Where Cats Scratch: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugliest of Ugly

Mon, May 3, 2010



Thank you to everyone who sent in photos of the places and things that their cats scratch. 50 people sent in almost 200 photos, so it’s taken me a little while to go through everything. Scratching is obviously a popular topic on this blog, since I’m always on the lookout for stylish and functional options for cat scratching products and DIY projects. Besides style, there are two much more serious reasons to give the topic so much attention. First, I’d like to strongly encourage all cat owners to provide appropriate scratching surfaces where cats can perform this natural behavior, instead of declawing. Declawing (primarily practiced in the US and actually illegal in many European countries) is inhumane and can lead to far worse behavior issues. Second, destructive scratching behavior can sometimes cause people to give up or abandon their cats, so anything that can be done to prevent this from happening is worth discussing.

My guess is that the majority of Moderncat readers would never dream of declawing or abandoning their cats, but there are lots of others out there who may need some more information to help them manage scratching behavior and live happily with their feline companions. Over the coming weeks, I have several new scratching products to share with you. Since all cats have different preferences when it comes to scratching, I’ve found products with different configurations and materials, sure to please every moderncat out there, so stay tuned! Also, I’ll be choosing a winner from everyone who sent in photos for a special new scratching product giveaway.

For today, I’d like to share with you some of the photos that were submitted by readers who obviously all love their cats very much!

Wood (walls, doors & furniture)


Upholstered Furniture



Cardboard Boxes




Sisal Wrapped Scratching Posts

Sisal Scratchers

Other (rattan, banana leaf, leather shoes)


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38 Responses to “Where Cats Scratch: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugliest of Ugly”

  1. 1

    oh wow! that is insane! glad to know I am not alone! LOL thanks too for the GREAT discouraging comments regarding declawing. I used to declaw every cat I got, not knowing what declawing really was! For those of you that do not know the truth behind declawing: look down at your hands and imagine if your fingers were all chopped off from the first nuckle after the fingernail up…yes that is declawing.

  2. 2
    Rebekah C

    I just wanted to share my two cents with anyone who would listen.

    When we first brought home our Ragdoll kitten, we placed a cardboard scratch box in each room. Whenever he tried to scratch something, we simply picked him up and placed him on the box, and then used our fingernails to mimic the action of scratching it. Further, we observed when and where he scratched most commonly, and learned to place the scratch box wherever he was scratching frequently. In no time, we had him trained to scratch the box rather than furniture. Hands down, the easiest cat to train.

    However, we adopted another cat, this one already 9 months old and had some bad habits of scratching furniture. We tried doing the same with her, but she did not like cardboard scratch boxes on the floor. We tried a hanging sisal scratch post, which didn’t work either. Lastly, we tried putting the cardboard scratch boxes upright and attaching them to a cabinet door, and that did the trick! Once we mimiced the scratching for her, she tried it, and we rewarded her with praise and treats each time. She no longer scratches the furniture, and always knows how to get a treat from us—she goes to the upright scratching box.

    I don’t know if this will work for everyone, but it sure worked for us!

  3. 3
    Babs (formerly Kush's Human)

    No boxsprings? That’s always been the favorite of my cats! Nice and heavy, so they get lots of resistance; big enough so they can attack multiple spots.

  4. 4

    I don’t understand how and why owners would let it get that far. i.e. furniture, etc. I have three kittens, and they were promptly trained to use scratching posts. My furniture is in great condition.

  5. 5

    Aww…Lola & Hip-Hop are ModernCat famous!

    We used to get upset when they would claw the couch…but they are cats, and scratching is what is natural for them. We gave in and decided that the couch was now just a “casualty of war” and to let them have it.

