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Cat Scratching Solutions | Save Yourself and Your Furniture

Updated on April 19, 2015

Scratching and Biting - Understand Why Your Cat Does This

Cats are wonderful and affectionate pets, but they tend to have some scratching habits most of us would want to change. When a cat continuously scratches you or your furniture, you may want to consider some cat training methods to prevent this. There comes a point when you begin to wonder if there is a solution for cat scratching, and what are the steps to make kitty stop?

Well, in case you are frustrated because your cat scratches and bites you, or scratches up your furniture, you can bet that you are not the only one. Cats do this instinctively, and to mark their territory or they perceive that it's okay to scratch and bite in a playful manner. The thing is, your cats won't be able to tell when they overdo it and it results with injuring someone or damaging your possessions and furniture. This can be a real problem, and it needs to be addressed as soon as you notice you have a problematic feline friend.

Most people consult their vets to see if something is wrong, or even decide to declaw their poor kitty without even trying to understand why cats behave like this and how it can be helped. There is a number of helpful tricks and easy solutions, as I am sure some of the people who know their cats well and understand their quirks from experience can also tell you.

But how can you begin to understand your cat's behavior in order to break this nasty habit of scratching and biting?

First, you have to know a little bit about the nature of cats and try to grasp that some things your cats do are purely instinctive and other things are simply habits. Following so far? Good.

Cats like to scratch up surfaces that are appealing to them, surfaces they can puncture with their claws and easily shred. Yes, I am talking about your sofa. And your armchair. And curtains. However, the scratching is instinctive. What kitty scratches is nothing but habit. And we all know habits can be broken. Besides, it's your fault for having such appealing furniture.

Furthermore, now that you understand the above premise, we need to clarify why cats scratch and bite you. There can be numerous reasons for this, but the main ones are fear, playfulness, aggressiveness due to old age or illness, or you are doing something that irritates the cat of causes it pain. All of this is not an issue if you can pinpoint the exact problem.

So, this article will deal with cat behavior, or specifically the uncomfortable aspects of it - such as scratching and biting, injuring you and damaging things around the house. There are, believe it or not, very simple steps and clever tricks to prevent this and make your cat the best behaving cat you ever had or saw. No need to punish it or declaw it.

Remember, your cat loves you!

Photo credit: Sean Molin Photography / Foter.com / CC BY-NC-ND

You will never ever EVER be able to make your cat do what it does not want to do - So don't try - cats love their independence

Photo credit: kevin dooley / Foter.com / CC BY

Cats are independent. We all know this, but somehow we still wish that OUR cat would be a little bit more of a team player. As appealing as it may appear to call yourself "the one who trained the cat", don't get your hopes up. Instead, learn to outwit your feline companion.

Cats cherish nothing as they cherish their freedom and their independence, so they will always need to have at least a convincing illusion of it. Their playfulness and curiosity is their natural state. Unfortunately, some of the antics are not as fun to us as they are to them. That is when we start making some common mistakes that do not only fail miserably, but could easily shatter that trust your cat is harboring for you. Anyone who has ever had a feral kitty and gained its trust knows how hard it is to build trust with cats. You don't want that, right? That distrusting, disappointed cat face is not a figment of our imagination - it can be a very real problem.

However, this does not mean that we should allow our cats to hurt us and damage our possessions. This just means that we have to refrain from yelling and punishing kitty, or doing anything that endangers its feeling of freedom. Instead, we can find ways to make kitty WANT to cooperate.

The key is to make your cat be an exemplary furbaby without damaging its sense of independence. Remember, cats have a reputation to maintain. I'm sure this makes it sound harder than it is, but I assure you, there are several easy steps to take that will make your cat WANT to stop scratching, biting and shredding your favorite curtains.

Read on to find out how.

Be honest! Is your cat problematic, or does it have some quirks and ticks you'd love to change in its behavior? Take a moment to think about it, and try to set aside the fact that you love your pet. Okay?

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Always reward good behaving cats - With these treats, for instance.

Cats don't respond well to any kind of punishment, but if you give them treats at just the right time, trust me, they will remember that. It's incredible how easy it is to teach the cat some elementary things by having a treat handy - I used to try to teach my cats some tricks this way too, but that works only so far. I keep telling myself that cats play with us when they want, and not vice versa.

You can try this too, and if you manage to teach your cat any tricks, please do let me know. You'll be my hero.

Tactical distractions - remember, this is a game of chess with a very cunning opponent

Scratching posts, cat toys, shiny SHINY things

First thing worth your while is finding a good distraction for your pet cat. A thing to keep in mind is that if your cat loves you (and it does), it will follow you around the house and even try to be in physical contact with you all the time. So, in case you have been frustrated recently because your favorite armchair is being scratched up all the time, this is your logical answer. If your cat likes to be close to you it will scratch your armchair when you are sitting in it. How is this linked to the distraction, you wonder? You will see.

