Another common question, in a series of questions I often get, is why do cats scratch furniture, curtains, etc. And more importantly, what can I do about it? Well, they do it for a number of reasons. Scratching is a good form of exercise for them. It enables them to get a good stretch for their bodies, and allows them to extend and retract their nails. This is important, because this activity helps them remove the outer nail sheaths.
But they also scratch to leave visual and olfactory (scent) markers. Cats have interdigital glands, which are located between the pads of their paws, that leave odors behind so that other cats know that the “marker” cat has been in the area. When cats scratch objects, they also leave small gouges, which are visual signals to other cats that there is a cat in the area. Unfortunately, we human housemates are not too fond of those gouges in our furniture.
Also, some cats may scratch furniture because they are not provided with adequate scratching posts. Other cats have developed a preference for particular materials, such as the expensive fabrics that our couches and armchairs are made from. The location of certain furniture may make it a great place for cats to provide a visual signal or get a good scratch in after waking from a nap. In the wild, scratching sites are usually located in areas where the cats spend a fair portion of their time. Again, this is probably not the look you were going for when you picked the fabric and furniture.
– Try placing a scratching post right next to the furniture the cat is currently scratching.
– Deter the cat from scratching furniture by placing double-sided sticky tape on it. Many cats find the stickiness of the tape unpleasant.
– Praise and offer food rewards whenever your cat scratches her scratching post. You can also try using clicker training to capture the cat as she is engaging in appropriate scratching behavior to teach her to scratch on the preferred objects.
Check out this video which give you an idea of what clicker training is all about.
– Offer a variety of scratching substrates. Don’t offer just one carpeted scratching post. For example, also offer one of the inexpensive cardboard scratching posts or one made from sisal rope. An untreated wooden log works great, and is what many cats would scratch in the wild. However yo need to make sure this “natural” scratching post is secure, so it can’t tip over and injure your cat.
Another idea is to buy fabric similar to the furniture the cat likes to scratch and make their own scratching posts from that. Then leave a deterrent, such as sticky tape, on the actual furniture and place the new scratching post next to the furniture in question. As the cat starts to scratch the new post, you can slowly move the post to a more desirable location.
Hope this helps1