Cat training: What to do when the cat scratches the sofa? 


So, that was it for the great designer sofa! It stood there wonderfully, inviting you to dream and relax. And now this! In the absence of her mistress, cat Mimi has extensively sharpened her sharp claws on the beautiful piece. Now the fabric is torn and the foam is sticking out.

Her mistress is really angry, because she bought her darling a fancy, huge cat tree that reaches up to the ceiling. But no - Mimi prefers to immortalise herself on the furniture.

Why does the cat scratch the furniture?
Flat cats don't just scratch the sofa because they want to sharpen their claws and remove dead calluses. No, it is also a way of marking the piece of furniture. In this way, your cat is clearly telling you: This is mine!

How does the cat mark the furniture?
Quite simply: by sharpening its claws, the cat secretes a scent mark through a film of sweat secreted between the pads of its soles. The cat uses this scent to mark its territory.

What can you do to prevent your cat from scratching the furniture?
Mimi's owner's approach was quite good. It is very important to provide enough scratching opportunities where kitty can "legally" pursue her need to sharpen her claws. This can be a super-luxury model with several floors that also offers opportunities to play, climb and lie down. However, some cats love the small model in the corner of the room, which they can easily reach. In our detailed cat tree test, we have tested some of the most popular models. And if you just want to have a look around on the market or perhaps already have a rough idea of the cat tree you want, you can find some cat tree classifieds in our pet market.

Then, of course, there's the matter of protecting your sofa. You could, for example, attach a scratching board to the place where kitty sharpens her claws so that the fabric stays intact. Or you could use a scent that the cat's delicate nose can't stand - for example, orange or citrus oil - which is simply drizzled on the spot. That way, your cat will stay away from the spot in the future!

Education - positive reinforcement as punishment!
Of course you can also try education, because contrary to what some cat owners think, it is possible to educate cats. One method that is recommended in some advice articles on keeping cats is to squirt water from a water gun. When the cat starts to tamper with the sofa again, you can spray it with a little water from the toy (please never use water guns with strong pressure) to train it away from the unwanted behaviour. Sounds plausible, but it is not for nothing that this method is highly controversial.

It is often emphasised that you can punish your pet anonymously and at the same time painlessly with water pistols. However, this is not quite true: cats are intelligent and know quite well after a few shots who they have to thank for the unpleasant shower. Moreover, wet spraying with water is not as harmless as it is often conveyed. Some cats not only find it unpleasant, but react in a real panic when they are hit by the water. In the worst case, the cat may perceive its human as a threat and aggressively defend itself against the supposed attacker. So if your cat has a real water phobia, do NOT use this method. In general, positive reinforcement is far more advisable and better for the relationship than punishment.

Training with positive reinforcement: Encourage & praise desirable behaviour.
The best thing to do is to make the cat really like the scratching post. If the cat wants to scratch on furniture, simply pick it up and carry it to the scratching post. If the cat sharpens its claws on the furniture, you should reward it with praise and treats. Another little trick: You can also rub the scratching post with a little valerian or catnip. Most cats love these scents and won't want to leave the coveted piece.

Patience is the be-all and end-all of cat training
And if the cat is still scratching the furniture after a few weeks, don't give up in resignation. Don't just let the cat do it, but keep at it and try out the different tips. Try to get the cat used to the scratching post by giving it a favourite toy, treats or scents, or get additional scratching opportunities. Maybe your cat is simply a fan of scratching mats on the wall instead of sisal columns?


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