Save the fur(niture)!
July 6, 2009 11:39 AM   Subscribe

Catfilter: how can we find our cat's motivation for shredding furniture and redirect him to a more fabric-friendly activity?

Let me preface this by saying that I've read every thread on clawing I can find. I've asked the vet and they're out of ideas. We keep his nails trimmed. We've tried spraying the furniture with Feliway. He has three scratching posts (shared with the other cats), and he does use them from time to time. He could care less if the sofa is covered in sticky tape or tin foil.

One exasperating problem: he's blind and has the resulting obnoxiously sharp hearin. I swear he can hear me thinking of reaching for the canned air (startles but doesn't stop him), squirt bottle (thinks water is a hoot) or can filled with coins (same reaction as canned air).

He doesn't seem to differentiate between good and bad attention, which is probably part of the issue. We'd love to let the cats into the bedroom occasionally but it's hard waking up to him popping on the side of the bed.

Any ideas, Hivemind?
posted by tigerjade to Pets & Animals (22 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
As a lifelong cat person, this is all I can contribute: you can have nice furniture, or you can have cats. Pick one.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 11:45 AM on July 6, 2009 [5 favorites]

Best answer: Disclaimer: I haven't really figured this out yet for my own cats, while they sometimes enjoy a little scratch on a scratching post, they also love clawing up the ends of the sofa. Are his three other scratching posts different textures? Some cats prefer or dislike certain scratching post materials (carpeting, sisal, corrugated cardboard, etc.). Maybe you just haven't found the size or texture he likes yet. Also, rubbing the scratching post with just a pinch of catnip usually makes my cats forget about scratching anything else for quite a while.
posted by LolaGeek at 11:48 AM on July 6, 2009

I can't find the Mefi thread but a few weeks back another cat owner had luck with a vacuum left on, but not plugged in, in the offending area. When Kitteh would make [undesirable] noise they would plug the vacuum in and scare the beejeesus out of the cat. Because the vacuum was close by, the cat associated the noise/vibration with the activity, not with the human, and feline noise-making soon ceased. If your cat reacts to vacuum cleaners like mine do (they think it is a Kitteh Eater) you might have success.

Have you tried the silicon nail covers that have recently come out? (I think they're called Soft Paws).
posted by muirne81 at 11:49 AM on July 6, 2009

Also, if there are particular areas of the sofa he scratches (the corners, for example) you might be able to jury rig a deterrent from a thin but hard piece of wood. Use gaffer's tape to attach it to the furniture. Maybe he won't scratch if he can't dig his nails into it?

Unfortunately, not the cutest solution...
posted by muirne81 at 11:55 AM on July 6, 2009

Response by poster: We have a huge cat tree that has carpeted & sisal rope sections, and he seems to prefer the carpeted parts. He also works on the small carpeted hidey-hole in the office. He ignores the slanted cardboard scratcher but since it's the preferred scratching spot of the one female, he might not feel it's worth risking a smack to use it. I might get another and see if that helps.
posted by tigerjade at 11:55 AM on July 6, 2009

Best answer: Soft Paws work, but quickly grow tiresome for you and your feline friends. They love to chew them off and are a pain to apply (which makes them all the more appealing for the cat to chew off again. A big game of... oh I don't know, something cyclical).

Other things we've had luck with are a scratching post rubbed frequently with catnip, covering the affected furniture with aluminum foil, citrus-scented sprays, and—most effectively—apathy.
posted by Mr. Anthropomorphism at 11:59 AM on July 6, 2009

My can runs to a nearby piece of carpet (or furniture) and shreds the crap out of it the moment I piss her off or frighten her.

I can only imagine she's pretending that it's my face. Cats are so adorable.
posted by rokusan at 11:59 AM on July 6, 2009

Response by poster: We had to cut out the Soft Paws when we found a few in the litterbox. And yeah, they were a maintenance nightmare. And now we have a scavenging 1-yr-old running around .

