What can I do if my kitten is scratching the furniture?

Photo of Karen Dell

Karen Dell

Senior Editor • Backyard Cat Enclosures

20 August 2019

Why do cats scratch furniture, carpets, and even drapes?

Scratching is actually a natural and normal instinct for both kittens and adult cats. Even though it may look to you like they especially chose your couch or speakers just to irritate you, it couldn’t be further from the truth.
In fact, cats are more interested in textures and angles of scratching than whether it’s a fancy, new couch or an old bookcase. However, there are steps that you can take to get them to stop.

What benefits do scratching have for kittens and cats?

There are four main benefits of cats scratching (their scratching posts!):
  • To mark their territory. A cat’s paws has scent glands and by scratching surfaces their scent is released.
  • To maintain the health of their claws.
  • Scratching helps to relieve any stress and will help to keep your kitty from other stress-related antisocial behaviour.
  • To streeeeetch! We know how good it feels to have a good stretch; well it’s much the same for kittens and cats!

How can I stop my kitten’s destructive scratching behaviour?

Stopping this behaviour is actually easier than you might think — especially if they are still young kittens. By giving your kitten alternative scratching posts to replace whatever they are using at the moment, and teaching them to use those, you will not only get them to stop being destructive, but also help them keep their claws healthy and sharp. (To better kill those catnip mice with, of course.)

How to choose the best scratching post for your cat

There are different types of scratching posts that are made in different sizes and from different materials, which can make it difficult to choose the best one for your kitten. Here’s the lowdown on the different characteristics a scratching post should have:
  • The height needs to be right. The scratching post should be at least 28” to 31” tall. This may seem excessive for your kitten, but remember that kittens grow very fast. Once they’re adults they’ll need enough height to stretch out completely. The height may need to be more if you have one of the large breeds like a Maine Coon.
  • Made from a suitable material. The material should be something that is not only easy to claw and scratch, but also something they can shred — this is also normal behaviour for adult cats and your kitten will already show this behaviour. Materials usually used is corrugated cardboard, carpet, sisal rope, and sisal fabric.
  • Must have both vertical and horizontal surfaces that can be scratched. Different scratch positions exercises and stretches different muscle groups.
  • The scratching post must be sturdy. If the scratching post keeps on falling over or moving, your kitten is much less likely to use them. If you do get an upright cat scratching post, make sure that it’s heavy enough to withstand a kitten and a cat’s scratching without falling over.
  • Bonus: Different materials to scratch and claw. Cats love to feel different textures, so different scratching surfaces covered in different materials, or even a variety of different scratching posts will be kitten scratching heaven.
  •  Cat perches and condos
  • Cat perches or condos also makes for good scratching posts, as all the above mentioned characteristics as usually present — and they can sleep on it to boot! Try to place the perch in front of a window or in one of your kitten’s favourite spots.

How to get your kitten to use their scratching post

There are a few ways to get your kitten to rather use their scratching post than your upholstery. The great thing about these ways are also that they don’t include punishing your kitten in any way (which is something you should never do). Here are three ways to make your kitten’s scratching post more attractive to them to use:
  • “Bribe” them with catnip. Scenting your kitten’s scratching post with catnip is a great way of getting them to start using it. And once they start using it, they will usually start using it on their own instead of using the other places where they had been scratching.
  • Hang some toys from it. The tall scratching posts and kitty condos are perfect for this. Hang some catnip mice or balls from the scratching post and let them go to town. If you need to, show them the toys and play with them them there.
  • Cover their old scratching places. One way to get them to stop using their old scratching places is to remove their scent from it. They also don’t like citrus scents, so something like citrus potpourri next to the spot will deter them. You can also stick some double-sided tape on the surface (depending on the surface, as you don’t want it to come loose when they want to scratch). Because of the new, sticky surface, they will stop using it.

If you do find your kitten still using the other spots, simply pick them up and put them next to their scratching post and start to pet them. They should start to knead and find what a great surface the scratching post is for nails!
It’s also a good idea to start them using the correct scratching post as soon as possible and not suddenly introducing one when they are an adult. In this way they will know from a very young age to only use their scratching post(s) to take care of their claws.
Remember that changing their behaviour may take a few days or more than a week even, so don’t give up if they dislike the scratching post on the first day.


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