Another important thing to know is that your cat likes attention, and it will do its scratching where people of the house gather and spend most of their time. By doing this, the cat is in its own way marking its territory and you. A lot of people fail to notice this.

To be all scientific about it, this happens because cats have glands in their paws and that way they leave their scent in your house by scratching here and there and kneading you. They also mark you by headbutting you, by the way. Sneaky, huh?

All of the above is very much instinctive, but it isn't impossible to persuade your kitty otherwise. You just have to be equally sneaky. Okay, okay, maybe a bit more.

Now, a good strategy is to have toys in arms reach. In fact, this is the funniest way to trick your cat in order to prevent it to scratch your furniture. When you see kitty wanting to claw your drapes, just throw a toy and it will leap in its direction to capture its prey. I found mini soccer balls particularly useful (and hilarious). I will drop the link below.

A good thing that can repel your cat from scratching things are the sprays that remove pet odors. These are widely available in almost any supermarkets, and work pretty well. Just spray them in places kitty finds irresistible to destroy, and watch it avoid them. It's worth a shot, but be careful, some of these sprays smell really bad for humans too.

We come to the ultimate distraction, that is somewhat logical. Scratching posts! Scratching posts are fantastic for these purposes, but a lot of people use them wrong. Yes, it is possible to use a scratching post wrong, believe it or not. I know you are thinking that I sound crazy and that can't be anything remarkably philosophical about setting up a scratching post for Biteoleon Scratchaparte, but please bear with me.

Remember how we mentioned that your cat will follow you around, try to be close to you and your family and attempt to catch your attention whenever it can (or wants)? This is exactly the reason why you should have the scratching post where YOU spend most of your time. I know it will be in the way, but this isn't permanent. Initially, the scratching post HAS to be in the way. That is only until Cat realizes that scratching that post feels really really good. Then you can move it wherever it fits best - and your cat will look for it, don't worry.

Photo Credit: Jacob Davies | Flickr.com

You may need to consider getting a scratching post - These listed below are wonderful examples.

Note - Please pay attention to the steps I mentioned in this article. Pick a scratching post longer than your cat when it stretches out, and fixate it so that it does not budge in any direction. Find a suitable material before deciding on one, don't buy something your cat will look at once and never touch again.

Don't waste your money, and don't torture your cat. Choose wisely.

NOTA BENE (AGAIN)

When picking a scratching post, make sure it is big enough for your cat, and be absolutely sure to fixate it so it does not budge!

Cats hold grudges - No physical punishment!

Cats cannot handle insecurity

This cannot be emphasized enough. Never hit your cat. This is mean, cruel, and your cat will hate you for it, and possibly want revenge.

Besides, the only thing you can achieve is to confuse your feline friend. Cats do not understand physical punishment, and will not appreciate the feeling of confusion and insecurity this creates. Your cat will not be able to associate punishment with a corresponding misbehavior, and you will just waste your time while simultaneously making your pet more and more insecure. It will just think you have mood swings, and will not want to be close to you.

Another problematic of this punishment approach is that it can invoke the vengeful spirit of the cat. Now, not all cats are aggressive, but all of them hold grudges. Some of them will simply walk away from you and hide, but there are others that might retaliate. This is no joke.

When I was a kid, I had a friend who kicked out her cat out of her house's second story window. The cat, fortunately, did not get harmed because the height wasn't all that impressive but the following events were more than peculiar. Captain Cat was at first completely gone for a few days, and no one was able to find him. After he reappeared, though, he added an interesting spin on the word "revenge" - immediately after entering house, Mr. Grudgy the Cat scratched my friend right across her face, and never allowed her to come near him again.

Another scenario and also a real event is a cat that left home and found its place with another owner because the previous one beat it whenever it did its thing in the flowerpot.

Both possibilities are undesirable, and thus we need to avoid physical punishment when it comes to these wonderful, albeit grudgy creatures.

Photo Credit: oskay | Flickr.com

If so, tell us how.

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Fantastic cat toys that will keep your cat busy - And away from your furniture

The cat dancer is hilarious, in my experience, and there are many more than I have listed here that would be an excellent distraction for the little clawed fiends. A good option is to get a catnip toy, which you will usually be able to find in any well-stocked pet supply store (and they are usually shaped like mice or squirrels).

Cats relish attention - Don't give it to them if they are doing something wrong

Ignore the bad kitty

Cats cannot stand being ignored (unless they want some peace and quiet). This is the most useful piece of information you will ever need when trying to break any bad habit kitty might have. And this is not your only "weapon". Another fact you will need to use to your advantage is the fact that cats pick up on your emotions. Key emotions here would, of course , be some of these - disappointment, disapproval, disgust, anger, you get the gist...