Citrus-scented spray is a good idea! Did it need to have actual citrus ingredients in it or was it good so long as it was kinda citrus-y?

posted by tigerjade at 12:04 PM on July 6, 2009

Supposedly anything citrus-y will do the trick, but I'm sure your local pet store would be glad to sell you something specific for the purpose for a ridiculous premium.
posted by Mr. Anthropomorphism at 12:15 PM on July 6, 2009

I just want to chime in and say that I have no solution to this. Some of my friends have cats that were easily redirected to scratching posts. My cat loves his posts but still goes at the furniture.

I've decided to buy only leather furniture in the future. The cat hasn't damaged my leather coach in the two years I've had it.
posted by Gor-ella at 12:34 PM on July 6, 2009

err... couch
posted by Gor-ella at 12:36 PM on July 6, 2009

they would plug the vacuum in and scare the beejeesus out of the cat.

If you're in any way MechE inclined, you could set this scenario up with a kitteh-detecting motion sensor.

oh god i want to try this now. I DON'T EVEN HAVE A CAT.
posted by elizardbits at 12:49 PM on July 6, 2009

My cats happily shredded two previous couches with chenille-like upholstery, but have resolutely avoided scratching my new microfiber couches. Perhaps a sofa cover in a different, less appealing fabric would dissuade them?
posted by vilthuril at 12:50 PM on July 6, 2009

FWIW, my cats have also resolutely ignored microfiber.
posted by thomas j wise at 1:00 PM on July 6, 2009

For our two cats, the one thing that worked was physically moving them to the scratching post each time we would catch them sharpening their claws. It took a few months, but that repetition instilled the habit in them and now we don't have to worry about it.

I think cutting their claws just encourages them to scratch, actually. Ours always scratch immediately after, eager to sharpen their newly shortened nails.
posted by greenland at 1:10 PM on July 6, 2009

Orange room spray. Get the non-lethal kind from the whole foods or whatever, spray the furniture not the cat, and he'll steer clear. Cats don't like citrus.
posted by 8dot3 at 1:38 PM on July 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

just out of curiosity, how tall is your scratching post? i had similar problems until i got a taller post. now both of my cats ignore the furniture.
posted by TrialByMedia at 1:38 PM on July 6, 2009

(Gah, now I see that citrus was suggested already. Well, nth-ing it then.)
posted by 8dot3 at 1:39 PM on July 6, 2009

I have tried to keep his shredding up the furniture to a minimum by designating a piece for his use. On the other fabric covered furniture, I have used long strips of packing tape placed on the corner areas, not sticky side up, and it does redirect him. I tried lots of options and this one, coupled with some cardboard scratchers, worked for us.
I do like my cat better than I do my furniture, though. And I get more out of having him around than I do having a super nice flat.
posted by bookshelves at 2:07 PM on July 6, 2009

Catnip spray on the scratching posts.
posted by theora55 at 2:08 PM on July 6, 2009

Yeah, catnip spray on the posts, citris spray on the furniture, and pick up and move the kitty to the scratching post everytime you catch it. It might not work. You might just have to have scratched up furniture or get furniture the cat doesn't like to scratch. I wish there was some magical wand that could fix these sort of behavior problems, but - alas - no such magical solution exists. I would stop shortenting your cat's nails so frequently. Cats will scratch more to sharpen newly cut nails.

The blind thing might be an issue if the cat doesn't know how to get back to its favorite appropriate scratching post. Make sure you put in against a wall or other surface that the cat usually uses to navigate around the room. I had a blind cat once and she always walked the same paths through the house.

I'm going to get a load of crap feedback for this (I actually can't believe I'm saying it - I know what a shit storm this always causes), but - I'm actually not opposed to declawing inside cats' front paws. It's better than having to get rid of your cat. My mom's done it a bunch and the cats are always pretty happy after they get used to it. One or two have even maintained thier fantastic mouse catching abilities.

Okay - hive mind - have at it. Get it out. You hate me now because I'm not on the "declawing is evil and should be outlawed" bandwagon.
posted by dchrssyr at 5:01 PM on July 6, 2009

Are all your scratching posts vertical? My kitty only like to scratch on horizontal surfaces (back of sofa, my mattress), so I got her a horizontal scratching post. She mostly uses it and leaves the furniture alone.
posted by Mavri at 7:26 AM on July 7, 2009

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