Why Do Cats Scratch?Before I get into things you can do to change this behaviour, it's important to understand why cats need to scratch. Cats scratch for health reasons and also to communicate with you. Firstly, cats need to wear down their claws naturally. Indoor cats claws don't get worn down as quickly as outside cats. I wrote an earlier post on trimming your cats claws here.
Secondly, cats scratch to communicate with you. Did you ever notice that your cat scratches when you return home from work? He is trying to tell you he is happy you are home. Of course, if he does this on your sofa or carpet, you will not appreciate it. Cats also scratch when they wake up from a nap to stretch their muscles and wake up.
Cats love to mark their territory with their scent. There are scent glands in their paws, and when they scratch something it's their way of marking it as their own. Scratching is normal cat behaviour. It is part of their nature and something you should not try to change. You can however, direct them to scratch on designated scratching posts or cat trees.
Cat Scratching PostsThere are several different types of cat scratching posts. There are both vertical and horizontal posts, as well as wood and corrugated cardboard scratchers.
Kong cat scratcher available on Amazon
Cats like different textures. If your cat is scratching the carpet, consider getting a scratcher that has a carpet like texture to it. If your cat likes to scratch wood (like door frames or coffee tables) buy or make a wood scratcher. You can sprinkle a little catnip on it to attract the cat or add a little toy nearby.
Place the scratching posts near where your cat likes to scratch. If you catch him scratching the carpet or furniture, pick him up gently and move him to the scratching post. You will have to do this a few times for the cat to learn. You can also discourage him from scratching certain areas by using aluminum foil or a heavy plastic sheet over the area. They don't like that texture and will avoid it. Cats also don't like the smell of citrus. You can wipe down the wood with a citrus solution and they will stay away from it.
Scolding doesn't work unless you catch him scratching. If you yell afterwards, he won't understand why you're upset and will be afraid. This will cause more stress and your cat will act out more. Remember he is not trying to misbehave, he is only doing what comes naturally. Your cat wants to please you, it's up to you to teach him where to scratch. Positive reinforcement works well. When he uses the scratching post, praise him and pet afterwards so he knows you are happy with him.
This video gives you some tips on how to stop your cat from scratching the carpet.