    We got new micro-suede type couch and they have left them (for the most part) alone. Aside from the fact the fabric doesn’t scratch the same for them…we left the old couch for them upstairs and they just go to town on that! It may be an eye sore, but they love clawing it and we love our cats…so it works for us! :)

  6. 6

    We’ve been very lucky with our recently adopted 2 year old cat, dug his claws into our couch once during a stretch & luckily I was there to catch him & put him on the double-wide cardboard cat scratcher. Hasn’t done it since. I put a little catnip on them (he has 2) each morning, he follows me & scratches on each one right away. Oddly enoguh he hasn’t once used the cat scratcher pole except to sit on.
    Our last cat that we got as a kitten tore up the sofa.

  7. 7

    If you haven’t tried them, Soft Paws work great for us. We started when he was a kitten, which may make a difference, but they work great. We keep them on his front paws only, and he can scratch at anything to his heart’s content. Each soft paw lasts about a month and falls off naturally when the nail grows out. He doesn’t even mind when we put them on him now.

    Some people are afraid these will hurt their cat, but we had just two incidents in the very beginning where he got the soft paw stuck (once in the fridge cabinet and once in an open umbrella). I was able to disentangle him both times without harm, and we haven’t had any more problems like that (to my knowledge) in a year.

  8. 8

    My cat is about nine years old now, and she’s been fairly non-destructive. I’ve never had her ruin a piece of furniture or even do any noticeable damage to the carpet. She’s had one or two carpet cat scratching posts as she grew up which I discarded when they got too ugly. She’ll use carpet and the side of the boxspring mattress if she’s been confined in the house for a long time without other options, but she really really prefers tree bark! Right now, she is confined to being an inside kitty and takes out her frustration on an inclined cardboard cat scratcher but she wants fresh catnip on it every week and I think she’d still prefer a tree trunk.

    Thanks to everyone who sent photos in and got me to thinking about this more. Also, thanks for discouraging the inhumane practice of declawing. If someone can’t live with claws and scratching then they shouldn’t live with a cat, as those things are fundamentally natural to a cat!

  9. 9
    Daniela Caride

    Wow, that’s a lot of destruction! I was able to solve my problems at home after placing more cat trees around, near to the furniture my four cats were scratching. Here’s a great resource on how to save furniture from cat clawing: http://www.thedailytail.com/by-contributing-writers/how-to-save-furniture-from-cat-clawing/

  10. 10

    Our kitten LOVES to scratch on the inside of my husband’s shoes! Only his shoes and only on the inside. He hasn’t met this level of destruction yet, but he certainly tries. He totally ignores his cardboard scracthing post so we are thinking of getting him a kitty condo covered in carpet since he seems to prefer that texture.

  11. 11

    Can’t wait to read your blog the next few days about cat scratching. I’d like to find new products and ways to train my cats where to scratch. Getting tips on techniques for teaching cats what to scratch or NOT to scratch would be great. Other topics I’d love to learn more about: How to teach cats to NOT jump on countertops, tables, or stay out of certain areas of the house. Also how to live with cats and new babies. I’m about to give birth to our first child and would love to know how to ease the cats to the baby.

  12. 12

    Wow, I have several shredded sisal scratchers around my house. (and one innocent bystander: a big comfy chair). I have had good luck with placing scratchers in front of my better pieces of furniture. Although they do not add beauty to the decorative design of my house!

  13. 13

    I got 2 kittens 1 1/2 years ago, and they have not scratched one inappropriate thing. I attribute it to having some coir and jute rugs throughout the apartment, (in addition to plenty of cat toys – a sisal scratching post and a cardboard cat scratching box). But, its really these rugs they go for, which is great. Besides being cheap enough, they are really tough and aren’t even showing signs of damage. They pick them over every other carpet in the apartment, even the soft woven wool one which I was sure would be the favorite.

  14. 14

    Thanks for the pictures. My 2 boys love their beautiful cat tree, which has 3 different types of scratching surfaces, but only to sit on! The scratching surfaces remain untouched even though I have rubbed catnip on them & sprayed with catnip spray. They will use their turbo scratcher and their slanted cardboard scratcher, but they also use my sofa and chair. I have tried everything I know of to discourage them, but to no avail. I am alwasy looking for new ideas so I look forward to your future posts on this topic. I am also interested in learning about good fabric choices as I want to purchase slipcovers or re-upholster the sofa.

