How to teach a cat not to scratch furniture?

How to teach a cat not to scratch furniture?

Some behaviours of cats can be awkward for us. Certainly, they include scratching chairs, sofas or legs of an antique sideboard. Sometimes, also wallpapers, carpets or other household appliances are damaged.

The first stage of the strategy to teach the cat not to behave like that is to habituate ourselves to the fact that scratching is a natural, instinctive and inbred activity of cats, i.e. of tigers, lions or our domestic cats, and we should not even try to ban it. Scratching various objects raises the ‘standard’ of living of the animal because it has strictly defined goals. One of the main ones include marking of the territory and thus deterring intruders, but also muscle training and simply claws care (tearing off the outer skins of claws). Grooves on the scratched surface, secretion of glands odours and sweat pads, or remains of claws let other individuals know to whom a given area belongs. Brutal treatment of furniture is very often associated with the cats that do not leave home. However, sensitive cats, even when they go outside, scratch places where they feel safe, which is at home. They often mark centrally located objects, which additionally draws our attention. Cats show their inborn, self-praising behaviour, often getting some titbit from us as a reward and our interest, giving us in return give the information that they feel safe and secure here.
Watching the animal, we will be able to answer the question:

How to teach a cat not to scratch furniture?

One of the possibilities is to divert cat’s attention to another interesting object and to mask the smell of the originally preferred one. In order to do it, the scratched furniture should be thoroughly cleaned and a scratcher for cats should be placed in its vicinity. The next steps are, on the one hand, to encourage the cat to use the scratcher (priority) and to discourage the destruction of furniture, on the other hand (restoration). It is worth spraying the new scratcher with catnip, which is loved by most cats, and arrange all the games in its vicinity, often directing the cat to the scratcher and praising for using it. The use of chemical preparations applied directly on damaged furniture, i.e. deterrents, may be helpful. Cats lose interest in objects that give off unpleasant smells. An example of a preparation with a light lemon smell, which is not liked by cats, is Repelex by Dr. Seidel.

  • Wash the selected area thoroughly before spraying.
  • Repeat the application regularly – on average every 7–9 hours. The aim is, after all, to permanently put an end to the problematic behaviour.
  • Repelex can be used in homes on floors, carpets and furniture.

Another idea to discourage from scratching furniture is to use rustling bags, aluminium foil or double-sided adhesive tape directly on the furniture. The cat will then give up activities that will become unpleasant to him. This action will, at the same time, strengthen the effect of the scratcher.

Success in eliminating unwanted behaviours is possible thanks to knowledge of teaching and learning as well as of the behaviour of particular species, but most of all thanks to empathy, consistency and adaptation of all actions to the nature of the animal.

Marta Hohensee, MS, coach and animal behaviourist COAPE

5 June 2018