Do Cat Trees Really Help Cats Stop Clawing the Furniture?

Get a scratching post with a toy to make it more attractive to your pet.
Get a scratching post with a toy to make it more attractive to your pet. (Image: Comstock/Comstock/Getty Images)

The sound of your new couch being ripped to pieces may be music to your cat's ears, but probably not so much for you. Getting a scratching post or carpeted cat tree can help lower the rate of furniture mutilation, but it may not solve the problem entirely on its own.

Why Cats Scratch

Unless your cat is an evil mastermind, he is not destroying your furniture out of spite or lust for wanton destruction. While idle paws certainly lead to mischief, kitties need to sink their nails into a satisfying substance to fulfill basic psychological and physiological needs. When they rip their claws in and out of your couch, or a scratching post, they pull off old layers of nail to make way for new growth. It is also a way for them to stretch their muscles and mark territory, according to Colorado State University Veterinary Teaching Hospital. Don't scold your kitty when he scratches the furniture. He may see your reaction as an affirmation that his claim to the territory is contested, which prompts him to claw it even more.

Cat Trees and Scratching Posts

Scratching posts and carpeted cat houses are designed with the feline's need to scratch in mind. They are covered in rope, carpet, cardboard or a similar material that provides a satisfying surface for your cat to shred. As a general rule, the "scratchable" area should be at least a few square feet, so your cat has room to knead and stretch as his heart desires. Cat trees do really help keep your cat's claws off the furniture, but one may not be enough. Sprinkle catnip on the tree and try different materials if your cat isn't showing much interest at first, Stanford Cat Network recommends. If you catch your cat clawing the furniture, pick him up and set him down with his paws against the cat tree. He'll get the idea pretty quickly.

Placing the Cat Tree

Since cats sharpen their nails to mark territory, there needs to be a cat tree in close proximity to the furniture you are trying to protect. If you stow the scratching post in another room, your cat may not be satisfied with leaving the furniture unscathed. After all, it's important that everyone knows the recliner belongs to him. You may need to invest in, or make, several scratching posts. Having one in every room that has upholstered furniture is ideal. Get a scratching post the day you bring a new kitten into your home. If you can get him hooked on the cat tree at an early age, then he'll be much less likely to go after your new recliner.

Other Options

If the cat tree didn't do the trick, you have a few other options for saving what's left of the living room. Claw coverings put a protective layer over your cat's sharp nails. You can order the product yourself or ask your local pet groomer to put them on for you. Trimming your kitty's claws is also a good way to reduce the damage to your furniture. Avoid the temptation to declaw your cat. Not only does it leave your cat defenseless, it also removes his ability to scratch himself properly to shed dead skin cells and hair.

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