Cats like to scratch; in fact they need to scratch. They scratch to mark their territory, to interact with other cats, to play and to stretch the muscles in their legs. Scratching also removes frayed and worn outer claws, exposing new, sharper ones. Unfortunately, while cats need to scratch, they can accidentally cause a lot of damage to furniture and curtains in the process.
The best way to avoid replacing your favorite couch or set of speakers is to teach your cat appropriate places to indulge their claws. Things you can do:
- Try a variety of scratching posts - Cats have their favorite. Some like them standing up, while others will only scratch the floor variety. Some cats love sisal and others only like the carpeted versions. Some cats use quick little strokes to maintain their claws while others stretch out to full height to really get some resistance. Find the type that will work best for you and your cat and then place several in highly trafficked areas of the house.
- Use well made scratching items - Cats won't typically use a scratching post that tips or moves while they're scratching. They'll also tire quickly of a post that doesn't offer much resistance. For the most rambunctious cat, there are even models that can be anchored to the floor or wall.
- Encourage your cat - Try some catnip or a favorite toy to spark interest in the scratching area. Place the scratching post in high traffic areas; cats want to be around their people and love to leave their scent where you'll be -- you can often move the scratching post to the side of the room after its being used regularly. Praise your cat when they show interest.
- Discourage inappropriate scratching - Make desirable scratching areas (like furniture and curtains) as inaccessible as possible. Try covering with plastic, sticky tape (double-sided) or even sandpaper. Make sure you place a scratching post near by. If you catch your cat in the act of scratching in the wrong spot, try making a loud noise (like clapping) or giving them a short spritz from a water bottle. Follow this up with praise or treats when they show interest in the scratching post.
- Trim your cat's claws regularly - Well trimmed nails do less damage and also reduce the need for scratching off the old or damaged bits. Consider a plastic nail cover (like SoftPaws); not only do they come in fashionable colors, but they virtually eliminate the damage while still allowing your cat to satisfy their needs.