Most cat owners have dealt with their cats scratching their furniture in one way or another. It can be frustrating when your cat chooses your brand-new sofa as their favorite scratching post. While they might not always choose the best locations to scratch, scratching is a natural and necessary behavior for your cat.
Believe it or not, you should actually support your cat's natural need to scratch. But you don't have to sacrifice your furniture to do it! Read on to learn why cat scratching is actually a good thing for your cat to do - and some tips on how to keep them from scratching on your sofas.
1. Stress Relief
Like you might stretch your muscles and keep in shape with a yoga routine, scratching helps your cat to both stretch muscles and relieve any tension or stress. It releases "feel-good" hormones, akin to a runner's high. Scratching also helps to remove the outer layer from your cat's claws, a healthy grooming behavior to keep your kitty's paws in tip-top shape.
2. Claw Marks = Symbols
Your cat isn’t scratching the arm of your sofa out of a wanton desire for destruction. Believe it or not, cats actually scratch as a form of communication to other cats – and us humans, if we know how to read cat. By leaving a visual mark on visible areas of the house (the ends of couches or chairs, for instance), your cat is letting anyone and everyone know that a cat lives here and that this is their territory.
It's akin to leaving a sign up that says "DO NOT ENTER." This instinct may be carried over from their wild ancestors. Big cats in the wild will claw and scratch at trees (along with scent marking) to establish their territory. Fun fact - the higher up the tree the big cat can scratch, the more dominant they come across to other animals!
3. Safe Scent Marking
Cat paws also have hidden scent glands, and they use these secret scent glands to mark their territory. Besides the visual markers that scratching a post or chair leaves, every time your cat scratches, they are also leaving behind their scent -- effectively claiming it as their turf.
These pheromones are pretty much undetectable to our human noses, but other cats or animals in the home will be able to sniff out that message loud and clear: This is MY house! If you don't have any other animals in the home and your kitty still mimics this behavior, it might just be a little post-it note reminder to herself that these are her "safe zones."
How to Keep Cats from Scratching Furniture
- Make the furniture undesirable. You can cover the areas your cat commonly likes to scratch with specially-designed furniture protectors. You can also use deterrent sprays like those using citrus and herb scents (which cats naturally find repulsive and are not harmful to the cats), it might be a matter of finding which solution works best for you and your cat.
Provide alternative scratching places. Cat trees designed to act as scratching posts may be a great alternative, because it encourages your cat to scratch but also provides them a little safe place to call their own, making them more likely to focus scratching on the tree! Find a scratcher that works for your cat, as some cats have different scratching preferences. If you notice your cat scratching on your carpet or rugs, try a scratcher that lays on the floor. If they focus more on the arms of couches, a hanging scratcher or pole scratcher might be a better fit.
- Place strategically. Place these scratchers in locations that are visible at cat height. It should be near the places they usually scratch (like the couch). It can help to block access to where they usually scratch as well, so their only option is the scratcher.
- Use catnip or treats as bait. If your cat doesn't immediately take to using the scratchers you provide, try sprinkling some organic catnip or their favorite treat on the surface of the scratcher to encourage use.