How to Stop Your Cat from Destructive Scratching

Scratching is instinctive for cats. From stretching to marking their territory, all cats need to scratch from time to time, even cats that are otherwise gentle. But this normal behavior can result in a lot of damage if directed at your favorite furniture. No one wants to come home to their new couch torn to shreds! Learn more about why your cat scratches and some tips and tricks to help them find healthy options to manage their need to scratch.

Why does my cat scratch?

There are many reasons why a cat will scratch. It can be a way to show they are feeling stressed out, excited, or anxious. It’s also used as a defense mechanism when they feel threatened. Cats have scent glands in their paws, so scratching is how they mark their territory as well. After a long period of resting in the sun, stretching is the perfect way for cats to wake up their muscles. Cat’s may scratch to anchor the upper half of their body, allowing for a nice, long stretch. Scratching is a great way to perform self-care if nails are getting too long or unruly. Finally, scratching also sharpens claws, allowing the cat to be prepared for hunting. All of these reasons to scratch are simply a part of being a cat.

A cat lying on a bed Description automatically generated with medium confidence

Why is my cat destructively scratching?

When a cat is destroying household items with their scratching, it can be very frustrating for any owner. However, it’s important to remember that cats do not consider where they are scratching when the urge hits. They are only looking for a location that will help them scratch best and not as a way to misbehave. Keeping this in mind, one way to minimize destructive scratching is to provide specific scratching tools and toys that allow for an appropriate place for your cat to scratch. There are a wide variety of options that can fit most budgets and household spaces. Setting up a designated area near where your cat routinely likes to scratch can encourage your cat to abandon their destructive scratching and replace it with the new option. Keep reading to learn how to successfully transition your cat to using an appropriate scratching tool.

What are the best scratching tools for my cat?

Cats love to scratch sturdy objects that allow them to fully stretch out. This is why furniture is typically a popular option because it doesn’t wobble and it’s much taller than the average cat. A simple rope-covered scratching post that is at least 32 inches tall is the perfect replacement option for most cats. A cheap two in one solution is Alpha Paws dog ramp that also doubles as a cat scratcher and ramp that cats love to run up and down on, while small dogs can use it to safely get on and off a couch. If this doesn’t seem to interest your cat, try implementing a wood or cardboard post. Some cats find these materials more effective and would prefer it when trying to scratch. In other cases, your cat may like to scratch horizontally instead of vertically. There are specific scratching tools that are made for this, however, you can also try laying a common vertical scratcher on its side to see if your cat will use this instead. If a post won’t work in your environment, there are also protective scratching mats that can be placed over furniture, allowing your cat to scratch in their favorite spot without causing damage.

How can I stop my cat from destructive scratching?

Now that you have found an appropriate tool that your cat likes to scratch, it’s time to start transitioning them away from their favorite destructive item and onto their new post. Start by getting your cat familiar with the scratching post by incorporating it into your daily play. Dangle ribbon toys by it, set toys nearby, or put catnip on it to encourage regular interaction. Try not to force your cat to scratch on the post as this can cause a stress reaction for some cats. This will associate negative feelings with the scratcher and cause your cat to avoid it even more. Once your cat is more familiar with the post, move it in front of the location that they typically like to scratch. To further discourage interaction with the destructive scratching area, try covering it up with a fitted sheet that can be tied down or taped. This will change the texture of the item which may make it less exciting or effective for your cat to scratch. After your cat starts to regularly use the new scratching post, this sheet can be removed. Repeat the process with additional scratching tools in every location that your cat likes to destructively scratch!

Retraining your cat to scratch on an appropriate tool is the best way to eliminate destructive scratching. If you have tried the methods covered in this article and are still struggling, talk to a veterinarian to see if there are other medical reasons behind your cat’s destructive scratching behaviors.

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