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The Definitive Guide to Saving Your Couch from Your Cat

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When bringing home your new kitten or cat and they start scratching on your furniture, would your first thought be to have your cat declawed?  Your answer should be “NO”.  Elective mutilation, also referred to as “declawing” is never a humane option. While some cat owners feel that they are solving the scratching problem with surgery, they may discover that this choice has created more problems, like not using the litter box, biting and chewing. The cat may want to avoid the litter box completly (declawing is very painful) because it hurts to step into the litter (they will associate the litter box with pain), as well as other problems, such as shyness and fear.  If you take away one form of defense from the cat, (the paw swipe) the cat will use its teeth.  This is only natural, that’s all they have left.

Cats can be trained as well as dogs. It is just a different approach.  Cats don’t think like dogs, they are cats.

It’s really very easy to train a cat:  praise and reward the good behavior (positive reinforcement) and discourage the undesirable behavior with the use of humane deterrents. (negative reinBootsieComboScratch_3831forcement).

Recommended by Cats International “Bootsie’s Combination Scratcher™”.  It’s great because it can be used for horizontal scratching or wall mounted for vertical scratching.  It’s also excellent for smaller spaces.

Does this situation sound familiar?
Kitty starts scratching at the couch or your favorite chair…

You and other family members run from all parts of the house to chase kitty away from scratching the furniture. From kitty’s standpoint, this event rates as high as a favorite party game. (One little scratch and the family is on their feet!) … (WOW I get all of this attention.)  Now, if the family chooses to yell and chase the cat around the house, this kitty game has now become a favorite pastime. Cats love attention!  They will use this as a form to start a game of chase, a great game for them.

Now how can we undo the damage we’ve done?
  • First we must understand scratching for a cat is a natural instinct, they not only like to do it, they must do this behavior.
  • Let’s start with an understanding that scratching serves many useful and healthy purposes for cats, they need to scratch to stretch and exercise and condition their nails.
  • Every home with a cat should have at least two cat-appealing scratching posts in high-traffic areas to allow for territorial satisfaction.  You will notice some cats will run to their scratching post when they see you coming into a room or when they wake from a nap, they want to hear you tell them what a good cat they are, and please do phrase them!
  • The post should be at least 32” high and you can build your own, please see our article on “How to build a Scratching Post”, or you can purchase one (see below).
  • It should be sturdy and unable to move or be tipped over.
  • Sisal material or rope are the preferred scratching materials (don’t use carpeting, this sends a mixed message to the cat that it is ok to scratch on carpet!)
  • Place the post in front of the area where the cat has started to scratch, show him the post by scratching your nails on the post to get him interested.  Don’t physically take the cats paws and hold them to the post, they will find this offensive and will avoid the post altogether.  It must be the cats choice to use the post, it can’t be forced.
  • Praise the cat every time he uses the post (positive reinforcement—it really works!)


Now we all know that cats are very territorial animals and marking is an important occupation for cats.  In order to feel secure in their home or territory, they routinely patrol the area and mark it by rubbing or scratching.  The scratching post offers an excellent outlet for this natural behavior.

Introduce your cat to the post by rubbing some catnip on it.  Scratch on it with your fingernails to get them to want to use the post.  Don’t think for a moment that kitty hasn’t forgotten his old haunts and he may be interested in re-visiting the old scratching areas.  (After all, he worked hard to mark them!)

This is your shining moment to stop your cat from reusing the areas.  We have a rather unfair advantage, as there are many ways to help us change his favorite scratching places.  When kitty checks out an old spot or is looking for a brand new one, we can go to our list of things to make him change his mind.  The best part is that there is no yelling or running around involved and it even works when you are sleeping or out of the house.

These are our “Secret Weapons”

  • Sticky Paws

This clear, double-sided tape is inexpensive and can be applied to almost any surface.  Cats dislike anything sticking to their paws.  Can be found in most pet stores or can be directly purchased through Pioneer Pets  “SmartCat Sticky Paws™” (it comes in various sizes)

  • Feliway Spray

If sprayed in problem areas on a regular basis, it will give the cat the impression that the area has already been marked—no need to scratch.  It has a calming effect on the cats, use it to spray in a cat carrier before going to the vet, about 20 minutes before putting in the cat, it will give them a calming effect.   It can also be purchased through the Doctors Foster and Smith Catalog (1-800-826-7206) or found at most pet stores.


This motion detector hisses when the cat approaches the problem area.  Even the most fearless of cats clear the area when it activates.  This product can be purchased through the Doctors Foster and Smith Catalog (1-800-826-7206)

  • Vinyl carpet runner

Use the back-side of the vinyl carpet runner, it has a very prickly feel, it can be cut and placed in the area that you want your cat to avoid, they won’t want to walk on the points of the carpet runner.

  • Solid Air Fresheners

Cats dislike perfume.  An air freshener may keep the cat away from an area until it has evaporated.  (Never put it near the litter box, scratching post, sleeping or a feeding areas).  Scented dryer sheets may have the same effect.

  • The Mini-motion detector

This product can be purchased at Radio Shack.  The alarm chimes when the cat approaches and it stops and resets its self when the cat leaves the area.

Scratching Problems

The Easiest of all Feline Problems to Solve
  •  Get a good scratching post
  •  Reward appropriate behavior
  •  Trim nails weekly
  •  Temporarily cover previous scratching targets
  •  Relieve cat’s boredom with interactive play and plenty of toys
A Cat’s Nails are Necessary for:
  • Balance
  • Exercise
  • Digging
  • Eating
  • Grooming
  • Hunting
  • Climbing
  • Playing
  • Grasping
  • Defense


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