Although it may sometimes seem that way, Rascal isn’t scratching the furniture just to annoy you. Cats need to scratch.
Scratching serves a number of functions, not the least of which is marking territory. When your cat scratches, he leaves a visual as well as a scent marker warning other cats away. (You may think it’s your dining room table, but your cat knows that it’s his territory.) Scratching also helps a cat maintain his claws. Some experts speculate that it may also be a form of play.
If you want to keep your cat from scratching at your good furniture, you must offer an alternative — a place where he can scratch.
Scratching posts and boards are available in many different shapes and sizes. It’s best to choose one that suits your cat’s scratching style. If your cat prefers to scratch the floor, it doesn’t make sense to purchase a tower-style post. If he likes to claw the carpet, be sure you choose a post covered with carpet fabric, or it’s going to be hard to get him interested.
Be sure to place the scratching post in the vicinity of the area where your cat tends to scratch. This may make it easier to convert him to his new scratching location.
Training your cat
It’s important to realize that you will have to train your cat to use the scratching post instead of your new couch.
Rubbing some catnip onto the post will help attract your cat to the new item, but you may actually have to show your cat what the post is for by scratching at it yourself. The sound that your nails make on the surface may intrigue him. Experts recommend against holding your cat’s paws and scraping them against the surface of the post. The cat will not associate this motion with scratching, and it may only serve to scare him away from the post.
Unless you have introduced the scratching post to your cat as a kitten, getting her accustomed to using it will probably take some work on your part. If you catch your cat in the act of scratching the furniture or floor, pick him up and take him to the post immediately.
It’s also a good idea to protect your furniture by covering your cat’s preferred scratching places with plastic, aluminum foil, double-sided tape or other material to keep him away during the training period. Using a strong deodorizing spray may also be helpful.
For more ideas on aversion techniques that can be helpful, visit http://www.21cats.org.