#1 Cat Complaint: Scratching (And What You Can Do About It)

Behavior & training

It’s extremely frustrating to find that the cat has snagged the couch, ripped a hole in the curtains or left marks on the window sill. When these situations occur it’s easy to feel like your cat may be angry or upset with you. Many owners feel the only alternative is to re-home the cat or call the vet to have him declawed. Please understand your cat is not acting out of spite, anger or jealousy. Your feelings of frustration are normal and now it is time to find a solution.

The good news is you don’t have to live with a destroyed house, nor do you need to have your cat declawed. There are a number of ways to allow your cat to take part in this natural behavior and still live harmoniously with him. Before we can discuss ways to decrease destruction to our home, we must understand the motivation behind our cat’s scratching behavior.

Cats scratch as a way of:

  • Marking Territory: Using the scent glands in their pads, along with their claws, scratching allows them to leave a mark that says “this space is taken.”

  • Relieving Stress: It is common to see a cat increase his scratching when he is stressed due to inner cat conflict, stray animals in the yard or stress from unpleasant owner interactions.

  • Maintenance: Scratching allows our cats to remove the outer layer of the nail which ensures their claws are healthy.

  • Stretching: As your cat stretches his back he will naturally flex his claws.

How can I stop my cat from scratching?

Scratching is a normal, functional cat behavior. The goal isn’t to stop him from scratching. The goal is to offer him appealing alternatives and train him to understand what items are appropriate to scratch.

Common recommendations such as spraying the cat with water, making loud noises or tossing a can of coins at him when you notice he is scratching may stop his behavior in the moment, but are typically ineffective at modifying the behavior long term.

The problem with this use of punishment is that your cat will not necessarily understand why you are tossing coins at him or squirting him with water. You may increase his stress and make your cat distrustful of you; both can increase undesired behavior. The other downside to the typical recommendations is the cat simply learns not scratch in your presence; no one speeds in front of cops.

How can I train my cat not to scratch my furniture?

  1. Offer him an appealing Scratching Post. You are considering his perspective, not your own.

  2. Hang room deodorizers, or use cat repellant next to the object of your cat’s scratching desire.

  3. Consult with your veterinarian about using Feliway, a pheromone based product.

  4. Cover the item with an undesirable material such as sandpaper, sticky-paws tape designed for cats, or plastic carpet runner (pointy side out). The material will need to stay on for several weeks while you train your cat to use the new scratching toys you provide.