Cats love a good scratch - it feels good, it helps mark their territory, and it removes the worn outer covers of their nails. With training, your cat can learn to use their cat scratching post and not your furniture!Cats scratch on large, typically upright objects like couch ends to mark their territory like they would do outside.
Outdoors, cats would normally scratch on nice, rough (and upright) tree trunks. In your living room, they look for a good substitute and unfortunately the couch ends or chair backs usually fit the bill.
Cats have scent glands in their paws, so by rubbing their paws on the largest, most prominent objects in the room they are really leaving their scent on the object to discourage any “intruding” cats. This is why even declawed cats will look like they are trying to scratch, when they are really saying “this is mine, and this is mine…”. The upright part leaves their mark at the nose level of other cats, while the roughness keeps their nails in shape.
The trick is to encourage your cat to scratch their cat scratching post, not your furniture.
There are a few tricks to get your cat to use the cat scratching post instead of your furniture:
Click here for our tips to save your furniture!
Carpeted cat scratching posts are fine for a secondary post, but most cats prefer sisal covered scratching posts once they get used to them. Sisal is a type of stiff, durable rope that lets the cat have a really good deep scratch to remove the used outer coverings on their nails.
The post satisfies the marking urge, while the sisal satisfies the "rough tree bark" need of nail care.
A lot of scratching posts come with sisal on them. For a
cost-saving alternative, or if you currently have a carpeted post, buy
rolls of sisal rope and wrap the rope tightly around the post, securing
both the top and bottom ends. This allows you to change the sisal rope
when it becomes worn and frayed, rather than replacing the whole post. I
buy the rolls at the local hardware store for about $4 each.
There are cardboard alternatives that are a bit cheaper in the beginning, but these are not likely to stand up for long to an enthusiastic cat - and you will spend more money in the long run buying the cardboard refills than the cost of a good sisal post. Plus, after the cardboard gets tattered and no longer fulfills their needs the couch starts looking good again...
(OK, this cat turntable scratcher made me laugh. I don't think it will be much use as a scratching post, but it might be a fun toy.)
Another alternative is nail caps. These are soft rubber caps that are glued to your cat’s real nail and protect you and your furniture from pointy nails. They are available in both adult and kitten sizes and usually last 30 days. To use them, your cat must be very comfortable with you trimming their nails and touching their paws. They also come clear or with colour! You can apply them yourself, or ask your vet's technician if they will help you if you are trying them for the first time.
A picture of Drake, Gus and Piglet crash-napping in front of one of their many scratching posts: