Several years ago, Susan Westerly took her cat, Delia, and moved in with her elderly grandmother — relieving some financial stress for Susan and allowing her grandmother to remain somewhat independent as her health declined. The old house was filled with beautiful antique furniture, and because Susan didn’t think she had any other options, she had Delia declawed. The cat eventually adjusted to life without her claws, but Susan felt very guilty.
Unfortunately, she hadn’t been better informed about other techniques available to discourage destructive scratching behavior. Not only are there easily implemented techniques that can help redirect the scratching instinct, but there are also fabrics and furniture designs that have little “cat appeal.”
For one thing, regularly trimming nails is very helpful for limiting damage to furniture. In addition to keeping your cat’s nails trimmed, it is important to establish approved scratching areas within your home. Experts suggest that you initially using catnip and/or treats to attract your cat to approved scratching areas, and to be sure to reward desired behavior: If you see the cat using the scratching post, reward with verbal praise, scratching or treats. (And remember that rewards are in the eye of the cat — not the human!)
Similarly, if you see the cat scratching in an inappropriate area, startle and redirect by calling the cat over to the scratching post or picking him up, nicely, setting him down by the scratching post, and rewarding scratching. There are also several deterrents available for special pieces of furniture. One example is Sticky Paws, strips with adhesive on both sides that you stick on your furniture. Cats hate the feel of the adhesive on their paws and will subsequently avoid scratching anywhere you use them. Another option is Soft Paws: These are lightweight vinyl caps for the cat’s nails that can last for four to six weeks. They are available in clear or colored plastic (see sidebar below). Additionally, there are spray-on deterrents available that won’t harm your furniture.
It can also help immensely to begin with furniture that doesn’t have a lot of “cat-appeal.” Peter Grigorov, co-owner of Contemporary Trends, a modern furniture store in Ithaca, NY, relates, “Over the years, we’ve had many customers searching for “cat-friendly” furniture. We’ve also had lots of feedback from people with cats. The only constant seems to be that [what works] is up to the individual cat. My own cats ignore both fabric and leather but will happily shred wooden legs and door frames. In general,” says Mr. Grigorov, “we recommend smooth, tough fabrics like microfibers, leather and limited wood exposure … but make no promises about anything being catproof.”
Whether you’re trying to protect antique furniture or simply redecorate your home, there are several ways to make your furniture less appealing to your cat and to make your cat less destructive, as well. With a little behavior modification — on both your part and your cat’s — you can have nice furniture that remains intact!