  15. 15

    Tengo gatos de todas las edades, de pequeños los voy educando, a que rasquen las torres.

    Cuca, es una gata que tiene 15 años, cuando era joven me arañó, mi habitación, que estaba tapizada, la tuvimos que cambiar, aún así la queremos mucho, igual a los otros.

  16. 16
    Tammy Botzon

    Positive reinforcement has worked well for me over the years with my many kitties. When they scratch on something in-appropriate we say no and clap our hands. We put out lots of scratching options that they can choose from and when they scratch where they are supposed to we REALLY make over them and thell them what a good kitty they are. It is getting to the point when ever they want attention they go to their scratcher because we immediatelly give them pets and encouragement :)

  17. 17
    Missy K

    I have 5 scratching posts,but my wood furniture all have missing varnish.In some cases….wood.
    My couch arm looks like that one the right side,and I store all my xmas ornaments in cardboard boxes in my basement.
    They shred the box,and I find the ornaments…all over,some ruined.
    I have up long ago….


  18. 18

    Thanks, Kate, for being so tactfully kind as not to include any of our family’s accoutrements among the “Ugliest of ugly” ;) We DO enjoy our scratching. And while I do love modern (and some other) furniture, CATS’ wellbeing, comfort, and happiness are worth far more than any inanimate object ever could be. Thanks for discussing cats’ right to keep their claws, something with which we wholeheartedly agree.

  19. 19

    Thank you so much for sharing, what some still don’t know about declawing; actual amputation of the first digit of each claw. So bad! And for keeping the humor in abundance. Hey, i our own West Hollywood, CA has banned declawing – but we have a way to go! The procedure is already illegal in 24 nations, including France, Australia, Brazil, Norway, Germany, Spain and the United Kingdom. Thanks everyone for all your suggestions.

  20. 20

    My kitties are always going after my blue jeans when I have them on. Otherwise the cardboard scratchers & cat trees do the job…. except the occasional couch claw…. I find keeping their claws cut every two weeks, keeps the not ok scratching to a min. :)

  21. 21
    Missive Maven

    My three cats have different scratching styles among them, and as long as we provide enough appropriate surfaces, they use them. The two females love carpet (and upholstered furniture), both vertically and horizontally. They have a huge giant cat tree that they adore. It was pricey, but well worth the price of saving our couch. Our male likes scratching horizontally, and he loves the Scratch Lounge for that (like a double-wide cardboard scratcher, with walls). Every now and again one of the girls goes for the couch, and that’s when we know it’s time to spray Feliway again. For anyone who has problem scratchers, I’d really recommend Feliway. It’s been very effective, and is quite safe for both cats and furniture.

  22. 22

    I have 6 kitties and none of them scratch the furniture (thank goodness) They all exclusively scratch on the big custom made kitty condo–it has carpeting and sisal rope and wood. They each have found their faorite part and use that…I also put their catnip on that condo exclusively, so they know to go there when they wanna get rough with their claws! They are super trained–whenever they even hear me pick up the catnip they come tearing from all different directions and climb onto their “respective” perches and wait for the nip to start and the scratching to begin!

  23. 23
    Tanya R

    Ooooh I recognize some of that damage! lol
    You included 2 of my pics, one of them with my furbaby Toby looking on as I snapped the photo.

    When people do happen by, many take one look at the damage and ask us why in the world we didn’t get our cats declawed, it’s just that natural of a response to some.
    Furniture can be replaced, toes can’t!

    We have all kind of cat scratchers at home from a full cat tree covered in carpet, sisal door hangers (which they don’t use as they move to much when scratching), the cardboard box ones and even 2 of those circular ones with the ball that goes round and round and has scratching material in the middle.

