Cats claws are a vital part of their body. As hunters they need them for climbing and balancing while on the prowl. They use their front claws to grip their prey when hunting, and their back claws if they are tackling something a bit bigger and more lively. Scratching is also used by cats to mark their territory, along with a scent mark.

Cats must keep their claws in good condition to avoid injury. To do this they scratch on rough surfaces like wooden posts and trees. When the cat does this it sheds the outer layer of claw, allowing the new growth to come through.

So when a cat starts scratching their owners furniture it can cause a lot of stress for the owner and create an unhappy atmosphere in the home.

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Why do cats scratch furniture?

Scratching is a natural instinct for a cat. A young kitten will be inclined to scratch in the house before it is old enough to be allowed out. If it considers its best option to be a piece of furniture then that is what it will chose. House cats must maintain their claws as would an outdoor cat. If they are not provided with something suitable then they will chose what they see as the best choice for them.

The other reason for a cat scratching furniture is to identify its territory. This would apply to both indoor and outdoor cats. A settled and secure cat is unlikely to scratch furniture. If a cat is scratching furniture it is likely to be due to one of the following:

  • Moving to a new house or area
  • A change to the layout or contents of the home, including introducing a new piece of furniture or moving one
  • A new cat being introduced into the house
  • A new cat moving in nearby
  • An unusual event or noise such as thunder, fireworks or noisy neighbours

How can I stop my cat scratching my furniture?

The first and most important thing to do is make sure the cat has something suitable to scratch on when they need to. There are a large variety of scratching posts available in pet stores. Make sure you have one suitable for your cat. It must be sturdy enough to withstand being pushed on by the cat. It must also be tall enough to allow the cat to fully stretch out when scratching.

Deter the cat from the furniture it is scratching with a loud ‘no’ when it starts to try and scratch. A hand clap can also be effective. Buy a suitable anti scratch spray and apply to the furniture and around the floor at the base. The best type to use are ones which are bitter lemon or apple scented as cats do not like the smell.

To encourage your cat to use its scratching post try rubbing it with something which has your cats scent on such as a blanket. You can also try a catnip spray to entice your cat to use it. Don’t feel a scratching post has to be brought from a shop. Watch your cat on the garden, is there something it enjoys scratching on whilst outside, for example tree bark.

Place the scratcher or substitute in front of where they cat is currently scratching and encourage it to use it as described above. As the cat gets used to using it gradually move it away from that area into the area where you want your cat to do its scratching.

For cats which are scratching because they are stressed by another cat in their house or in the area, or because of a change in the house which they are unsure of you can try using a pheromone diffuser to help the cat feel more relaxed and secure. A well know brand is Feliway. This comes in several forms but the plug in diffuser is the best for use around the house. It uses the pheromone cats produce when the rub their cheeks around the territory so that they can identify it as their patch. This makes cats feel less threatened by other cats or changes within the home. This is also suitable for cats moving into a new home whilst they settle in.

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