Save Your Furniture, Your Sanity, and Your Cat's Claws!
New cats and kittens are a fantastic addition to any family. But after you've bought the litter box it's time to worry about the furniture. You see, cats love to scratch. They actually need to scratch and if you're not careful they can quickly ruin your prized furniture. But before you give up hope, there are things you can do to protect your furniture without having your cat de-clawed.
You need to encourage your cat to scratch a scratching post rather than your furniture. An understanding of why cats scratch will help us here!!
Cats scratch for many reasons. They scratch as a way to exercise and tone their muscles. They also scratch as a way to stretch. They have scent glands in their paws so cats scratch to scent and mark their territory. They love to dig their claws into the post, (or your furniture!), not because they want to ruin it but as a way to clean and sharpen their claws. Oh, we almost forgot, they scratch and claw because it feels sooooooo good!!
So you can see that scratching is a cat's natural behavior and should be supported and encouraged to keep your cat fit and healthy. If your cat is scratching the furniture you'll find that physical punishment does not work and will alienate your cat. Sometimes a stern word or a loud clap will stop kitty while you're there, but what happens when you're gone?
For a happy cat and a harmonious household with intact furniture the following tips may be of use:
The most important thing you can do is to buy a scratching post BEFORE you get the cat. This way the post will be an integral part of the cat's environment when it arrives. Once a cat has established a behavior it's very hard to break.
Ideally buy more than one post and place them in the areas that you think the cat will use most often. At a minimum place one near where the cat will sleep. Cats love to stretch when they wake up, who doesn't.
Buy a stable post, one that doesn't wobble and feels very sturdy. Cats really dislike instability and if the post falls over it's very unlikely the cat will ever use that post again. Look for a good solid base and the post should feel well made, not flimsy.
Place a post in your main family area. Your cat wants to be part of the family spend time with you. There's nothing nicer than a cap napping in your lap on a winter's day. After a hard hour or so sleeping in your lap its time to stretch. I hope there's a post nearby, or there goes the furniture!
At the outset you will need to encourage the cat to scratch the post. You don't need to show your cat how to scratch: it already knows!! Try rubbing some cat nip on the post, or tie toys and string on the post. Play with the cat around the post so that it gets used to clawing the post. Trailing yarn or string up the spot will encourage clawing and is my favorite method!
Make sure the post is big enough. Your cat should be able to fully stretch on the post, so look at a minimum height of 3 feet. Cats love to dig in their front claws and arch their back to stretch their front legs. This is difficult to do if the post is too short. Beware, if the post is too short then your cat will find out that human furniture is an ideal height!
Play with your cat. Keep it happy and entertained, especially around the posts and it will be less likely to take it out on your furniture!
Finally get a post that is course and can be destroyed. Cats love rough surfaces. They will happily pull and tear at their post and enjoy watching it deteriorate. Nylon backed carpet makes an excellent post covering, as does sisal rope. A cat can really get its claws into both these materials. If you currently have a cat which is scratching and clawing the furniture then look for a post made from similar material. If you can't find the ideal post try making your own.