It is a fallacy that cats cannot be trained, particularly when it comes to scratching on the furniture in your home. With a little time and dedication, any cat can be trained not to claw furniture.
First, understand that cats were made to claw; they scratch on things in order to release the top layer of their nails, thus revealing sharper layers below. It would be unrealistic to train a cat not to claw at all. Rather, the trick is to teach them where it is appropriate to scratch, and where it is not acceptable.
Following these steps will help you teach your cat not to scratch on the furniture:
- Provide a suitable place for the cat to scratch. The best option is a scratch post, covered in carpeting or rope. Ideally, have more than one scratch post, with at least one tall enough for Kitty to stretch fully, in her natural way, reaching up to rub her front claws across the surface. Place these posts in areas where the cat enjoys spending time, and where you can take the cat to it easily.
- When you see your cat scratching, walk over to him, and then firmly say, “No.” Pick the cat up, gently, and carry him to the scratch post. Very gently, rub your cat’s paws on the post in a scratching motion, sweetly talking to the cat, telling him what a good boy he is.
- If your cat does not seem interested in the scratching posts, make them more interesting. You can rub some catnip on them, purchase feline pheromones to spray on them, or, start feeding your cat his favorite treat only on, or at the base of, the scratching post. Get the cat to like his post and feel comfortable with it. Then, continue to take him to the post every time you see him scratching elsewhere.
- Perform step 2 religiously. Constantly. Without fail. It is all about persistence, and could take a couple of weeks. If the cat is left alone a lot during the day, it could take longer. Cats learn through repetition. So, every time you see her clawing on furniture, you must get up, and do step 2.
- Often, after using this process for only a few days, the cat will begin to scratch on the scratch posts. But, they may still occasionally scratch on furniture. At this point, if the cat has definitely learned to scratch on the post and is doing so regularly, you can now begin simply discouraging furniture scratching. Thus, you no longer have to carry the cat to the scratch post. Rather, find something that the cat does not like, perhaps the noise of a tin can being shaken with rocks in it or a light squirt of water from a spray bottle. Then, when the cat scratches where he should not, shake the can or squirt the water at his backside (never squirt at his face, or use anything other than water) while saying “No!” Also, consider purchasing an aversion spray, to apply to areas that you do not want your cat to scratch.
- One to four weeks of this process, without fail, will result in your cat stretching and clawing only on her scratch post. Of course, like any creature, the cat will “test” every once in a while, to see if perhaps now it is ok to scratch on the couch or rug. If she does, a firm “No!” should be all that is required. But if the habit starts to return, immediately go back to step 2 and start the process again.
For most cats, redirecting them to an acceptable scratching post is an effective way to keep your furniture safe. With a bit of due diligence and consistency, you can have a well-trained can – well, he probably will not bring you the paper or fetch your slippers, but he will keep his claws to his own scratching post.