How do I train my cat? Can I train my cat not to scratch on the furniture?
Yes, you can train your cat. Of course, your cat will also train you. As they say, dogs have masters, cats have staff. This holds very true. That being said, any cat is trainable as long as you have the patience and do it right.
Probably the most common trait that you might want to train your cat for is to not scratch on the furniture. You can do this at any age, but depending on the age of the cat, the type of furniture you have, and your patience level will depend on how successful you are. First off, leather furniture and cats just do not mix well. There is just something so appealing to cats to scratch on leather furniture, and they will slice right through it. If you have to have leather furniture, maybe cats are not the best pet for you. But, if you are determined, or if you have any other kind of furniture that you would like to keep protected, keep reading. The first thing is to give your cat an alternative to the furniture. Multiple scratching posts placed in close proximity to the furniture. Different cats have different preferences for what they like to scratch on. So, have different types of scratching posts. Sissal, cardboard, and short carpet are probably the most popular. If you think the scratching posts won't go with your furniture, think again, there are all kinds of designer scratching posts that you can find online that look very snazzy. Once you get the scratching post, give your cat a little extra incentive to use it. Sprinkle cat nip on it on a regular basis. If you catch your cat using it, praise them, and maybe even give them a treat.
The second thing is to make your furniture undesirable for scratching on. Probably the easiest is to cover the good scratching areas with double-sided sticky tape. Cats don't like to stick to things, so they will leave this alone. Eventually, you can start removing a little bit at a time once your cat starts using the scratching posts consistently. You may have to replace the tape regularly, and test a small area in back first to make sure that the tape will not cause any damage to your furniture. You can artfully rearrange your furniture so that the good flat scratching areas have furniture placed up against them, so it is difficult to access them. You can also spray cat distasteful things on your furniture such as bitter apple, peppermint extract, vanilla extract, or anything that your cat will dislike the smell and/or taste of and avoid.
The third thing is an instant bad result if you catch your cat scratching the furniture. This is where squirt guns, spray bottles, noisemakers, and just plain NO in a loud voice come in. The main thing to keep in mind is that these only work if you catch your cat in the act. A few seconds later, they will have no idea what you are yelling at them for. If your cat is one of those strange cats that doesn't mind getting wet, then either putting something distasteful like peppermint extract in the water, or using a noisemaker might be more effective. A good noisemaker can be a glass jar full of small metal objects such as change or nuts and bolts. Only shake it when you actually catch your cat in the act, or you will not get the effect you want. You can also try saying NO in a loud voice. This may or may not work depending on your cat.
As a last resort, you can trim your cat's nails regularly, use soft paws, or declaw your cat (read pros and cons on declaw page). But, if you have enough patience in training, you can generally train your cat before you get to that point.