Management of Scratching Behavior
Scratching is a normal behavior of all felines that serves multiple purposes. Scratching helps cats shed their outer nail sheath, stretch their arm and shoulder muscles, and mark their territory. Since scratching is a normal behavior it cannot and should not be eliminated. Our goal is to prevent scratching in undesirable locations and provide appropriate alternatives.
First, we must figure out what your particular kitten likes to scratch. Observe your kitten to see what types of materials they are naturally attracted to. Some cats prefer carpet, others like upholstery, cardboard, or sisel. Most cats prefer a vertical surface but some prefer a horizontal one.
Once you know what material your kitten likes, you can buy or even make a scratching post to match. The scratching post needs to be long enough or tall enough for your kitten to stretch out fully even at adult size.
Location is important as well. Although scratching posts may not be the most attractive piece of furniture in your living room, your kitten is much more likely to actually use the scratching post if it is in a prominent area in the house. Even when the scratching post is worn, do not throw it away. Cats are proud of their work and will likely continue to use that post. If you do buy a new one, put it next to the old one for a while to make sure your kitten will use the new one.
Encourage your kitten to use the scratching post by putting catnip or treats on the scratching post. Use toys to encourage your kitten to play on and hopefully scratch the post.
To deter your kitten from scratching inappropriate places, there are various deterrents. If possible, restrict access to rooms with valuable furniture. You can also try using blankets to cover areas of the furniture that are targeted. Sticky Paws (or double-sided tape) can be placed on the corners of couches or chairs. Sandpaper or floor mats flipped over to expose the knobby surface on the underside can be used on couch cushions or carpets.
Feliscratch is a pheromone product that has been shown to reduce unwanted scratching. One pheromone is applied to the desired scratching surface. The other pheromone is applied to the inappropriate area.
Keeping your kitten’s nails trimmed short will decrease the damage to the surfaces they scratch. Soft Paws are nail caps that can be applied to prevent damage from scratching. Although, they do need to be replaced regularly.
Cornell University | Feline Behavior Problems: Destructive Behavior
Animal Humane Society | Managing Scratching Behavior in Cats
ASPCA | Destructive Scratching