Out of all your cat’s daily habits, it’s okay to admit that you hate when they scratch up your house. Cats scratch for two main reasons: to keep their claws from getting overgrown and to mark their territory. All cats do it, but they usually choose to scratch household items like furniture and carpet. It doesn’t take long for a single cat to destroy the corner of a brand new couch. The solution is to provide cats with their own scratching posts. The problem, however, is that a lot of cats choose to ignore kitty-friendly scratchers. They keep on scratching your favorite furniture, and it can be both expensive and frustrating.
Luckily, there are a few tips and tricks you can use to train your cat to only scratch on a designated scratching post or board. Here’s what you need to do:
Choose the Right Scratcher
In most cases, you get what you pay for when it comes to cat scratchers. The cheap kind that falls apart and tips over easily isn’t likely to satisfy your cat. If you want your cat to use a scratching post instead of your furniture, you’ll need to invest in a quality product.
If you go with a vertical post, it needs to be tall enough so your cat can stretch their whole body before reaching the top. It also needs to be sturdy so their weight doesn’t make it wobble or fall over.
Vertical posts are popular with humans, but a lot of cats prefer a horizontal surface to scratch (which explains the pulled threads in your carpet). These take up more floor space, but if you’re struggling to get your cat to use a scratching post, it’ll be worth a try.
You might also need to experiment with the kind of material used on the scratcher. Carpet is popular, but some cats don’t like their claws getting stuck in the loops.
Choose the Right Location for Your Cat’s Scratching Post
As tempting as it is to cram the cat’s scratcher into a hidden corner where it won’t clash with your decor, it’s better to choose a spot out in the open. You need to put the scratcher in a place where your cat already spends a lot of time. This could be the living room, your bedroom, or both.
It’s also a good idea to think about where your cat is already doing their scratching. If their preferred spot seems to be the corner of the couch, set up the scratching post directly in front of that area. Use the post to block off that section of furniture. You can also set up the scratcher near their favorite nap spot. A lot of cats like to stretch and scratch as soon as they wake up.
Wherever you put it, you want the scratcher to be conveniently placed and easily accessible.
Make the Scratching Post Interesting
It might take some enticement if you want your cat to use the scratching post after they’ve already gotten into the habit of using the furniture. Cats are creatures of habit and routine. To break the routine, take steps to make the scratching post as fun and interesting as possible.
One way you can do this is by sprinkling catnip on the base or top of the post. If your kitty loves catnip, they’ll automatically be attracted to the post and might go back later because they had such a great time earlier. You might need to use fresh catnip for a few days in a row to help your cat make the association.
You can also play with your cat around the scratching post. Use a feather wand and make them climb the post to reach their prey. If your cat has a different favorite toy, place it on top of the post to encourage them to climb up and get it. You can also do the same thing with their favorite treats.
Reinforce the Desired Behavior
Once your cat takes that first tentative scratch on their new post, you want to be there to reward their behavior. Give them a treat, chin scratch, or whatever it is they like best. You want to show them that good things happen when they use the scratching post instead of the furniture.
Use this reward strategy every time you see your cat show interest in the post. If you have a stubborn cat who is taking a while to catch on, you can reward them even if they just rub against the post. Do this for as long as it takes for them to make the positive connection and form a new habit.
Don’t expect your cat to use the scratching post on the first day. For a lot of cats, it can take a lot of convincing, plus trial and error. Keep trying different things to find something that works for your individual cat.