So, next time you catch kitty digging its claws into your sofa, instead of chasing after it with a broomstick, shouting, or physically punishing the furry devil, just make a disgusted or disapproving face and ignore the cat for a good while. You heard me - don't succumb to its charms in 10 minutes. Show Cat the feel of your cold shoulder and watch it work its magic.

After you manage to pull this off a few times, your cat will connect the dots and you will see its behavior slowly changing. This approach is particularly useful for a cat that hurts you by biting and scratching. The moment your cat exaggerates the playfulness, put it down on the floor, gently and calmly, give it the best disappointed look you can muster, and walk away. Proceed by completely ignoring it for a good while. Rinse, and repeat. The message will come across.

Photo credit: eleda 1 / Foter.com / CC BY-NC

Soccer Balls Cat Toys - Keep your kitty close, but your cat toys even closer!

Loopies Lumpy Soccer Ball Medium
Loopies Lumpy Soccer Ball Medium

This entertaining cat toy is a life saver, or at least it is for me. In fact, whenever I catch my cat do something I don't approve of, I usually have one of these close by and just toss them in any direction. The cat cannot resist chasing after it, and then having a good playing session with one of these. Excellent as a distraction.

 

If all above fails, you still have water sprays

A note - never spray a cat directly, it's enough to spray above it so that some water mist falls on kitty

It's all about rewards - Kitty will accept your offerings

Photo credit: Andrea Marutti | Flickr.com

While it is true that cats cannot associate the bad behavior with punishment, they can understand positive reinforcement - and repeat behaviors that bring them rewards. This may sound a little bit too convenient for them, but there is a simple explanation fr this.

Your cat does not view its instinctive behaviors as bad. It just cannot avoid doing its thing (but keep in mind that every one of these behaviors can be redirected). However, cats can create positive habits if rewarded for good behavior.

It's easy to go about this one. For instance, if your cat has a new scratching post, then it is advisable that you reward it somehow each time it uses it. This is especially important in the beginning, and super-effective with small kittens. You can reward your cat with a treat or you can pet it lovingly, just make sure you do it immediately after the positive behavior you are trying to encourage.

For feral kitties, reward with a snack each time you come a step closer to contact, and then proceed by rewarding every physical contact it allows you until you are able to pick it up. But go slowly, and the cat will not be afraid of you at all.

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When everything else fails, what remains is to trim

There is also trimming as a last resort. However, try to drain your other options before deciding to do this.

Trimming claws is okay - Declawing a cat is inhumane and selfish

But be wary when trimming - cats are not fond of manicures

A lot of people who do not know how to deal with their cat's behavior decide to have it declawed in the end. I urge you not to do this, no matter what anyone says, and no matter what you heard about it. You need to know what declawing implies in order to grasp how cruel and selfish it is to do this to a cat.

Declawing is a surgical procedure that removes the last joints in a cat's paw - the ones that have the claws. Now, if this doesn't sound cruel enough already, imagine having your finger joints removed. Did you shudder? Good.

First of all, this is extremely painful for a cat and overall very discomforting even after the pain subsides. It harms the cat's balance center, it destroys the trust you had, it makes kitty vulnerable, insecure and unable to climb or defend itself. You will deprive it of its identity as a nature's hunter, and destroy its independence and confidence.

Trimming, on the other hand, can be done in certain cases, although I would recommend trying everything else first. Trimming implies only that the tips of the claws are removed, and you can do this yourself at home. Make sure not to cut any further than necessary to blunt the claws, and do not cut near the pink pads in the inner parts of the claws. This will make kitty bleed, so be very careful. I would also recommend having two people when doing this, because some cats will not appreciate being held. Oh, and a normal nail clipper will do.

Just remember, this is the last resort, so make sure you tried all the steps above before choosing to do this.

Photo credit: lorenzo cuppini verducci / Foter.com / CC BY-NC-ND

This cat is not THE Grumpy Cat, but it sure is grumpy. Do you think it's likely to scratch? - Or shred some furniture as punishment for not offering it more foo

What did you think of this article? - Was it useful? Interesting? Nothing you did not already know? Leave a comment below, and let me know. Or simply sign the g

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    • profile image

      CatScratchFever117 3 years ago

      nice photos and I will admit I know a lot about animals but I got impressed by some info. 5/5 for me :D

    • profile image

      othellos 4 years ago

      Interesting information about cats. I learned so much here. Thank you for publishing this lens.

    • orangegirl6020 profile image

      orangegirl6020 4 years ago

      Cute pictures and great informations! Nicely done.

    • Elis173 profile image

      Elis173 4 years ago

      Very helpful lens, i love cats!

    • JeffGilbert profile image

      JeffGilbert 4 years ago

      great information. so many times, my cat did something that just made no sense. a lot of good advice and information. Great lens!

