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Scratching is a natural part of your cat’s behavioural repertoire.  Even if your cat has access outside, it is generally a good idea to provide scratching posts indoors, just in case, as most cats will still scratch the furniture inside the house - especially if a suitable scratching post is not available. 

A scratching post is invaluable to every cat owner.  To prevent her from using your furniture as a post, provide an acceptable alternative.  Scratching has several very important functions for a cat.  It removes the outer surface layer of the claw, revealing a sharp new point underneath.  It also spreads secretions from the glands between the footpads as well as forming an integral part of their marking rituals.  

Scratching appears to be almost ritualistic to cats.  If you observe her you will notice the following:  stretching up high and pull down, to achieve a really good pull on the claws, and then starting to scratch/claw at the post.  

This is why it’s important to have the right post for her.  A perfect post should be at least one and a half times the length of your cat when she is standing up on her hind legs.  You should experiment with the texture covering the post.  Generally scratching posts are covered in carpeting or rope, or made out of wood.  

If she has already decided on a piece of furniture as her scratching spot,  get a post of similar textile consistency, and place this directly in front of the unwanted scratching area, as close to the chair as possible.  

Cover the furniture being used either in bubble wrap, or in cling wrap.  You can also spray anything citrus scented on the bubble wrap as most cats find that smell aversive.  Make sure the post is right up against the furniture being used, so if it’s on a corner of the couch, place the post right up against it.  

Encourage your cat to not to use your furniture from day one by training her to rather scratch the post.  This is simply done by being consistent – if you hear her using the furniture, interrupt her and then redirect the action of scratching onto the post by taking her to the post and scratching at it with your own fingers to show her what to do. If she likes handling you can even lift her feet up gently to help her get a grip on the post. Once she ‘gets it’, praise her enthusiastically.

Once she is reliably using the scratching post, you can start moving it very gradually to a more desirable area – bearing in mind that cats need at least one meter of space around the post to allow for stretching horizontally.  When you have moved the post and want to remove the bubble wrap, use some Feliway, citronella or citrus essential oil spray on the area where she used to scratch.  (But please test the fabric fastness first).  This way, you will make that area undesirable for future scratching.  Remember to scatter some catnip over the scratching post too as this helps to make it even nicer to play with!

If you have a cat that is targeting carpets, get some Feliway or citrus scented carpet spray (or again, use essential oils diluted with water and sprayed onto the carpet) to deter the cat from using it.

 

 

 

Karin Pienaar
Animal behaviour guru, Karin Pienaar, has been working in the field of animal behaviour and behaviour therapy in South Africa since 1997. She completed her Diploma in Animal Behaviour in the UK, through the Centre of Applied Pet Ethology (COAPE) and is a qualified Practitioner member of the COAPE Association of Pet Behaviourists & Trainers (CAPBT) in the UK and South Africa.
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