    The Cat tree needs parts of carpet replaced (this time around I’m turning the carpet over so they can scratch the base of it), the cardboard ones are switched out when they wear through. It just so happens that these devishlish guys use both. They’ll not touch the furniture when anyone is looking but sneak off to do it when no one is (or sleeping).
    They touch the furniture less now a days that we have most of it covered. Slipcovers or even just blankets (so long as they don’t crawl up under them to scratch anyway) really put a halt on much of it.

  24. 24

    I have great scratching facilities for my kitties, but when I got them, I couldn’t use the normal “walk over to the kitty, pick her up and move her to the appropriate spot” method of training, and I would NOT use a spray bottle, because my kittens were 5 months old ferals, scared of everything, and there was just no way I could add to that fear. So, I have a chair that I loved that is now a mess. They do use their scratchers, and I have a new chair they are being very good with. I realized it all has less to do, now, with *scratching*, and more to do with a good hanging stretch. And now, 6.5 years later, I will say a sharp “hey” to my little girl when she does it. She still gets so scared, but not as much, and she gets over it a little more quickly.

    As for declawing — well, I never even heard of it until the last few years. No one I ever knew growing up amputated their cats’ toes. Cats were indoor/outdoor, and needed to climb. Now my cats are indoor only, and I still wouldn’t do it.

  25. 25

    Ha,ha,ha….we all have the same problem with the sofa! I covered the bottom of it with carpet…

  26. 26

    Trimming your cat’s claws also helps. It takes time to get them used to it. First make sure they are in a sleepy, cuddly mood and practice just massaging their paws and pressing on the pads until the claws extend. If they pull away, let go and pet them and tell them they’re good. Keep repeating this every day until they are comfortable to just have their paws massaged without protesting. Eventually using small cat claw clippers you can try clipping one claw at a time, make sure you just clip the sharp tip off and leave a lot of room between that and the pink part where there’s flesh. If you’re cat’s claws are black it’s really hard to see, make sure you look really closely and don’t get too close to the flesh. As soon as your cat pulls away let go and pet and praise them. Let them sniff the clipper if they want to and don’t do anything suddenly or forcefully. Make it all part of a whole body massage. Cats will let you know when they’ve had enough. If you respect their boundaries they will trust you to do more next time. At first you may only be able to clip a claw or two before your cat has had enough but eventually you’ll be able to do one whole paw at a time and then eventually both front paws. Some cats will never let you clip the back ones (very ticklish) but the front paws are the most destructive anyway. Never try to clip a cat’s paws when they are alert and playful, only when they are drowsy and relaxed. Also NEVER wrap them in a towel and hold them down to do it, this makes the experience traumatic and it will take them a long time to trust you to touch their paws again.

    Between clipping and having a cardboard scratcher available in every room in our house, our furniture is holding up pretty well. I started my cats on cardboard and they seem to prefer it. A great celebration takes place everytime a new one is brought into the house.

    The double wide Trader Joe’s scratcher hides nicely in a wooden wine crate. They love both scratching and sleeping on/in it.

  27. 27
    dave i.

    ummm solutions?? i have a climber with 5 sissal rope scratching posts, two separate cardboard scratching posts, and ‘sticky paws’ down on the carpet where i don’t want them to scratch.

    they rip up the sticky paws and keep on going. BOTH cats do this.

    they think they can burrow under my bedroom door to get in and wake me at 4:30am by clawing at my feet under the covers.

    there’s no winning here.

    i let them sleep in the room, and all is fine until they start clawing at me.

    i used to think it was for food, so i’d go feed them, but then they’d run right back and keep doing it, so i shut them out of my room now when they start.

    my carpet is basically done for….

    any tips?

  28. 28
    dave i.

    oh yeah, AND i trim my cats’ claws….they still get through.

    persistence like you wouldn’t believe!

  29. 29
    Jenny B

    i have only cardboard scratchers for my rescue kitty and still took me a while to get her to stop scratching the couch and rugs. all about positive reinforcement and cat nip. but i have to say, my mother has a carpet covered scratcher at her house and every time kitty goes there she starts the bad behavior again. i feel like we’re giving her permission to scratch fabric and rug type objects with the carpet thing. i’m planning to throw it out and get a cardboard one…i feel like she’s gotta feel the difference.

