“It’s like herding cats!”
“Don’t let the cat out of the bag!”
“He put the cat among the pigeons with that rude comment!”
Some of our favorite American idioms are inspired by the fact that cats are notorious for being unruly, unmanageable creatures.
However, it’s a myth that cats can’t be managed or trained.
In fact, if your cat is laying waste to your favorite piece of furniture, there are a few quick tricks you can use to train your cat to scratch safe surfaces and leave your comfy sofa alone.
Despite your cat’s resting aloof face, she’s actually a highly emotional little princess. Keep this in mind when training your cat.
Cats who are punished for bad behaviors are far more likely to engage in the bad behavior you’re trying to stop. Why? Cats often scratch surfaces as a way to reduce stress. Sure, the mini manicure and stretching are secondary bonuses, but they’re all ways your cat self-soothes.
Punishing your cat just adds more stress to your cat’s life and can lead to more misbehavior and even health problems.
Instead of resorting to punishments - like locking your cat in a room, spraying her with water, or pushing her away - focus on encouraging and rewarding her for doing good behaviors.
Introduce An Alternative
As a cat parent, you need to come to terms with the fact that your cat has to scratch something. Your cat isn’t super picky about what she needs to scratch, so she’s just looking for the best option in her environment. If that best option happens to be your curtains, couch, or new dress, you need to give her a better one.
While jumbo cat habitats may scream “I love my cat and I’m willing to give up half my house for her!,” they’re not necessary. All your cat really needs is a sturdy surface that can hold up to her lovely claws. It doesn’t have to take up a ton of space.
Ideally, give your cat two options: one vertical and one horizontal. Cats will often choose one vertical surface (like your curtains or the back of your couch) and one horizontal surface (like your bedspread or rug) to scratch
If you want to put an end to your cat scratching the sofa, place a vertical cat scratcher (we like this one for it’s neutral colors, durable base, and appeal to all felines) right next to where she usually scratches. Cats are creatures of habit, so the easiest way to save your furniture is to make the transition easy on your cat.
You can do the same for horizontal surfaces, as well. While it may not look good to have a cat scratcher in the middle of your living room floor if that’s where your cat prefers to pull at your rug, don’t worry - it’s a temporary spot. Horizontal cat scratchers come in everything from super economical options (like this one), to fun play places, to chic pieces of household furniture.
Make the Right Choice Irresistible
The best way to make your cat choose the cat scratcher over your furniture or home decor is to make the scratcher irresistible. Cat scratchers made from sisal or cardboard are ideal for sneaking bits of catnip into the folds.
Simply sprinkle a bit of dried catnip onto the surface (if you have a vertical scratcher, you may need to lay it on its side for this step), and gently rub the herb into the scratcher. As soon as your cat walks past the scratcher, she’ll be enticed to dig into her new toy to find all the catnipy goodness you’ve hidden inside.
Other cats may not be as enticed by catnip. If yours is one of those rare creatures, find out what she loves and make it a part of her scratcher. If she likes jingle balls, tie a few to some yarn or twine and use a staple gun to affix them to the top of your scratching post. If your cat prefers to bat around feathers (or - ahem - cotton swabs), you can get creative with your scratcher decor.
You don’t have to go overboard customizing your cat’s scratcher. Oftentimes just adding some catnip or silvervine to the scratcher is plenty to get your cat to choose the preferred surface over your beloved possessions.
You’re The Boss
Despite what your cat thinks, you are the boss in your household. If you don’t want a cat scratcher visible in your living room, you don’t have to. The key is to gradually transition your cat’s scratcher to wherever you approve.
Now that your cat is hooked on the delicious scents and satisfying scratching experience of your scratcher, it’s time to gradually move the scratcher to its permanent location. Slowly inch your cat’s scratcher through your house day by day.
Moving your cat’s scratcher about 4 to 6-inches in the right direction each day should hold your cat’s attention without sending her running back to her old, taboo scratching spot on your furniture.
If you notice your cat has lost the trail, move her scratcher back to the last successful position until she catches on. Then you can resume the migration process.
And there you have it - you’ve mastered the method of herding cats and stopping unwanted scratching!
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