Scratching Tips

Scratching nice bits of furniture – why it’s not always a good idea.

Now I personally see no problem with scratching – it’s a simple enough operation – claws, camera – ACTION! However it seems to be something that my humans can get very worked up – I particularly recall the day I added an interesting striped effect to a brand new pine cabinet. I thought it looked better but the scenes had to be seen to be believed. I was in disgrace for weeks and weeks!

So if you have an issue with striped furniture then there is some stuff here about what you can do to discourage us from scratching – have a read if you have nothing better to do. I’m off to attack a chair (just joking!).

So how do you get a cat to scratch a scratching post and not the furniture? The answer is part persistence, and part cat psychology! Scratching is normal feline behaviour. It’s part exercise and part “marking” behaviour. We sleep, we wake up, we stretch, have a nice vigorous scratch, and leave the spot marked as “ours”.

What you need to do is agree with us which furniture is “yours” and which is “ours”. Cats are territorial creatures, so we understand this very well.

First rule – start young. Start training your cat while still a kitten, if possible. Scratching behaviour begins about the time that your kitten is being weaned! Older cats can be trained too but may require longer, especially if they were not conditioned to using a scratching post before. Just be persistent, gentle but firm. Choose a post that appeals to your cat – remember it has to be a preferable option to your favourite armchair. Each cat has his own preferences, and you may have to experiment a bit to get it right. The standard vertical post should be tall enough for your cat to stretch their full length, and should be very solid. Your cat won’t use a wobbly post. Cats especially like to use carpet covered cat “furniture” with posts, barrels, and platforms, since these are large enough, solid, and offer a variety of surfaces to claw. They also nap and play on the furniture, helping to reinforce the idea that it is theirs. Some cats prefer to claw on a horizontal surface, such as the living room carpet! Some will use sisal mats that they can stand on and claw. Many cats enjoy the inexpensive cardboard scratching boxes that lay flat on the floor (hint: add small bags of catnip to provide additional incentive). The best scratching material is thought to be sisal rope. Some cats like to scratch rough wood, such as a log with the bark still on it – the neighbours smart wooden gate is normally a preferred option with me! Place the post where the cat wants to use it. This is essential – a post placed in the basement next to the litter box won’t get used. We like to stretch and scratch after a nap, so place the post wherever we nap. I highly recommend placing several posts around the house, wherever your cat likes to hang out, so a post is always within easy reach. A bit of an expense admittedly but your cat is worth it!

Some furniture seems to be irresistible to cats, there is a chair in my living room that is the perfect shape, texture, and location for scratching. The owners have tried to solve the problem by placing a nice scratching post right next to the chair. Hasn’t worked but it was a good idea.Use enticements and dissuasion. You can help interest us in a new scratching post by sprinkling or rubbing catnip on it, or by dangling a toy around for us to grab. Don’t forget to reward us for using it. After all we are doing you a favour!

When we start to scratch on the sofa (or chair or bed), you need to let us know that this is not allowed. My humans yell ‘claws’ in a particularly uncouth way! I normally pretend not to understand what the problem is but your cat may get the message pretty quickly! As an alternative they will pick you up and take you to your scratching post every time you start scratching the furniture – play ball with them and pretend you have got the message – you can always get back to the chair later. You have to let them think they have won sometimes. Some people use a water spray bottle to discipline their cat. I would recommend trying the voice method first. Spraying a cat with water is rather “insulting” and can produce bad feelings (and counter-productive behaviour) in your cat.

I can behave very badly indeed when people try that on with me I can tell you …..