How do I keep my cat from shredding my furniture?
September 21, 2005 11:16 PM   Subscribe

My girlfriend's cat has an incredible knack for destroying my furniture. I've got an opportunity to replace my uncomfortable fabric couch with a farily nice, comfortable, microsuede couch for cheap. I'd like to avoid having this piece of furniture become yet another unintended scratching post. What's worked for you?

A few more things: I have zero desire to declaw this cat (he's old and fat, plus it's just mean). We have another cat (mine) who doesn't seem to scratch the furniture. If your answer is some variation of "just go with the flow, it's the cat's natural instinct" please don't bother -- I'm only looking for specific remedies that have actually worked, not a Zen koan.

Oh, and, thanks.
posted by jimray to Pets & Animals (23 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
A day or two of you and the cat and a squirt bottle. The tough part is, EVERYONE in the house has to be prepared to use the squirt bottle.. or the cat will learn that it only happens when you are around.
posted by dhammala at 11:17 PM on September 21, 2005

Something sticky.
posted by phox at 11:27 PM on September 21, 2005

I've only had success with the squirt bottle. Worked great with an adult cat, but I'm having trouble getting my kitten to respond to it. With the kitten, I've also tried the long strips of sticky stuff (basically double-sided tape) but he just pulled them off and started scratching.

It's been my experience that cats learn not to scratch specific items, and rarther than a class of things (all couches). When you bring in the fresh couch, your cat may well decide to claw it, too. Maybe not.
posted by jaysus chris at 11:39 PM on September 21, 2005

...specific items, rather than a class of things....

Sheesh. Time for bed.
posted by jaysus chris at 11:40 PM on September 21, 2005

I agree with jimray about the squirt bottle. You could also try clapping your hands loudly when your cat is doing something you don't want it to. Cats don't like sudden loud noises, so this can be quite an effective bit of negative reinforcement.

Get yourself a scratch-post (or similar) if you haven't already and a bottle of catnip spray. Spraying the post with catnip should make it much more interesting to your cat.

The combination of clapping and catnip have been 100% effective for me.
posted by NthMonkey at 12:06 AM on September 22, 2005

Second the scratching post. I've never had a cat who preferred the furniture to a scratching post. Put it in front of him and run your fingers over it as if you're scratching it, and watch him take to it. That's all it ever takes with my cats, and I have three cats now.

Cats must scratch. It's the way they mark things, it's an instinctive form of exercise, and if you don't provide the scratching post they will do it wherever they think is best. That's not a 'go with the flow' thing - clearly, you must teach the cat where it's appropriate to scratch and where it's not. Once he's marked the scratching post, I think you won't have a problem with him scratching much else.
posted by lambchop1 at 12:15 AM on September 22, 2005

The squirt bottle definatly works, but I found the canned air works better. They hate the rush of air and they hate the sound. Four cats got trained to leave the record player alone by this method. And, once the bottle was empty, we'd just pick it up and show it to the cats and they'd stop whatever they were doing. We trained them off countertops with this as well, so I'd assume it would work for scratching.
posted by nadawi at 12:26 AM on September 22, 2005

For me, the squirt bottle just taught him to do it when I wasn't there.
posted by phox at 12:47 AM on September 22, 2005

Don't forget to give Wrecks regular peticures.*
*Sorry about the bad puns.
posted by rob511 at 2:50 AM on September 22, 2005

We just got Soft Paws for my girlfriend's cats and it's worked wonders so far. Pretty easy to use (but I'd suggest having a friend help) and the cats don't mind at all.

More humane than declawing, less monitoring required than with a squirt bottle and more reliable than a scratching post.
posted by aaronh at 4:04 AM on September 22, 2005

Even with soft paws or a squirt bottle, getting the cat something he enjoys scratching will make him a happier cat, and happier cats are less neurotic about things. My declawed cat loves having a sisal-rope scratching post around but doesn't really care about carpeted ones. (The joke is that no-one told him about his claws, but I suspect it's just hardwired.)
posted by mendel at 4:30 AM on September 22, 2005

Just to make sure it's clear, because no cat claw thread should pass without a mention of it, declawing a cat is a horrible thing to do to it and should be avoided at all costs.

thanks rob511 for that link
posted by intermod at 5:00 AM on September 22, 2005

Silicone claw covers are available at Drs Foster and Smith -- we love them, but you have to keep up with them for them to be effective. We use the Klaw Kontrol Bag to put them on. Safer for the babies, safer for us.

I would also ask, has your current furniture known other cats? Because that seems to be the defining factor in furniture my cats want to kill, and furniture they don't molest. We misted our new furniture with a product similar to Feliway and they've never so much as looked at it funny. Furniture that my mom gave us, or furniture that I had when I lived in an apartment with a different cat, they hate pretty much totally regardless of what we do.
posted by Medieval Maven at 6:18 AM on September 22, 2005

double sided sticky tape. Worked for me.
posted by dness2 at 6:29 AM on September 22, 2005

It might be that the cat will take no interest in the microsuede couch. We have a couch with a microsuede cover on it and a chair with a highly nubbly fabric. Our cat never scratches the couch and only focuses on the chair, I assume because it's more satisfying to have his claws stuck in the nubbly fabric.

