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Cat-Scratch Fever

by Sam Mazzotta
Dear Paw’s Corner: My new cat, Corky, is absolutely shredding the fabric legs of my sofa! I buy plenty of toys for him, so why is he so attracted to my expensive furniture?
—Leo in Little Rock, Arkansas

Dear Leo: Welcome to cat ownership! Shredded furniture frequently comes with the territory. Please don’t think I’m telling you to get used to it. This is a common problem.
You will find plenty of advice online on ways to stop your cat from scratching up all of the vertical surfaces in your house. Cats adore fabric sofas; they are ideal because the wood underneath sharpens their claws while the fabric provides just the right amount of resistance.

You’ll need to attack this problem from a few angles. First, by teaching Corky not to scratch furniture. Put a scratching post next to the sofa. When he reaches up to the sofa leg, gently reach under his paws and lift them up and away. Then, place Corky in front of the scratching post and pet him. Repeat this every time.

A faster way to stop the problem is to shake a can of coins or hiss loudly, but this is negative reinforcement that provides no alternative for his scratching. Cats need to scratch! Once Corky starts going to the scratching post first, gradually move the post away from the sofa.

To save your sofa fabric during this time, cover it with a thick layer (or multiple layers) of plastic sheeting either stapled or duct taped into place. The added benefit is that plastic is not a pleasurable scratching material, so Corky will eventually start ignoring it.

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