Why Are My New Cats Scratching the Furniture?

CatChannel and CAT FANCY cat behaviorist Marilyn Krieger, CCBC, discusses how to help cats learn to use a scratching post.

Q: I adopted Boots as a best friend for my other cat Silkie. After following your instructions for slow cat introductions, the cats have begun to get along with each other. I have noticed that both cats furiously and frequently scratch the sofas and chairs throughout the house. They have one tall scratching post and a cat tree to scratch. Why are they now choosing the furniture to sharpen their claws on instead of the post and tree?

A: Scratching the furniture is helping your cats establish a relationship. Both cats mark their territories and broadcast information to each other about themselves through scent, visual and audible signals. Cats have scent glands on the bottom of their paws — whenever they scratch objects they leave information about themselves on the scratched surfaces. The visual reminders that homeowners commonly object to are also territory and communication markers.

Cats need to scratch for other reasons as well. In addition to giving themselves manicures, cats will sometimes scratch objects as displacement behavior. In other words, as Boots and Silkie get to know each other, they may feel conflicted or stressed. Instead of engaging in a spat, they will choose to scratch an object—like a sofa arm. Cats will also scratch objects when they are feeling playful. And, after a satisfying nap cats enjoy a good stretch and scratch.

You can save your sofas while simultaneously encouraging good will between your cats by strategically placing cat scratching posts and horizontal scratchers throughout your house. Some cats prefer sisal textures, other cats enjoy the feel of cardboard or carpet under their claws. Place the scratchers directly in front of the scratched sofa arms and chairs. At the same time, block the targeted areas with double-sided tape, such as Sticky Paws, or cover the sofas with sheets. When Boots and Silkie try to scratch the sofa they will find it unappealing to their paws and will choose to scratch the more appropriate scratching posts and horizontal scratchers.

Scratching posts and horizontal scratchers are a necessity. Add them in all of the rooms where your cats hang out. In addition to helping the cats peacefully co-exist, the scratchers will help preserve your furniture.

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Cats · Health and Care