So you just got a new couch! And Ginger the tabby is just as excited as you are about it, and she can’t wait to really enjoy that new couch. With her claws. And much enthusiasm. Don’t panic! It’s okay!
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First, remind yourself that scratching is natural behavior for cats. Scratching is a way to get rid of excess energy, get a great stretch, and keep claws healthy by removing the outer sheath for fresh nail growth. Plus it just feels great– you probably like a nice luxurious stretch a few times a day, too! Cats also “mark” their turf by leaving behind pheromones when they scratch. They’re claiming a space as their own, and leaving “messages” for other cats. This is a natural behavior practiced by wild and domestic felines of all species and breeds.
Next, put yourself in your cat’s shoes. Or paws. They want to scratch, and you’ve got this great thing just begging to be scratched. So give them something BETTER. Move their favorite scratching post to the corner of the couch and put some catnip on it. What kind of surface does your cat prefer to scratch? Some prefer cardboard, some prefer carpet, and some prefer sisal.
Remember: they’re scratching that spot because it’s a perfect spot. It probably doesn’t matter what you put there, but it’ll be all the more enticing if you give them something they really love to scratch, like sisal or a special carpet or scratching angle.
There are some products that can help deter scratching, such as Sticky Paws, which is available in larger sheets or a roll of tape. It’s a double-sided tape that can be applied to furniture and it feels weird to paws, so it may deter clawing. We have had cats who didn’t scratch after that, but they’d lick the adhesive instead. Anything to interrupt the clawing was fine with us! (It’s nontoxic.) Tape works best on porous materials like cloth upholstery. You may want to test an inconspicuous place with a small piece of tape to make sure it won’t leave any icky residue behind. We also suggest replacing the tape regularly so that it doesn’t become a permanently adhered. (That only happened once! And it was stuck there for years before we realized!)
Keep your cat’s claws trimmed. The blunter the claws, the less damage they can do. It’s also healthy for your cats, preventing overgrown or ingrown nails. If you have trouble trimming your cats claws, get help! Groomers, veterinary technicians, cat sitters, and cat behaviorists would be thrilled to trim your cats claws and give you some tips for trying it yourself.
Another product is Soft Claws, which are like tiny plastic caps for your cat’s claws. We have never tried these, but have heard from friends, clients, and cat sitters who have luck with them over the years. Sometimes you will find a particularly skilled cat groomer or cat sitter who can apply these for you, because it can be quite an ordeal to get the caps on. Once they’re on, cats can still go through the motions of scratching, without the sharp parts. Personally, we worry about the cat chewing and swallowing them, because they must feel pretty weird to wear and the feeling would encourage cats to fuss over them. However, as an absolute last resort, it might be worth a try.
It’s always better to redirect rather than prevent scratching. Allow your cats a healthy outlet for that clawing energy, and you’ll both be happier!
Surprisingly, other than their own cat condos, one of our cats’ favorite scratchers has always been the cheap and recyclable cardboard scratcher.
And if, despite all these options, you’re still considering declawing your cats? DON’T.