How to stop your cat scratching

Your cat isn’t evil and determined to shred your house, she’s just being a cat.

Cats need to scratch, it’s a hardwired and necessary part of healthy cat behaviour.

They do it:

To stretch – Scratching is good exercise and helps your cat stretch their muscles.

For healthy claws – Cats scratch to help shed their nail sheaths. They generally shed each claw once every few months.

To define territory and create familiarity – Cats are territorial by nature and scent is a valuable communication tool. They have scent glands in their paws and scratching is a way to claim their space.

To release emotions – Scratching feels great to cats, it also helps relieve stress and frustration. Scratching is like kitty anger management – it reduces the likelihood they’ll develop other unwanted habits.

You can’t stop your cat from scratching, so you’ll need to reach a compromise.

The best way to do that is by providing suitable things for your cat to scratch, like scratching posts or scratching pads.

It’s best to do this from when they’re a kitten to avoid them getting into the habit of scratching the spots you don’t want them to. But if it’s too late for that, you can redirect your cat’s behaviour.

Cats like vertical and horizontal scratching surfaces, so you’ll want at least one of each. If you’ve got a serious problem you might want to provide a variety of approved scratching options in different positions around the house to work out what your cat likes.

Horizontal scratching pads of corrugated cardboard are pretty straight-forward options, but many of the scratching poles on the market aren’t ideal.

Make sure your scratching pole is tall enough that a full grown cat will be able to completely stretch out and that it’s sturdy enough and won’t tip over on them.

If you’ve got a new kitten it’s worth getting something that will pose a challenge, so they can play and grow into it. That way your cat will feel ownership of it and it’s unlikely they’ll start scratching things they shouldn’t later in life.

Encourage good behaviour

  • Put the scratching posts and pads in plain sight so they’re easily accessible.
  • If your scratching post has a platform at the top, put it by a window or in a patch of sun to encourage your cat’s interest.
  • Put the scratching post or pad near a favourite snoozing spot to inspire a stretching and scratching session after a catnap.
  • Sprinkle catnip on the cat scratching post or pad to lure the cat to it.
  • Play with your cat and incorporate the scratching post into the game. Encourage your cat to climb or reach up the scratching post or hide behind it to pounce on other toys.
  • Praise your cat and give them a treat when they use their scratching post or pad.

Take the fun out of scratching furniture

  • Thoroughly clean the area your cat has been scratching with an odour-neutralising cleaner. Most cats don’t like citrus so that can act as an extra deterrent.
  • Tightly tuck a sheet of plastic or bubble wrap around the scratched area so your cat can’t get under it to scratch.
  • Put double-sided tape on or around the area your cat likes to scratch. Cats hate the stickiness on their paws.
  • Place a scratching post in front of the place the cat has been scratching so it’s hard to get to.
  • If you see your cat getting ready for a scratch,┬ádistract them with a game and redirect them to the nearest scratching post or pad.

It will take a few weeks to get into the new approved scratching habits. When your cat seems to have adjusted, you can start removing your deterrents one by one.