For years now, our cats have been winning the furniture-clawing wars. I’m not thrilled by it, but I’ve learned to accept the things I cannot change and act accordingly. I no longer buy furniture at department stores. Most of my pieces have come from consignment shops and local ads.
I also haven’t done any reupholstering in a long time. One of my former upholsterers said some choice words to my cats in Italian.
I don’t speak Italian, but my cats apparently do, and they have been nursing a grudge against him ever since. They pummeled and clawed the heck out of the last 2 pieces he redid for me.
No, There’s Not Really a Grudge
Clawing is a need and not something your cat does to drive you crazy.
Stropping — dragging their claws downward on a fixed surface — helps them shed their claws’ outer husks. It also is a form of exercise, “keep[ing] the cat in tip-top condition for hunting,” explains International Cat Care (ICC).
An outdoor cat will strop his claws on a tree, a fence post or any other resistant surface as a way of telling other cats, “Keep out!”
But more and more cats “have limited or no access to [the] outdoors,” says the ICC. “There are also those who choose to spend more time in the comfort and safety of the home and just feel more relaxed about maintaining their claws in a secure environment.” By clawing things in the presence of their humans and other cats, they are displaying “territorial confidence.”
In some ways, it’s a lot like spraying. If you notice an increase in clawing, your cat may be feeling insecure about something and/or trying to defend her home turf.
You can’t fault your cat for doing something that’s as natural as breathing to her. Yelling or punishing her isn’t going to stop her — the concept of punishment makes no sense to her.
“She will only compute that sometimes when you catch her, she is treated badly,” says Dr. Christianne Schelling, DVM. “This may make her insecure and stimulate her to scratch more or develop other undesirable behavior problems.” And, eventually, you’ll end up losing her trust.
Clip the Claws
Instead, get in the habit of clipping the claws — and start young. Play gently with your kitten’s paws so that he gets used to them being touched; then you can ease into trimming them a few at a time.
If you’ve adopted an adult cat, it’s going to be a lot trickier, especially if the cat is skittish or has issues. Fey, my Somali, came to me when she was a few years old and was extremely high-strung. So I learned early on to do her pedicures in a small, closed room…and to stop when I could see she’d had enough.
Cat trees and scratching posts are a must. They give your cat a chance to exercise his muscles and keep her claws in check. The post must have a secure base. “If it topples over even once,” says Schelling, “she won’t go back to it.”
The ICC advises having at least 1 scratching post per feline in a multi-cat household “plus an additional one for choice.”
Don’t Declaw — Soft Paw
Declawing is illegal in England, Scotland and many other countries. And with good reason — it’s horribly painful and often has both physical and psychological side effects. Yet some people view it as the only solution to furniture clawing.
Soft Paws are a healthy, humane alternative. You glue them onto your cat’s front claws since, as Schelling points out, “these are what cause most of the destruction to your home.”
Most cats grow accustomed to them pretty quickly. You shouldn’t put them on outdoor cats.
Here’s how to create a DIY scratching box for your cat (and maybe save some of your furniture):
Yes, Feline Chic. It’s how many of us manage to have homes that don’t resemble war zones.
When it comes to furniture protection, here are a couple of things you can do:
- Put Sticky Paws tape (affiliate link), which is double-sided, along the edges of your upholstered pieces. Cats definitely dislike its sticky feel. You’ll need to replace it every now and then, though, because it gets pretty grungy over time.
- Never underestimate the power of a good throw/blanket. It will protect your chair or sofa and cover a multitude of claw marks. One of my friends uses old bed sheets, which are easy to wash.
Not long ago, I came back from a thrift shop pilgrimage with a twin-sized quilt. It covered the sworn-at-in-Italian chair perfectly. And my cats like it very much.
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