Anne has a BSc Hons in Applied Psychology (inc. animal psychology) and has trained dogs, cats, rabbits and donkeys over the past 40 years.
Getting Rid of Your Cat's Bad Habits
There are many myths about cats—the two most popular being that they are not affectionate and they cannot be trained. Both are untrue . . . just watch any queen (mother cat) with her kittens, and you will see how very affectionate cats are. When it comes to cats, if you earn their trust by learning to understand them and treat them with gentleness and respect, they will repay you with lots of love and affection.
Cats are not as needy or obvious as dogs in their need for affection, and they really don't care whether you approve of them or not, so it’s easy to understand why many dog lovers do not like cats. But although you may never train your cat to jump through hoops or sit, lie or roll over, you can train them away from unwanted habits.
How to Stop Your Cat From Scratching
- Provide them with a scratching post.
- Get their nails trimmed regularly (if indoors).
- Say "no!" firmly.
- Say "no!" firmly and clap your hands.
- Use a pet corrector.
Why Do Cats Like to Scratch Furniture?
It may seem obvious, but cats need to keep their claws sharp and in good shape for self-defense, climbing, and hunting. The way they do this is by scratching. Even a cat that spends his or her life indoors will have the instinct to scratch, and they will use whatever surface is handy, including your carpet or furniture. Cats also exhibit scratching behavior in order to leave both a visual and olfactory mark on the furniture in order to establish territory.
Never Physically Punish Your Pet
Cats are small and delicate animals, so you should never, ever punish them by hitting, slapping, or kicking (the same goes for all animals). If you do, you will create a nervous and anxious cat that will never trust you and may even become vicious (I've seen proof of this). Cats are not naturally vicious towards humans, but their claws and teeth are their defense, and they will use them when they think they are being threatened.
How Do You Train Your Cat to Stop Scratching the Furniture?
1. Provide Them With a Scratching Post
It is not enough just to let your cat know that you don’t want them to scratch the furniture. The instinct for them to scratch is strong, and it would be almost impossible for them to ignore it, so provide them with a scratching post. Our cats love their scratching post.
This can be made from a piece of wood with some carpet tacked or glued to it, or you can buy a commercial scratching post. Commercial scratching posts come in all shapes and sizes, and many include toys and places for your cat to hide. Cats are pretty smart and quickly figure out that the only time they do not get scolded, clapped at, or sprayed for scratching is when they use the scratching post.
2. Get Their Nails Trimmed Regularly (If Indoor-Only)
Keeping your cat's claws clipped (never, ever have your cat completely declawed; this is painful and cruel!) can help reduce scratching. However, clipping their claws is not a good idea if your cat is allowed outdoors. You will leave them defenseless against dogs and other cats.
3. Use "No" in a Firm Voice
So, as soon as your cat begins scratching, say “no” firmly. There's no need to yell at them—just a firm, sharp "no" is usually enough. The cat will often stop what they're doing and turn to look at you. Stare back at them and try not to blink or turn away until they do. This is how you show them your dominance.
4. Use "No" and Clap Your Hands
If you've tried this three or four times and they return to scratching, or if they ignore you completely, then try saying "no" and at the same time clap your hands. This is usually enough to cause them to leap away in fright. It's better, however, to use a noisemaker like "Pet Corrector Spray" so that your cat does not associate you with punishment. Products like these discharge a startling noise (almost like a hiss) and work on even the most stubborn of cats.
Once your cat has been corrected, however, don't continue to scold or chase them away. Ignore them for a few moments, and then you can pet them gently. If you do this every time they scratch, most cats will soon get the message that this is unwanted behavior.
5. Use a Pet Corrector
Using a spray bottle on a cat to deter unwanted behavior is not my favorite method, but I will confirm that it does work. Some people are against this method, and some pet guardians who are out of ideas may simply give in and go for it. The choice is up to you as the pet owner. If you are going to use this method, simply fill a spray bottle with plain water and spray your cat every time they scratch the furniture.
The spray bottle method should be used without the cat realizing that you are spraying them. Hide the bottle as soon as you spray, and don't look at or pay any attention to your cat after they have been corrected. Sometimes, it's not always possible to disguise the spray bottle because cats are smart and have fast reactions, but do your best.
I had a cat that always saw the spray bottle just before I pulled the spray trigger. But instead of running away, he would just close his eyes and cower away from me. It made me feel so cruel that I could never pull the trigger. That's probably why I don't like this method! (You've been warned!)
Use These Methods to Eliminate Other Unwanted Behaviors
These methods of training can be used to discourage any unwanted behavior in your cats, such as jumping on worktops or sleeping on the bed or other furniture. We have had several cats over the past 30 years, and they have never been allowed to go onto worktops, to go into our bedroom (they sit outside the open door in the morning patiently waiting for me to get up and give them breakfast) or to scratch the carpets or furniture.
I would advise owners to focus on eliminating one problem at a time. If you are clapping your hands and saying “no” for every unwanted behavior, you could just end up with a very nervous and confused cat. So, work on the most pressing problem first and when that has been solved, move on to the next.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2012 annerivendell
annerivendell (author) from Dublin, Ireland on March 15, 2014:
Aw, have fun :-) And I'm sure your cat will too!
Lee Tea from Erie, PA on March 14, 2014:
My 6 year old has been wanting to make our cat a scratching post for a while now, and I love your design - think we'll do one this weekend. The sooner the better!
annerivendell (author) from Dublin, Ireland on September 08, 2012:
Thanks for all the comments. @sgiguere, yes some people do recommend a spray bottle and it does work. I found 2 problems with it though: Firstly it wasn't always to hand and secondly I hate the way the cat or kitten flinches when they see the bottle. It makes me feel as though I'm being cruel. Also, we had one had who would just flinch and shake his head, then continue doing whatever he was doing! We named him Cheeky Charlie!
Claudia Mitchell on September 08, 2012:
My cat did this all the time. One way I stopped it was buy a big roll of double sided tape and put it on the furniture she was scratching. Worked like a charm. Unfortunately it looked really bad, but I would take it off if I had visitors.
Paradise7 from Upstate New York on September 07, 2012:
Excellent advice. That "no" with a handclap, used consistently, will definitely solve the problem. A scratching post is also a must, if you are a humane cat owner.
Stephanie Giguere from Worcester, MA on September 07, 2012:
Great advice! I have a little kitten right now and we are discouraging him from being on the table by squirting him with a spray bottle. It works pretty effectively too.
annerivendell (author) from Dublin, Ireland on September 07, 2012:
Thank you, Craftybegonia (what a great username!). Glad you found it useful.
craftybegonia from Southwestern, United States on September 06, 2012: