How to stop your cat from clawing carpet?

Cat scratchin the carpet
Photo: © olezzo

A twitter follower recently tweeted to Māris that his cat constantly claws and lifts the carpet, and asked if there is something to do about it. Since twitter medium is too short for such a comprehensive topic, we will try to provide an answer here, and hopefully, this article will be a good help for anyone else, who’s cat is clawing the carpet or any piece of furniture.

We don’t have much additional information about the specific case; such as, in how many locations the problem is occurring, in how many locations scratching posts or pads are located, and no info about what the owner has tried before.

However, here are things to try, in case your cat is clawing the carpet. We will discuss them in detail below.

  1. Trim your cat’s claws to lower the damage.
  2. Place scratching pad or a post right on top of every location where clawing occurs.
  3. If your cat does not understand the idea of scratching post, show him:
    1. Scratch a stick or a toy along the surface in the presence of your cat;
    2. Take his paws in your hands and rub them against the scratch able surface;
    3. Apply catnip on the surface;
  4. Retrain your cat from discovering new scratching locations, by redirecting his attention right before clawing occurs.
  5. Move the scratching post to a desired location if necessary, by few cm every day.

Trim your cat’s claws. That is the first thing to do. It won’t stop a cat from scratching, and that is not our aim here, but if you trim your cat’s claws regularly, it will lower the damage to your carpet. Read here how to trim your cat’s claws.

It’s natural for cats to scratch

Place a scratching pad, or post RIGHT ON TOP OF EVERY location where the clawing of carpet occurs. Even if it happens to be in the middle of the room. You will move it aside later.

Why is this so? Because, as we already wrote in an article about reasons for cats scratching, cats mark territory by scratching surfaces. So, it actually means, the exact spot is important for your cat, as well as it’s crucial that there are many spots in your house, so, basically, one would need a scratching post, preferably more than one, in every room your cat is allowed to enter.

Placing a scratching post or a pad on top of the location where your cat claws carpet, gives two benefits.

First, it provides a location for a cat that is appropriate for scratching – cats can’t go without it. Second, it physically blocks access to the spot, where the clawing is occurring. Of course, it’s still highly likely your cat will choose a new spot right next to it, and we will cover it forward.

Now, train your cat to use the scratching post. It’s not hard since cats always go for locations that are easiest and most appropriate to scratch. Like wood or carpet. Good part is, scratching posts and pads are usually built so cats find them attractive. However, sometimes you may need to give your cat an incentive.

The best to try is to scratch a wooden stick along the scratchable surface. So, you actually show him that the surface is nice for rubbing an also invite him for a play. The latter will sooner or later get his claws in the ropes; thus, he will notice how nice it is. If he scratches it for a bit, wait till he finishes, and pet him. You may also give him a treat.

If the above does not work, you can apply a small amount of cat nip on the surface, but it’s best if you can do without it. Just try a bit more before.

Training to use a scratching post only might be necessary…

Next is to let your cat understand that scratching post is okay, but every other location is not. As we already mentioned above, if you block all the current locations, it’s likely your cat will find new ones. In order to prevent it, a large amount of your presence will be initially necessary.

  1. As soon as your cat uses the scratching pad, pet him, treat him or praise him. It will make him understand that he did something good. However, in order for this to happen, you need to do it no longer than few seconds after he scratched.
  2. If your cat reaches out for other location, redirect his attention with a toy BEFORE he scratches, and play with him for few minutes. You can also lead him to a scratching post with the toy. IMPORTANT: do this if he only reached out, but did not scratch, yet.
  3. If he did start scratching, give him a short “shoo”, or clap your hands loudly two or three times. That’s it. Pay no other attention to your cat if he stopped doing so. You do not want to reward previous behavior by playing or even granting attention by scolding him.
  4. You might want to introduce another scratching post, if the location he just discovered appears to be too far from an existing one.

Ready to move the scratching post out of your way?

Now, if you got to a point where your cat uses scratching posts only, you can start moving them to locations more appealing to you.

Move it by few centimeters (one or two inches) a day, and best, if you move only one post at a time.

Where to move the scratching post? Remember, the current locations are perfect for your cat. It’s like laying a brick path where there are trails in the lawn, because it already shows people prefer walking there. Similarly, if your cat clawed right there, it’s good for them. But, obviously, you do not want for it to be in the middle of the room.

So, you need to move, just make sure you move it as less as possible. For example, if it’s in the middle of the room, move it closer to a wall, or out of the doorway, but keep it close to the original location.

If in the process your cat re-discovers the old spots, first, slow down the rapidity of the move, and second, reapply the steps mentioned above.

Now, if you do move it slow enough, and keep an eye on your cats behavior, you will soon realize your carpet is safe now. Just keep in mind, scratching is natural for cats, they require it, and, over time, your cat may get back to his habits. But that should be no problem, since you already know how to stop your cat from clawing carpet, and you can apply same techniques again. They do work.