According to animal behaviorists affiliated with The Humane Society, cat scratching is not a display of aggression or defiance, or an act of purposeful destruction, but is an instinctive behavior that provides several physical needs. Scratching is the way a cat stretches and exercises its muscles, and it helps the cat to shed the dead outer layers of its claws.
Scratching is also a way to mark territory; an instinct that many animals possess. A cat’s front paws have scent glands, so when it scratches it is leaving its mark along with its smell to inform other animals, “I have been here and I claim this area as mine.”
So, although a cat will never stop scratching, it can be taught to scratch something besides furniture and rugs. It is simply a matter of redirecting the cat to more suitable objects such as scratching boxes and posts.
A Simple Guide to Successfully Stop Cat Scratching on Undesirable Objects
Place a scratching box or post near the furniture or rug you want it to stop scratching and put some catnip spray on it to make it more desirable. Also, lightly spray a citrus scented air freshener on the furniture or rug, which is a very unpleasant odor to a cat. Use a scratching box if the cat is stretching out on the floor to scratch and a post if the cat is reaching up to scratch, making sure the post is sturdy so it does not tip over.
When Kitty starts scratching an undesirable object, shout “no” and give a few squirts of water. When given the choice of getting wet or stopping what they are doing, cats will choose not to get wet every time. Cats also do not like loud noises, so squirts of water along with a resounding “no!” is a great deterrent. Then get a kitty treat and coax Kitty over to the box or post.
Never pick it up and take it to the post because, this will only scare it, and will cause a negative association to the box or post. Also, never attempt to physically remove it from the undesirable scratching areas because, this will only cause it to fear you, and will just teach it to do its scratching when you are not around to stop it.
When Kitty comes over to the box or post, place the treat beside it so that while eating the treat, Kitty will smell the scent of the catnip. Then move away and allow Kitty to investigate. When Kitty scratches it, give verbal praise along with another treat to show approval. Do this immediately when Kitty scratches so the connection between the scratching and the treat is understood.
Continue this until Kitty begins to go directly to the box or post instead of the furniture or rug. Keep using the citrus air freshener for a while as a reminder of where not to scratch, always give praise, and, although you don’t want your cat to expect a treat each time it uses the box or post, every so often give a reward treat to reinforce the training.
Be Patient and Do Not De-claw
Training a cat to stop scratching undesirable objects will take some time and patience, but it can be done. Unfortunately, rather than putting in the effort, some people choose to have their cats de-clawed. All experts agree this is not an acceptable option, because it is a painful procedure that maims the poor cat for life. Can you imagine having the ends of your fingers removed?!
In addition, if an indoor cat should happen to get outside, it is now left completely defenseless. For example, how will it be able to climb a tree to escape a predator without its claws? So please, put in the time to give your cat just some simple loving guidance, and you will both live happily ever after.