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We cat guardians love our furry companions dearly…but we don’t love when they start scratching up areas in the house that we would prefer to remain in tact. In particular, when you live in a home with carpeting, keeping cats from pulling it up can seem like a hopeless task.
But fear not! There IS a solution, and we’re going to explain in detail how to stop cats from scratching the carpet in your living space.
Why do cats like to scratch carpet?
When trying to achieve a goal with your cats, it’s vital to understand the reasoning behind their behavior. Though it may seem like it at times, they are not scratching the carpet to annoy you. Not only do cats like to scratch, but they need to scratch. The instinct to scratch is built into their genetic code and helps them accomplish three feline necessities.
1 – Grooming
One of the reasons cats scratch is to maintain their claws. By scratching rough surfaces they can remove the dead outer layers of their claws to reveal new, sharper nail growth beneath. (In the wild cats do this by using natural surfaces such as tree bark.)
2 – Muscle Health
Scratching is also a way for cats to stretch and hone the muscles in their body that they use to climb and run. Think about that nice stretch you take in the morning that feels so good and prepares you for the day – cats can’t achieve that quite as well without using their claws. Digging into something gives them traction and allows them to exercise their kitty muscles as best they can.
3 – Scent and Communication
The third reason cats scratch is to spread their scent. In the feline world, this is the number one way that cats communicate. They mark their territory in a variety of ways, one of which is by scratching certain areas of their choosing.
Since cats have scent glands in their paws, scratching transfers their unique pheromones onto other surfaces. This sends a clear message to any other cats that might walk by the area – this is MY turf.
It is believed that cats in the wild evolved to mark their territory in order to minimize contact with other felines and therefore increase their chances of survival. This makes logical sense to me, and helps me understand what is going on in my cat’s instinct driven brain when she scratches around the house.
Cats also might use scratching to communicate with their owners. If you routinely scold your cat for clawing up a certain area, they may associate that scratching area with receiving attention and therefore continue doing it simply for that reason. What can I say? Cats are weird!
How to protect your carpet and furniture
Now that we understand why cats scratch, we still have to figure out how to keep them from scratching the areas in the house that we don’t want destroyed! A happy household means happy cats AND humans. Trust us, the balance is possible!
Create scratch-friendly zones
The first step to stopping cats from scratching non-desirable areas is to provide them with surfaces that they ARE allowed to scratch. Scratching posts, sisal-covered cat trees, and cardboard scratchers are all examples of products that are readily available and perfect for satisfying scratching needs.
If your cat has a surface made of corrugated cardboard or sisal rope in their living space, they will most likely choose that area to scratch, rather than your nice furniture, woodwork, or carpeting. They like the rough texture and the sound that it makes when they pull their claws across it.
Once cats finds an area that is desirable for scratching, they will always return to it! So by creating the most attractive scratching zone, you greatly increase the chances that your cat will choose that instead of having to find one on his own.
Provide designated scratching surfaces
So the idea here is that you want to direct your cat’s scratching away from the nice carpet, the couch arms, etc, and towards a surface of your choosing.
Although there are tons of great products out there to help with this, you don’t necessarily need to spend a lot of money to achieve the desired result. Check out this video below about how to make homemade cat scratchers. It takes a little time, but it’s definitely a cost saver!
Another option is that you could designate things you already have as acceptable scratching surfaces. This could be something like an old chair you no longer care about, or a carpet remnant that you don’t plan on using for anything else. Sprinkling a little catnip on the target area or leaving their toys near it helps encourage interest.
Now, there are TONS of cat scratching products available for purchase, but the three main categories are:
- Scratching posts – vertical posts usually covered in a sisal material or rope
- Scratching pads – come in a variety of shapes and sizes, typically made out of corrugated cardboard (but not necessarily)
- Scratching trees – multi-tiered structures that incorporate scratching surfaces into the design
These are generalizations of course, because new products are being invented all the time and many of the newer ones are hybrids of each other or are essentially a new category altogether. But overall, these are the most common options.
For our personal recommendations, check out some of our other articles such as, The Best Cardboard Cat Scratchers: Top Ten Choices of 2020, or Cat Trees for Large Cats: Supportive, Sturdy, and Roomy!
Vertical vs horizontal scratching
You may have noticed that some cat scratching products are designed to stand upright, while others lie flat on the ground. As with people, all cats have their specific preferences when it comes to their habits and behavior.
Some cats prefer to scratch horizontally, on the ground level, while others prefer to scratch against vertical surfaces. If you have a problem with your cat specifically scratching up your carpet, they may prefer horizontal surfaces. It would therefore make sense to place horizontal cat scratchers on the ground over the problem areas.
Cats that tend to scratch upwards on furniture and woodwork would be best suited for more vertical scratching diversions such as posts and trees.
Of course, a large percentage of cats like to do both, which is why it’s a good idea to have multiple types of scratchers around the house. Pay attention to your cat’s scratching behavior and choose the products that you think will work best for him or her.
What if I have designated areas and my cat still won’t stop scratching where I don’t want her to?
This is always a possibility with cats, as they tend to do whatever they want no matter what. If you’ve provided plenty of designated scratch zones and you’re still having problems, there are a few other things you can try.
Cat Training Tape
One way to protect surfaces in your home from incessant kitty claws is with cat training tape. Apply this double sided tape to the surface in question for as long as it takes to turn your cat’s interest toward a designated scratching zone.
The secret behind this specialty tape is that cats do not like to have sticky paws. The tape creates a surface texture that is highly offensive to a cat who is looking to get in a good scratch.
Scratch Deterrent Spray
Another option is to try a cat deterrent spray. These sprays are safe and non toxic to cats, but contain scents that will make most kitties avoid the area. They aren’t guaranteed to work for every cat, but many people swear by them and would definitely be worth a shot if other methods have failed.
Cat Nail Caps
If you’re willing to put in the effort, and you think this solution may be right for your cat, you could try cat nail caps. Made of a vinyl resin, these little covers go right over your cat’s nails, protect your furniture, and come in multiple cute colors to boot.
Covering the Area
When all else fails, try covering the area you want to protect with heavy throw blankets or something of the sort that you have on hand. Simple but effective. If cats don’t have access to the scratching surface, they’ll eventually lose interest and move on.
Remember, barring some kind of rare medical emergency, cats should never be declawed. There are so many other solutions that are perfectly safe, painless and effective. Read more about why cats should not be declawed here.
Trimming your cat’s nails can help to an extent
While it won’t totally solve the problem or save your upholstery, keeping your cat’s nails trimmed on a regular basis can help with excessive claw damage. Cat’s nails tend to naturally grow out to a length that is simply too long for the cushy indoor life. When claws start getting accidentally stuck in everything (blankets, carpet, cushions, etc) it’s time for a trim.
Some cats have no problem with nail trimming, while others pose a bit more of a challenge. Read all about the process in our article, How to Trim a Cat’s Nails at Home – A Guide to Success.
- Since cats like and need to scratch, it’s best to let them, but direct them to the appropriate areas. Providing a variety of scratch-friendly surfaces is the first step and will solve the problem of carpet/furniture destruction most of the time. Supplement this with regular nail trimming.
- If the problem persists, try specialty products such as cat training tape, deterrent spray, or kitty nail covers. And when in doubt, simply cover and restrict the area until your cat loses interest.
- Remember that all cats scratch, and that it’s normal and healthy. With a little research and understanding, you and your cat can find a compromise and live together in harmony.