Why do cats like to scratch?
Cats naturally scratch objects to shorten and condition the claws, to mark their territory and to stretch. A lot of cats that have access to outside find their preferred scratching areas outside on a tree or fence. Indoor cats need to find something to scratch, and if a substitute is not available, that will most likely be your new sofa!
How can I teach my cat to use a scratching post?
Cats like to scratch in prominent areas to mark them, so place the scratching post in these areas until the behaviour is established, and then you can move it to somewhere less obvious. Indoor cats often need more than one post and cats have varying preferences for the material they like to scratch – such as tightly woven material, hessian, sisal, or a more loosely woven material where the claws can hook and tear during scratching.
Most posts are upright, and need to be taller than your cat in full extension, although some are wall or door-mounted. Providing a play area incorporating the post will encourage your cat as well – there are may play centre-type structures with dangling toys, toys on springs, and even multilayered cubby-holes.
What if I still have problems?
If your cat continues to prefer the sofa to its high-tech pole and play centre, you may need to limit its exposure to those areas, discourage the behaviour by covering the area with aluminium foil or double-sided sticky tape. Never directly punish your cat as this will cause fear or aggression toward the owners, and at best, the cat will only learn to stop the scratching while the owner is around.
What about declawing?
Declawing involves the surgical removal of the front feet claws by amputating the last section of bone at the end of the feet. It is not uncommonly performed in the USA but is very rarely performed in Australia, and is in fact illegal in some states.