If your cat is scratching your furniture, shredding and destroying your home, you need to realize that your cat needs to scratch and climb. Scratching conditions your cat’s claws by removing the old layers of the nails. Scratching and climbing are highly enjoyable feline activities and are part of the essence of being a cat. Since your cat will want and need to scratch, provide her with a variety of scratching posts and teach her to use them. Until your cat can be trusted not to scratch and claw your furniture, she should not be allowed free run of your house when you are not there to supervise her. If your cat has a single favorite scratching site, this may be temporarily protected by covering it with some netting or loosely woven fabric. Cats do not like to snag their claws.
As a temporary measure you can confine your cat to an area where she cannot get into trouble. Confinement is not the answer to the problem, but it can be used to help train your cat to use a post when you are not home to actively train her. The confinement area should be well stocked with a variety of scratching and climbing posts. Since your cat will have no other choice of things to scratch, she will learn to scratch and climb her posts.
You can buy scratching posts at your pet store or you can build one yourself. Rough hewn 4×4’s set vertically with a few horizontal resting platforms are ideal. Whether buying carpet to cover a home made post or purchasing the finished item, remember to take along a comb to check that there are no loops in the carpeting which will snag the cat’s claws. You can also attach the carpeting underside-up, as the backing has a rough texture that cats enjoy.
Whether you are trying to prevent or cure a scratching problem, the single most important thing you can do is praise and reward your cat for scratching and climbing her post. Simply plonking down a few posts in front of your cat is not enough. You must specifically train her to scratch these items and these items alone.
If your cat is not interested in them, it’s up to you to show her how fun they can be. Put her favorite food treats on some of the platforms. Attach toys so they dangle down enticingly. Rub the post down with catnip. Most cats scratch immediately after waking while performing stretching exercises. As soon as your cat wakes up from a nap, call her to her post. Scratch the post at a point a couple of feet off the ground. Most cats reach up and stretch with their front paws on the post. Praise your cat profusely, especially if she makes scratching motions.
Don’t try to physically force your cat to scratch by holding her paws. She will resist and even dislike the post. The most effective method of teaching your cat to use her post is through lures and rewards. Always be on the alert to lavish your cat with praise, affection, attention and even a treat anytime she scratches or climbs her post without your encouragement. Never take this for granted.
Train your cat to scratch her post on command. Stand by the post with a treat in hand. Say, “Kitty scratch,” “Kitty climb,” or some other suitable request. Give your cat the treat when she comes running. If she is not interested, wait until dinner time and try again. Once your cat shows interest, hold the treat higher and higher up until she has to climb the post to get it. Place a treat on the highest platform and give her the request to “Climb.” In time she will learn to climb her post on command for treats, affection, attention and play time.
Once your cat understands that scratching and climbing her post is fun, rewarding and gains your enthusiastic approval, it is time to teach her not to scratch the drapes or furniture. If you catch her clawing at anything other than her post, immediately startle her with either a blast of water from a plant sprayer or a sudden loud noise. She will soon realize that unpleasant things happen when she tries to scratch the furniture, and she will remember how wonderful it is to scratch her post.