CAT SCRATCHING: Tips and Tricks for

Saving your Sofa!

There are lots of good reasons why your cat scratches and claws around the house, none having to do with a desire to destroy your expensive belongings! Using their claws is a perfectly natural feline behaviour and provides a number of positive benefits to the animal. Among them:


  • It helps stretch and tone their shoulders and legs.

  • It sheds the older layers of nails and keeps the claws clean and smooth.

  • Cats use clawing to mark their territory, both visually and with the scent of their paw pads.

  • It reduces stress and just plain feels good!


If your cat seems to have a special fondness for shredding your favourite spots in the house like your side of the bed or your sofa, it’s because she / he  loves you and wants to share her / his scent with you.


It’s important to understand why your cat scratches so you can direct her energies toward less destructive use of those sharp little claws. Cats vary in the ways they scratch and the surfaces they prefer.


If you’ve just acquired a new kitten or adult cat, ideally you planned ahead. You set up appropriate scratching surfaces around your home which perfectly suited her / him, and your new furry family member is already using them. But what if that’s only what you wish you’d done (or tried without success to do), and kitty is now hard at work on the corner of your sofa or a section of your carpet?

The best thing to do is observe her scratching behaviour and try to match your scratcher purchase to it. Some kitties scratch horizontally. Some reach high overhead vertically for a good back stretch. Some lie on their backs and scratch a surface above them like the filmy fabric underside of the box spring on your bed, for example.

Also observe what types of surface your cat prefers to scratch. Some cats prefer soft fabric while others like wood flooring. If possible, buy or make cat scratchers that will satisfy both your kitty’s preferred scratching position and surface. This might involve more than one scratcher design.


When you have your scratching surfaces ready to go, they need to be placed where they’ll be used. Remember that clawing is in part a marking behaviour for your cat, so it’s likely she’s returning to the same place to scratch. It’s doubtful your cat scratchers compliment the décor of your home, but unfortunately, they need to be located as close to that sofa corner or section of carpet as possible in order to entice kitty. You can also try locating one in front of the window she looks out of, her feeding area or her litter box. Sticking the scratchers in out-of-the-way spots your cat doesn’t frequent is unlikely to solve the problem.


For multi-cat households, it’s a good idea to have one more scratcher than you have cats. So if you have two kitties at home, a good rule of thumb is to have three ‘legal’ scratching surfaces. Many cats don’t like to share their scratching territory.


Once you’ve got your scratchers in position, the next challenge is to get kitty aimed in the direction of the new target. Encourage your cat to explore the scratcher using a lure like a feather toy or a toy with some catnip rubbed on it. Offer praise and treats each time she / he uses the post and especially when she / he digs her /his claws into it.


Pet her / him while using the post, and give any other kinds of positive reinforcement she / he responds to. The idea is to make it an appealing experience each time she / he uses the new scratching surface

Discouraging Illegal Scratching

While you’re training your cat to use appropriate scratching surfaces, you’ll also need to make any illegal surfaces he’s fond of as unattractive as possible to him.


Depending on what surfaces you want to protect, consider using some or a combination of the following kitty scratching deterrents:


  • Aluminum foil

  • Double-sided tape (your kitty won’t tolerate the feel of sticky tape on his paws)

  • Plastic sheeting

  • Plastic carpet runners, car or chair mats with the spiky sides up

  • Inflated balloons


If you’re covering surfaces you need to use frequently, like furniture, you can attach the foil, tape or plastic to pieces of cardboard and easily move them in and out of position.


You can also make a loud, startling sound from around the corner or behind the wall. The goal is to connect scratching in the wrong place with an unpleasant consequence like a spray of water or the noise of a whistle, for example.


Clipping Your Cat’s Claws

Clipping the tips of your cat’s front claws once or twice a month will make them less destructive when she scratches.


It’s best to get your cat used to having her paws handled while she’s still a kitten, but no matter your cat’s age, start the process by simply stroking your kitty’s paws regularly to desensitize her.


Incorporate paw massages into your daily routine to keep your cat feeling comfortable about nail trims. Purchase a set of claw trimmers from your veterinarian or a pet supply store, or just use a regular sharp (human) nail clipper. Do the following:


  • With your cat in a calm, relaxed mood, take one of her paws and gently press a toe pad to extend the claw.

  • You’ll see the nail on the end (clear or white) attached to pink tissue called the quick (which contains the nail’s blood supply). Cutting into the quick will cause pain and bleeding, so you want to avoid this area of the claw.

  • Holding the clipper in a vertical position, cut each nail about halfway between the sharp tip and the point where the quick begins. Avoid cutting at a right angle across the nail, as this may cause splitting.

  • If you do happen to cut into the quick, don’t panic. Just focus on soothing and reassuring your kitty. Any bleeding should stop on its own very quickly with a little pressure or you can also use Kwik Stop styptic powder.

  • If your cat is fearful, impatient or uncooperative, try trimming just a nail or two each time. You’ll get to them all eventually.