  30. 30
    Le Chat Noir

    The solution is to get a sisal scratching post. The one available here is guaranteed:


  31. 31

    No mention of tires? My 14lb male loves to scratch car tires… I’m just waiting for one to give way on him.

  32. 32

    I have two solutions, one fiber, one canine:

    When we recently bought new chairs, the salesperson said that most cats won’t claw microfiber. So we got microfiber chairs which she hasn’t touched, and I finally figured out why she hadn’t touched our black sofa– it’s micro fiber.

    We also have a border collie who has taken it upon herself to charge and bark when the cat claws the furniture. Anything on the floor is okay, but not chairs. We can now simply say, “Get the kitty” when the cat is being bad and the dog charges with a growl that stops the behavior. Without any harm to the cat. And with great entertainment to visitors!

    Microfiber swatches over furniture are certainly an easier trick than owning a border collie, I will admit.

  33. 33

    I agree that carpet covered cat scratchers are a bad idea, unless you never plan to have carpet in your house. How the heck is a cat supposed to be able to tell the difference?

    dave i, I have a feeling your cats are just amped up and want to play. maybe some playtime with a cat dancer before you go to bed would help. Try to really wear them out if you can. Contrary to popular belief cats aren’t nocturnal, they are most active in the early evening and early morning. I think sometimes they just want you to be up because they’re up. Close your door and put a bunch of toys outside it before you go to bed. Put the toys away in the morning so they will be “fresh” again for the next evening. Make sure they toys themselves aren’t too noisy. I get foam balls without bells in them for my cat that likes to get up and play before me. He can knock them around all he wants without waking me up. Strong catnip toys are good for keeping them occupied too. I also find my cats are more active in the morning if the weather is cool, leave the heat on or turn the AC down depending on the time of year.

    I’ve found the best way to train cats is by using a lot of positive reinforcement as soon as they stop the behavior. I make a loud noise when they do the somthing I don’t approve of (I make a loud buzzer noise like they got a Jeopardy question very wrong, or just say Hey, Hey, Hey in a similar tone) and then praise them as soon as they stop. If the scolding stops as soon as the behavior stops they get it faster, that way you make stopping more pleasurable than starting. Occasionally I actually catch my cat considering doing a bad behavior (looking at the table, putting his front feet on something he’d like to scratch, peering over the edge of a shopping bag) and I say in a low stern voice “What are you doing?” as soon as they stop I go crazy saying “What a good kitty!” The sooner you catch them the more effective it is. If you keep scolding them after they’ve stopped the behavior then there’s nothing in it for them.

  34. 34

    I don’t understand what I’m doing wrong if cats are that easy to train. I found my cat as a stray a little under a year ago and after I moved out of my hardwood floored apartment into the new place with carpet I discovered she LOVES tearing carpeting to shreds.

    I trim her nails weekly she has three carpet scratchers that she uses on occasion, but her carpet of choice is STILL the floor. When I catch her doing it I take her over to her pole and mimic scratching motions. She just mews at me and turns tail.

    I’ve also tried using a water spray bottle to dissuade her from tearing up the carpet, it doesn’t seem to phase her at all.

  35. 35

    Cool looking,i like it!

  36. 36

    Although my kitty does scratch upholstered furniture once in a while she mostly uses her cardboard scratch pad. I do need to buy a fresh one often as she does not like it as much once it starts to wear out a bit. But spending $12.99 once a month is better than replacing furniture.
    I have wood floors throughout and recently purchased a small wool area rug. She does use that once in a while now. But if I keep the cardboard scratcher fresh and add a little loose catnip to it she really does choose that over everything else in my home.


  1. [...] after. But soon we won’t have these as decoys anymore. Check out this gallery of horrors in this article on Modern Cat.  We’re not at that point yet, but I have been known to put aluminum foil on [...]

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