Why do cats keep coming back to our favorite comfy chair or sofa and latch onto it like there is no tomorrow? They knead and scratch with a vengeance, like they are determined to destroy it.
Destroying furniture is one of the top five reasons people relinquish their precious felines, even though these awesome creatures snuggle with us for hours on end, purr us to sleep, and entertain us with their humorous antics.
You see—this is the thing—cats are hardwired to knead and scratch. Kneading and scratching are normal cat behaviors, and they cannot be stopped; however, we humans can teach them to scratch where we want them to scratch, and to not destroy our furniture, woodwork, doors, etc.
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Are my cats deliberately destroying my sofa to spite me?
The answer to this is no. They are not trying to annoy you. On the contrary, they are trying to impress you, and show you how much they love you.
Therefore, you should never punish your cat for kneading and scratching. Because it is an instinct and hardwired into your cat’s DNA, you cannot change this behavior.
Even declawed cats will knead and scratch. It is something they need to do and cannot stop. Never, ever punish your cat for scratching furniture or your woodwork. The key is to find alternatives.
Cats tend to pick a small number of conspicuous objects in their environments to scratch, and return to them repeatedly, finding it difficult to leave that particular piece of furniture or windowsill alone.
Most cats are attracted to anything with a nubby, coarse, or textured surface, or something they can really sink their claws into. These textures may include your sofa, stuffed chair, windowsills, door casings, carpeting, a favorite blanket, your laundry, a stuffed animal, a toy, or your lap.
12 solutions, deterrents, and scratching alternatives:
- Do not declaw. This practice is banned in many countries and US cities because it is considered inhumane. You are not just pulling out the claw. You are amputating the cat’s first digit. It is painful and can lead to phantom pain and exacerbate arthritis in later years. Read more about declawing here.
- Place several scratching posts of different types and sizes in the places where your cat scratches, not hidden away in the corner. The key here is these scratching posts need to be where your cat scratches, not in a back room.
- Placement is important as your cat kneads and scratches to intermingle your scent with theirs. It is a form of bonding. If they are scratching the door casing, place the post right in front of the side where they are scratching.
- Cats like to scratch near where their human spends a lot of time. That is because scratching is a way of complementing your scent with theirs. It is marking a piece of furniture as owned by you and your cat.
- Spray catnip on the scratching post to help it gain your cat’s attention and interest. You can also rub anything with your scent on the post. That could be an old worn-out t-shirt or a used towel. Attach toys to the top of the post, creating a fun place for your cat to play as well as scratch.
- Play with your cat around the post. Use wand toys, catnip mice, or other favorite toys so your cat will associate the scratching post with fun and play.
- Make sure the scratching post is sturdy and will not tip over. This is one place you will not want to skimp on price. Once your cat gets spooked, it will be almost impossible to train him to use the post, as he will be afraid of it.
- Try to replicate the fabric the cat is scratching, and you might want to try several different types of posts: sisal rope, carpet, corrugated cardboard, or even a small tree limb. You may want to create a DIY project to create the ideal scratching post for your cat.
- Reward your cat with treats, extra TLC, or playtime for scratching in the RIGHT places.
- Observe your cat’s scratching behavior. By being aware, it will help you choose the right alternatives to train kitty to scratch in acceptable places. Some cats like scratching posts that stand tall; others prefer ones that lay on the floor. And lots of cats like both.
- Make sure the scratching post is long enough so your cat can stretch out their ENTIRE body while scratching and making biscuits with their paws. This is especially true for upright posts.
- For an adult cat, the scratching post should be 36-42 inches high.
- Invest in vertical, angled, and horizontal scratching posts, giving your cat the option of different scratching and stretching positions.
- Think outside the box. Try some different types of materials, everything from cardboard, posts you can attach to the wall, carpeting, sisal rope, sisal cloth, or even a small tree limb.
- If you have carpeting in your home, you may want to avoid that as scratching post material as kitty will find it hard to understand why you let them scratch carpeting on the post and not on your floor.
- Cat trees provide another option for kitty to stretch out and play. What is great about cat trees, you can find ones that will match the décor of your home. From ones that look like a cactus, mushroom, cocktail glass, or even a real tree, your cat will be able to knead and scratch while laying down or climbing to the top. They can knead the cat tree while napping and soaking up the sun, as well.
- Cat trees come in all types of sizes and shapes. You can have a one tier with a circular hiding place. You can have two or three layers, creating vertical space for your cats.
- These are particularly good in multi-cat households, as cats are territorial. One cat can claim the top tier, while another cat takes one a bit closer to the floor. Both cats can enjoy soaking up the sun, and climbing the cat tree, much as they would do outside if climbing a real tree.
- Cats live in a vertical world, and they depend on elevated areas for safety, comfort, exercise, and fun.
Enticing your cat to scratch in acceptable areas will take some work.
Here are 12 additional suggestions to take the pain out of this annoying behavior:
- Stop your cat in action by making a loud noise, like clapping your hands, to get kitty’s attention when scratching in an undesirable spot. This acts as a form of diversion.
- Entice them away from the scratching area with food or a toy. Chances are they will learn this is a better option, and cats are particularly motivated by food.
- Put a blanket or heavy towel on your lap so kitty’s claws do not go into your skin.
- If your cat starts biting you while kneading your lap or stomach, stop petting them. They are overstimulated and are telling you to stop.
- Play with your cats. A bored cat can get into trouble. Play will help them stretch, spend quality time with you, and yes, wear them out so they spend less time kneading and scratching.
- Put a heavy sheet, mattress pad, or some other pad around your couch or comfy chair. You could even use a shower curtain or plastic drop cloth. Then place your couch or chair cover over it. It will not show and will give added protection in the event your cat does start clawing the sofa.
- Use the two-sided tape, StickyPaws, on the area your cat is scratching. These Furniture Strips are 2″ X 12″ transparent adhesive strips that apply directly to fabric to stop cats from destroying home furnishings.
- Place some aluminum foil over the surface where your cat is scratching. They will not like the feel of the tape or the foil and will avoid the area.
- Strategically place some sort of barrier, like a box or other piece of furniture, to prevent your cat from accessing the area they want to scratch.
- Spray the area your cat is scratching with some sort of citrus or menthol. Cats do not like the smell of citrus or menthol. You also can try placing cotton balls soaked in these substances on the surface. Change them out every few weeks.
- One common home remedy is to mix water, eucalyptus oil and lemongrass oil, which can be rubbed or sprayed on the furniture where your cat usually scratches.
- Use an over-the-counter spray deterrent like Feliscratch by Feliway, billed as a simple answer to cat’s inappropriate scratching in the home.
- Feliway can be dispensed in two convenient ways
- A diffuser that is plugged into an electrical outlet.
- Or a spray that can be used in high traffic areas.
- Feliway can be dispensed in two convenient ways
Hopefully, these tips and tricks will help your cats follow their natural instincts to scratch while keeping your furniture looking its best.
BJ Bangs is an award-winning blogger/journalist, communications professional, and photographer. She has been published in CatFancy, CatTalk, and Catster Magazines, and has just published her first book, “Who Needs Men, I’ve Got Cats”. You can find more info about her on her website: www.bjbangs.net (Paws News for Cat Lovers)