Why Does My Cat Scratch the Sofa?

CatChannel behavior expert Marilyn Krieger discusses how to stop cats from shredding furniture.

By Marilyn Krieger | Posted: December 17, 2010, 3 a.m. EST

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Q: I love my BooBoo cat but he drives me crazy. He shreds the corner of my new sofa! I will never declaw him, but I have to stop this behavior. Why is my cat scratching the sofa?

A: Your cat BooBoo scratches your new sofa, marking it his as he gives himself a manicure. Cats scratch for many reasons, including nail maintenance. Cats have scent glands on the bottom of their paws, so when they scratch they mark and boadcast information about themselves to the world. Cats commonly scratch when they feel energetic and during play. They also scratch when they feel conflicted. After a refreshing nap, cats like long, fulfilling stretches accompanied by scratching.

Although your cat must scratch, he doesn’t have to scratch your new sofa. Change your cat's scratching surface to something more appropriate and less damaging by first blocking the areas on the sofa he’s scratching. Cover the targeted areas with a double sided tape, such as one specially created for cats and sold in pet supply stores, or with a material such as a sheet that isn’t conducive to scratching. Whenever making an area off-limits another more fulfilling scratching surface, such as a tall scratching post has to be placed in front of the now blocked-off area. Some cats prefer posts that are wrapped in sisal; others enjoy posts wrapped in carpet. Ideally, the new post shouldn’t have the same texture as your carpets or sofas.

Your cat might naturally gravitate to scratching the post or you may have to jump-start the behavior by playing with him around the post with one of his favorite toys. Also, you can influence him by scratching the post with your fingernails. When your cat does scratch the post, reinforce him with praise and treats. Clicker training works great for this. After you pair the sound of the clicker with a treat, click to mark as he’s scratching the post. Toss him a treat after the click. Your cat soon will realize that it’s more rewarding to scratch the post than the blocked sofa.

The post doesn’t have to be a permanent fixture in front of the sofa, nor does the sofa have to remain swaddled in double-sided tape, After your cat consistently scratches the post, move it one inch a day to another location in the same room. Don’t hide it from view. Remember, your cat marks his territory when he scratches, so the post must be visible. After you permanently relocate the post, gradually remove the double-sided tape from the sofa.

Read more articles by Marilyn Krieger here>>

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Reader Comments

PDF    [DFS, MI

12/22/2010 3:09:53 AM

KDF

Holly    Stouffville, ON

12/21/2010 12:02:14 PM

It's a natural thing for kitties to scratch. The key is to get them to scratch appropriate things. Thanks for the article.

Alice Carty    Columbus, PA

12/21/2010 6:20:59 AM

I have a tip that will reliably stop cats from scratching on soft furnishings. its not declawing. I will write a comment and share my 'secret' if you will publish this tip on your website. I show cats in CFA and have lots of experience. Our cats live in our home and our furniture is not damaged. We do have sisal rope cat 'trees' and climbing post - that certainly helps. But that alone will not alleviate this problem. My technique almost totally eliminates it.

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