Most families do not want to live in a home with furniture that appears to have gone through a shredder. Having a vintage Navajo rug turned into a tangled mass of knitting wool is not very popular either. How can a cat be stopped from clawing the arm off the sofa? Scratching is natural behavior; the aim is not to stop it but to redirect it to a more appropriate place. This can be accomplished with firmness, reward, a few tools, patience and a scratching post or two. If the thought of declawing kitty for your own convenience came to mind: that is not the answer.
Why do cats choose to claw furniture? It is nothing personal, simply the right height for a good stretch and work-out, it doesn’t move or fall over and the fabric feels good to get one’s claws into. It is also a method of marking territory. Cats have scent glands in their paws and adding scent to a ripped up sofa arm is a great advertisement kitty was here.
The aim is to provide something more inviting to scratch. Reward good behavior and use the firm loud “No” to deter bad. Until kitty’s attention is permanently drawn to the new improved scratching-thing; anything else of interest needs to be made uninviting. Well-built, sturdy and reasonably priced scratching posts and condos, perfect for most decors, are available at Cat Connection in Phoenix.
Distraction can help. Put scratching posts sprayed with catnip in kitty’s favorite areas and adjacent to objects that you don’t want damaged which kitty has shown an interest in clawing. Don’t try to force kitty to use them, which could be counterproductive.
The post must be tall enough for a cat to fully extend its body. A good heavy base is essential; if kitty tips the post over it will immediately be rejected. Choose fabric wisely; the wrong surface texture will be ignored. Cats like rough surfaces they can shred to pieces. Sisal fabric offers the perfect texture and a section of post wrapped with sisal rope is often appreciated. Posts are at their best once kitty has turned them into a work of fabric art. Do not be tempted to replace this tatty relic, it is kitty’s treasure. Kitty’s very own tree stump might make it very happy too but that is not always practical inside a home.
Make taboo places uninviting. Cover sofa and chair arms loosely with a silky slippery fabric; most cats don’t like the feel or perceived instability of the surface. There are proprietary wide double sided tapes which do not seem to damage furniture or fabric, made specifically to be stuck on places of interest. The sticky feel is very off-putting to a cat. Unfortunately it is probably something you won't not want to rest your arm on. Another option is aluminum foil, which has a surface texture cats dislike.
Remember part of the scratching process’ purpose is to put kitty’s scent on the object. Neutralize the scent with a proprietary pet odor eliminating spray. Other sprays distasteful to cats can be useful. They mainly consist of citrus oils but may contain eucalyptus and clove oils too. These do not have a strong scent to humans but may not be a perfume you wish wafting through your house.
Keep claws clipped to a reasonable length. Your veterinarian or a groomer can do this for you. Another option is Soft-Claws; soft vinyl nail caps that safely glue on to cat's claws. They come in a variety of colors.
As soon as kitty is spotted about to sink claw into sofa give the loud firm “No”. When kitty recoils in surprise, reward it for doing the right thing. Encourage use of the scratching post by including it as part of play. Drag a piece of string or favorite toy up and down it to get kitty to sink its claws into the sisal. When kitty shows interest in the scratching post, give a reward. Gradually move posts put near unwanted scratching places further and further away until they are in a more appropriate place.
The process may be slow but once the scratching post is the established place to pick you can begin removing the protection from sofa arms and chair legs. The uninitiated will be amazed you have a cat complete with claws that does not damage your furniture.