronic pain at the site of the surgery causing altered weight bearing).”
What is tendonectomy?
Tendonectomy or tenectomy is considered as an alternative to declawing and deemed less painful. The procedure involves surgical removal of a small portion of a tendon in each of a cat’s toes which prevents the cat from extending the claws and consequently from scratching.
The drawback of this procedure is that the claws continue to grow while the cat can no longer extend them to wear them down naturally. That requires a total dependence of the cat on its owner regularly maintaining the cat’s claws.
If the owner neglects the cat’s claws upkeeping, that may result in serious health problems for the cat’s paws and toes. That’s the reason the procedure is also discouraged by many cat organizations all over the world.
Sources used in this article:Complete Cat Care Manual, Dr Andrew Edney, 2006 Cats 500 Questions Answered, Dr David Sands, 2005
“Declawing and Alternatives”, Heidi Bickel, 2005 (accessed on 10th July 2017)
“Declawing: an act of mutilation”, International Cat Care, (accessed on 10th July 2017)