If you own a cat, chances are you’ve come home to a shredded couch leg or a torn-up patch of carpet. You may think cats are just prone to being jerks, but scratching is actually a totally normal, instinctual behavior. Sure, that’s not much of a consolation right now as you replace yet another torn up couch, but understanding why your cat is scratching and how to redirect it can save your future furnishings.

Cats scratch for many different reasons – to remove the dead outer sheath of their claws, to mark their territory by leaving both a visual mark and a scent (they have scent glands on their paws), and to stretch their bodies and flex their feet and claws. This is why you don’t want to discourage scratching completely. Instead, try to redirect your cat to scratch acceptable objects, like a scratching post. 

To find what will be most effective in deterring furniture destroying, study your cat’s habits. How does he scratch? Does he stand on two feet and scratch vertically? Then you might want a tall scratching post, like the Feline Nuvo Grand Forte. If he gets down low and sticks his butt in the air while scratching, you might want a scratching pad that goes on the floor like the Catty Scratch

Figure out when your cat tends to scratch most. Is it when he wakes up from a nap? Is it when he gets excited or right after he eats? Whatever triggers him to scratch, make sure there is an acceptable scratching pad or post right where he can see it. You may need to place them in multiple rooms so one is always readily available.

Once you’ve figured out your cat’s scratching triggers and have plenty of alternatives available, make all the previous scratching spots unappealing by covering them with double sided tape or aluminum foil until he loses interest. If he starts reverting back to his bad behavior, never swat or hit your cat. When he starts clawing where he shouldn’t, clap your hands and firmly tell him no. Then, pick him up and place him next to his scratching post. Shower him with praise when he uses it instead. Never scold your cat while he’s using his scratching post. He needs to associate it with happiness and contentment, not fear.

It takes a little time to retrain your cat to only scratch in appropriate places, but once he gets the hang of it, you’ll both be living much more peacefully.