Fish have to swim, and cats have to scratch! While they might not always choose the best locations to scratch (your couch, for example), scratching is a natural and necessary behavior for your cat. 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.
Needless to say, it can be quite frustrating when your cat chooses your brand-new sofa as their scratching post. But don’t worry - there are plenty of ways you can get your kitty to scratch elsewhere - because it’s important for them to be able to scratch!
So, why do cats scratch furniture and other surfaces?
A cat scratching on furniture can be a sign of a restless, bored kitty. Scratching is a source of physical and emotional exercise - when a cat scratches, they're releasing physical (and emotional) energy. If you notice your furniture is getting scratched up when you’re not home, it could be because your cat is simply looking for something to do! If you're not home during the day, leave your cat toys that will that give indoor enrichment for your kitty in your absence.
Provide your favorite feline with toys that they can bat around and play with at their own leisure. Catnip-filled toys are a great choice as the catnip also stimulates and encourages your cat to play - instead of nap all day.
Be sure to rotate out your cat's toys! Just like humans, cats can get bored with the same toys, no matter how fun they are.
They’re marking their territory.
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.
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, she is also leaving behind her scent -- effectively claiming it as her 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!
How to Keep Cats from Scratching Furniture
It's no fun when your cat destroys your furniture. That being said, for your cat to be the happiest and healthiest they can be, it’s important that they have a satisfying place to dig their claws into.
Start by making the couch undesirable to cats. 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), it might be a matter of finding which solution works best for you and your cat.
Be sure to provide your cat with plenty of alternative places to scratch, ideally in locations that are visible at cat height. 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 sits on the floor. If they focus more on the arms of couches, a hanging scratcher or pole scratcher might be a better fit.
Once you've got a scratcher, place it strategically. 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.
It can also help to sit with your cat and play by and on the scratcher. Get your cat to scratch by using a teaser or other favorite toy to encourage them to play on the scratcher, which will teach them it's okay to scratch.
If your cat doesn't immediately take to using the scratchers you provide, try sprinkling some catnip or their favorite treat on the surface of the scratcher to encourage use. If your cat is not a fan of catnip, try silver vine - a catnip alternative that is proven to attract cats that catnip doesn't.