    • mechanicaleye profile image
      Author

      Eda Škulj 4 years ago from Bosnia and Herzegvina

      @Dressage Husband: Thank you for your feedback nonetheless. I appreciate your comments and thoughts much more than I would the blessing or the like. I am glad that my article has inspired people to share their experiences with their cats. Thank you.

    • Dressage Husband profile image

      Stephen J Parkin 4 years ago from Pine Grove, Nova Scotia, Canada

      You have a good understanding of the nature of the cat. I liked and tried to bless, but that did not want to work for me today, must be a Squidoo issue. It has been working erratically ever since they added that new advertising bar at the bottom of the page! I have reported it 3 or 4 times but so far to no avail. Sorry!

    • mechanicaleye profile image
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      Eda Škulj 4 years ago from Bosnia and Herzegvina

      @Fcuk Hub: Thank you, I tried to make my knowledge useful.

    • mechanicaleye profile image
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      Eda Škulj 4 years ago from Bosnia and Herzegvina

      @anonymous: I'm happy you did. :)

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      anonymous 4 years ago

      Very nice page, thoroughly enjoyed, thank you.

    • Fcuk Hub profile image

      Fcuk Hub 4 years ago

      You really know something about cats. Very helpful lens :)

    • pcgamehardware profile image

      pcgamehardware 4 years ago

      What a great page, Liked and Blessed. :)

    • suepogson profile image

      suepogson 4 years ago

      Thank you - my cats have always been outdoor cats and I think I get less problem this way. My main issue has been when new animals are introduced. Billy-Fat-Cat invariably expresses his displeasure by peeing in places that are, to say the least, inappropriate. But this only lasts until he's got over the sulks. He knows where he's allowed to scratch (90% of the time!) But in case he forgets I'll have a water-spray at the ready!

    • mechanicaleye profile image
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      Eda Škulj 4 years ago from Bosnia and Herzegvina

      @suepogson: This is a real problem, I know. They can be really nasty when a new cat is introduced, but over time, they get used to it, or as I see it, they just stop caring. Water sprays are a really easy solution to a lot of things cats do.

    • mechanicaleye profile image
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      Eda Škulj 4 years ago from Bosnia and Herzegvina

      @Cari Kay 11: That sounds like something my cat would do! I guess they can be a handful, but you got to love them. :)

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      Kay 4 years ago

      Just blessed your lens not two minutes ago and left the page. IMMEDIATELY AFTER, there was a HUGE crash. Our cat dumped over a fairly large palm tree we have in our house. The base is filled with soil with a layer of rocks over it (to discourage kitty thinking of it as his own personal latrine). The floor is covered in soil, leaves and rocks now. Sigh...

    • mechanicaleye profile image
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      Eda Škulj 4 years ago from Bosnia and Herzegvina

      @dwnovacek: It is very effective indeed - cat run away even from the water mist so you can train them easily like that, and after a while even the sounds and movements associated with holding a water gun or a spray make them freeze. Thank you for the feedback and the blessing!

    • dwnovacek profile image

      dwnovacek 4 years ago

      Gre.at information. I've found - with both my cats and dogs - that the water pistol makes a great deterrent. After a very short period, just holding or touching the water gun was enough to make them stop the bad behavior almost immediately

    • mechanicaleye profile image
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      Eda Škulj 4 years ago from Bosnia and Herzegvina

      @Gloriousconfusion: It does take a lot of time to teach a cat good and acceptable behavior, but I personally find it's worth it. Good to hear that someone else used that approach when you give your cat a cold shoulder and a stern look - cats are incredibly receptive to emotion! Thank you for your feedback and for sharing your experience, it helps to hear a lot of perspectives no matter how well you know the topic. Thank you for the blessing as well.

    • mechanicaleye profile image
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      Eda Škulj 4 years ago from Bosnia and Herzegvina

      @anonymous: I'm glad you enjoyed it!

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      anonymous 4 years ago

      I love this explanation. Thanks

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      Diana Grant 4 years ago from United Kingdom

      I have trained our cat not to jump up on the kitchen surfaces or kitchen sink, and not to climb over the shelves in our lounge, knocking over valuable crystal or china ornaments. She is still permitted to sit on a table by the window, but not our coffee table. It took a long time - months - but she mostly behaves now, unless she spots a flying insect or tasty food, when she loses all self-control. I trained her by saying "Get Down - No" in a stern, loud voice, picking her up (which she hates, as she is a feral cat), and putting her on the floor. She now knows exactly where she is welcome and where she has to be a bit shifty and secretive.

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      Eda Škulj 4 years ago from Bosnia and Herzegvina

      @burntchestnut: It's good to have conditions for an outdoor cat, and I believe that it's in fact better for a cat to have more space, but in case you are in an apartment, it changes things. But cats are manageable, they just take some patience sometimes. :)

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      burntchestnut 4 years ago

      Great information on cat behavior. I've always loved cats, but they were mostly outdoor cats.