How to Train Your Cat to Stop Scratching Furniture
First, it’s important to understand that your cat has a natural desire to scratch and climb. Provide several scratching posts or pads and literally show her how to use them by gently taking one of her paws and scratching it against the post. Don’t force her, though, especially if she starts to strongly resist you. Even use your own fingernails and scratch on the post, too.
If you’re not home to watch her, she should not have free run of your house until you can trust her not to claw your furniture. Confine her to a safe room where she (hopefully) cannot get into trouble. Give her scratching posts, toys and items acceptable to climb or jump up on.
If your cat constantly favors a particular scratching site, the area can be covered with netting or a woven fabric. Cats don’t like snagging their claws. Products are available for purchase that can be sprayed on, stuck to or attached to the scratching site and will make it undesirable for further scratching and clawing. These methods can be temporary until your cat learns what is OK to scratch and what is NOT.
When you see her using the proper scratching posts/pads, praise her. Perhaps reward her with a treat.
If your cat ignores the scratching posts/pads, show her how fun they can be. Scratch on the post yourself. Put her favorite treats on a platform or flat area of the post or next to it on the floor. Attach toys that dangle enticingly. Rub the post with catnip. As soon as your cat wakes up from a nap, call her or take her to the post. Most cats stretch their muscles after sleeping. Scratch the post at a high point to draw her attention. Cats normally reach up and stretch with their front paws on the post. If your cat uses the post, massively praise her. Don’t physically force your cat to scratch the post, though, as this could have the opposite result – making her hate the post.
Bribery by using rewards and praise with lots of affection is the most effective method to teach your cat to use a scratching post. Any time she uses her post or pads, praise her, especially when she does it without you enticing her.
You may decide to train your cat to scratch her post or climb her cat tree on command. Stand by the post with a treat in hand. Say her name with the word “scratch” or “climb”. Give your cat the treat when she comes running to the post. If she is not interested, try later. Once your cat is interested, hold the treat higher up until she has to climb the post to get it. (Some scratching posts are not tall enough to climb, so it would be a matter of her scratching the post instead of climbing up it.) Place a treat on the highest level and give her the command, “Cat’s Name, Climb.” She’ll learn to climb her post on command for treats and affection.
If your cat is clawing at anything other than her scratching post/pad (for example: furniture and curtains are no-no’s), immediately blast her with a squirt bottle of water or make a loud noise (shaking several pennies in a coffee can is great!). You could also clap your hands loudly and say, “No!” There are also motion-detector cans that blast air at whatever is within range. She’ll quickly come to understand that unpleasant things happen when she scratches the furniture or claws the curtains. But don’t violently scream at her or spank her as she will become frightened of you and eventually not want to come to you when called.
Perhaps direct her to the scratching post — the item that is specifically meant for her — and once again (repetition is very important in training) show her how wonderful her post is and praise her if she reaches up to scratch it!
Jessie says: I love my scratching post and use it many times in a day! It feels so good to s-t-r-e-t-c-h my body when I reach up and scratch the post.
Gina says: For the first month of Jessie being inside our house, she did not pay any attention to the scratching post. Luckily, she didn’t claw up anything else during that time of transition. One day I moved the post to a different spot and again “showed” it to her, scratching at it with my fingernails. It also has a bouncy ball attached to the top and I played with that ball to get her attention. Suddenly, she walked over and reached up and started scratching! A miracle! And I gave her tons of praise and petting. She continued using it after that point.