Cats need to scratch. It’s not something they do just to annoy you, wake you from a beautiful sleep, only to torment you with their claws two hours later. They are not selfishly trying to test your last bit of restraint and are certainly not concerned with the fact that their habit ruins your furniture. They need to scratch for the health of their claws. Stopping a cat from scratching is like stopping a train wreck with your bare hands. Unless you are harboring a super power, it isn’t going to happen. The best you can hope for is teaching them the appropriate place to scratch.
Your basic goal is to ask your cat to take his habits to a more appropriate location. This means you want to dissuade him from scratching in those areas that he enjoys that do damage, such as the edge of the bed, the edge of the sofa, the wall, and any other inconvenient place he can find that will tear through your nerves. You then want to encourage him to scratch in places that are acceptable and won’t do any damage like a scratching post. Unfortunately for him, you are asking to give up numerous areas that please him for one or two areas that please you. Sometimes the transition can be a bit rocky.
When you are choosing a scratching post, or two, make and attempt to get something that perhaps vaguely resembles one of his favorite scratching places. Color is inconsequential but size and height of comparable proportions can make a difference when it comes to his willingness to make the transition.
Scratching posts now come in a variety of configurations. You can now get anything from a simple scratching post to an entire scratching haven complete with hide away peep holes, sleeping areas, and various toys. Some cats are intimidated by the huge play places with scratching posts and peek a boo features while others find them completely and totally the playground of cat Heaven. Knowing which way your feline warrior is likely to swing depends on knowing his personality, and a little bit of luck.
If you have a cat who is determined to play amongst your blankets, even when your only goal is to make the bed, or who likes to find the most ironic and downright silly places to hide and sleep, chances are he’s going to love his own little kingdom. If your cat lacks the same enthusiasm for play as he does for things that require basic energy to accomplish (the basic Garfield syndrome) then he’s probably not going to be interested in a play castle for cats.
Some cats just prefer a regular piece of wood with nothing fancy or made up about it. A friend of mine went through three types of scratching posts before his cat made the choice, a spare 2 x 4 that was left over from remodeling his kitchen. Sometimes a cat will simply let you know his needs and all you have to do is pay attention.
In all fairness, asking him not to scratch unless you can offer him an alternative. If you’re bringing home a new kitten, a scratching area should be on the list of necessities right next to the litter box and food. If you already have a cat (which means you already have a scratching problem) then the sooner you can come home with a scratching post, the better. The longer you allow the behavior, the harder it is going to be to break it.
Some cats are unfairly easy. Simply showing them their new area to scratch and play is enough. Other cats believe you have just brought them some alien testing device that will track and record their every thought and bolt from its use with the same lack of logic. As of yet there is no book on the psychology of a cat to allow humans to understand such erratic behaviors. Either way, we’re going to assume for argument’s sake that he took off and refused to even be social for three days when you brought him home his own palace.
Cats tend to prefer rougher surfaces to graze their nail against. They like to stretch their long bodies to their fullest to get a good long scratch going, and they like to do it against a secure environment. Thus, bringing home something small, soft, and able to be blown over by his sneeze is not likely to go over well. Make it solid. Make is useful, and he might be a bit more interested.
Don’t pretend you know how to be a cat. Decidedly crouching on the floor and showing your cat the basics of scratching isn’t likely to train him to do anything but to see you as odd, at least a little more so for the moment. By now you’ve probably noticed where his favorite scratching places are. Leave the scratching post there, at least for now, so the he sees he has a better option. Hiding it in the back corner of the basement isn’t going to draw him to it.
Punishing him isn’t going make sense to your cat. You can sometimes defer a cat from scratching in one particular area by using noise. A quick loud noise that he can not associate with you can often be enough to deter him from scratching in one particular area. In his mind, the sofa made that horrible noise when he went to go scratch it.