We've settled on a policy of letting him mess with that chair, too, as his fluffing of the fabric doesn't really show that much.
posted by stefnet at 6:43 AM on September 22, 2005

Aluminum foil draped over the couch arms for a while worked in our house.
posted by Dean King at 6:45 AM on September 22, 2005

On a similar topic, what experience do you guys have of claw trimming...? The cat and me both love it when she's on my knee, but sometimes I have to shoo her off when the 'kneading' gets too much. I've read a few sites that suggest it's not nearly so mean as declawing - any comments, CatFilter fans?
posted by penguin pie at 7:02 AM on September 22, 2005

Claw trimming is the same as a kitty pedicure. It's only as mean as it would be for a human to go to a spa, which is to say, not at all. However, inexperienced cats distrust humans with sharp objects, since they are used to having the upperhand in this one area, and so might protest mightily. You can either kowtow to the drama and not trim, or apologize disengeniously and trim away. But whatever you do, don't apologize sincerely because then the cat has really won.
posted by dness2 at 7:43 AM on September 22, 2005

You definitely must have a scratching post if you don't want the furniture scratched. Get one that's large, heavy, and solid, because if it wobbles at all, your cat will not trust it and therefore will not use it. Sisal rope and especially sisal fabric seem to be irresistible to cats. The ones made by Purrfect Post, for example, are pricey but excellent. You can try making your own for cheap with carpet and wood, although some cats are kind of indifferent to carpet.

To get your cat to start using the post instead of the furniture, it can help to begin by putting the post near the furniture in question, and over a few days move it slowly toward where you eventually want it to live. Taping some aluminum foil or sticky tape, as suggested above, over the part of the furniture your cat likes to scratch can speed this transition as well.

As regards nail clipping, if you have the diligence to do it, I recommend it. Even if your cat doesn't scratch the furniture much, he'll probably jump up on it, knead it, etc., all of which can involve digging his nails in, which over time will probably start to leave marks in microsuede (that's just a guess, though). Cutting cats' nails doesn't hurt them (if you don't clip too short) or affect their balance, but it can be a bit of an ordeal just because most cats don't like to be restrained and generally don't like you messing with their paws. If your cat will let you do it every week or so, though, it's a good idea.
posted by keatsandyeats at 7:57 AM on September 22, 2005

I trim all of my cats' nails with no problem. You only snip off the tip, which would be similar to trimming the whites of your own nails. It's only painful if you cut into the quick. I recommend only using a nail trimmer designed for cats, as regular nail clippers can crush the nail and cause the cat pain. If you've never trimmed your cat's nails before, start out slow. Try playing with their paws, pushing the nail gently out of the sheath. If she tolerates it, then move on to trimming a few nails or a paw at a time.

As for keeping cats off furniture, I had almost no success with Sticky Paws, the double-sided tape for furniture. My cats took it more as a challenge as to who could pull the most off. Luckily, there was really only one piece of furniture they were all attracted to destroying, so I eventually gave up and just slipcovered it.

In my experience, cats like to claw loopier textures, like loose-woven fabrics, corrugated cardboard, carpet and wicker. (The chair of mine they destroyed was a chenille tapestry.)

In addition to the products mentioned above, you may also want to try Tattle Tale, an electronic device that sounds an alarm when your cat gets on your furniture, and Scat Mat, which uses a mild static shock to train your cat to stay off the furniture.
posted by Sully6 at 8:34 AM on September 22, 2005

If you can "try before you buy", you could see if the cat actually in is interested in scratching the couch - and also see if the fabric attracts cat hair. If the cat shows great interest in scratching the microsuade couch, it will probably keep this interest as long as you have the couch. Especially when you're out of the room.

For "cat-safe" furniture consider leather (most cats don't like scratching leather, and cat hair is easy to remove), or (second best) furniture with a washable, removable cover.
posted by iviken at 9:05 AM on September 22, 2005

A sisal scratching post should work. I've tried carpet scratching posts, and the cats destroyed them within a couple of weeks. A good sisal one should last a few months. And the cats seem to love the feel of the sisal.

If you don't want to use a wet squirt bottle next to your new sofa, try a canister of compressed air (the type you use to clean out a computer), but don't spray it at the cat, but next to him, just a quick one-second release, and that should be enough to give him a fright.
posted by essexjan at 3:37 PM on September 22, 2005

I made a scratching post out of a chipboard base(scrap - sink cutout), and a length of 4 x 4 covered in carpet. A toy on a string was added. Catnip under the carpet got her attention, too. She used it diligently until she got old and too tired to scratch. I kept the tips of her claws trimmed, and that helped, too.
posted by Mom at 7:25 PM on September 22, 2005

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