Scratching is a natural inclination for cats, so preventing scratching in certain areas requires behavioral training and the introduction of appropriate scratching surfaces.
Why Cats Scratch
Cats scratch or knead with their paws to transfer scent from their feet onto surfaces and objects. They also scratch as a form of stretching and to help remove dead outer layers of nails. The act of scratching is also a soothing and pleasurable experience for your kitty. Once she finds a surface she likes, such as stairs, she’s likely to return to the same spot repeatedly.
Declawing a cat is considered inhumane and can leave your pet defenseless against predators. Cat claw sheaths can help to reduce scratching damage, as can regular claw trimming.
Buy or make appropriate scratching posts to transfer your cat’s interest from your stairs to the preferred location. For best results, select a pad that is angled in the same fashion as the section of stairs she scratches. For example, if she scratches vertically, use a vertical pad, and if she scratches the flat surface, use something flat. Place the scratching pad on the area of stairs she regularly frequents and play with her around the new post. Spritz it with spray catnip and dangle toys or feather dancers around the surface to encourage use.
If you have more than one cat in the house, have one scratching post per pet, along with a “spare.” For example, if you have two cats, buy or make three scratching areas to encourage use and give each animal their own “territory” to mark.
Make Stairs Unattractive
Make your stairs an unattractive scratching location. Cover the surface of stairs with a plastic stair runner turned upside down so the nubby sides stick up, or lay tin foil or double-sided along stairs -- cats don’t like the feel. Another alternative is to replace your cat’s scent on the stairs with a repelling odor they won’t want to return to. Spray repellents are available in pet supply stores.
Test for color-fastness before using sprays on carpeting.
An ideal approach to keeping your home and furniture safe from cat scratching is to have appropriate scratching posts set up in your house before you bring your kitty home. This will establish good habits from the start.