Cat Behavior Tip: Curbing Inappropriate Scratching
Is your cat scratching up your furniture or woodwork in your house?
While this can be an annoying, destructive, and expensive habit, scratching is a normal behavior that is necessary for your cat’s physical and emotional wellbeing. While it may be tempting to use clapping, scolding, or squirt bottles to interrupt your cat when you catch them in the act, it doesn’t remove their need to engage in scratching behavior. Instead of attempting to “punish” the behavior, consider these tips to redirect them to more appropriate options.
Provide an appropriately sized alternative, such as a scratching post, placed near your couch or currently used scratching area. Pay attention to whether your cat prefers horizontal or vertical scratching surfaces (some like both!) and offer a scratching post or pad near the currently preferred scratching area. Make sure this alternate post/pad is: sturdy (won’t rock or tip) and large enough for your cat to fully extend all the way up or across.
Some cats may be enticed to try the new post by sprinkling a bit of catnip along the base and post.
Praise your cat when you notice them using the newly provided posts/pads. It’s important to notice and reward your cat for scratching where you want them to versus only noticing the unwanted scratching.
Use double sided sticky tape on the parts of your furniture your cat is currently targeting. This makes the surface undesirable to a cat’s sensitive paws, and provides a deterrent that is there even when you are not.
Since scratching can be a territorial behavior, a multi-cat household will need multiple scratching posts/pads. In addition, try spritzing the off-limit scratching spots with a bit of Feliway Spray to help reduce the desire to scratch that spot (along with the sticky tape!).
By offering your tiny tiger appropriate places to engage in normal behavior, and making inappropriate surfaces undesirable, your cat should start seeking these “new and improved” areas to scratch instead. After a time, you should be able to start moving the posts to a different location, and remove the sticky tape from your furniture. If your cat has a “relapse” of scratching on your couch, or you bring a new couch/chair home, simply re-apply the sticky tape until they lose interest again.
Do you have other questions about cat behavior and training? Animal Behavior Clinic can help!