A cat’s claws are not fingernails, they are attached and protrude from the end of the bone. Most cats have five clawed digits on each of their front paws and four on each of their rear paws. Their claws are tools and are used by the cat for climbing, scratching, catching prey and defense. There is a sheath that can grow over the claw inhibiting their effectiveness and so cats regularly try to remove that sheath by scratching their claws against a rough surface. It is part of their regular grooming to keep their claws sharp.
If your sofa is the only available surface for them to scratch their claws, then that is where they will scratch.
Some owners think that the best remedy is to have their cats declawed. That is seen by most veterinarians as a drastic as well as an unnecessary and potentially harmful procedure. Declawing removes muscle, ligaments and bone in addition to the claw and may negatively impact your cat’s behavior and psyche. Common thought is that it’s overkill for a misbehavior that can be redirected with proper training.
Your cat needs their claws, not only for the uses mentioned above, but because cats are digitigrade which mean they walk on their toes. (Humans are plantigrade and we walk on the soles of our feet.) Removing their claws will distort their equilibrium and they may have trouble keeping their balance. They surely will have difficulties in doing many of the things cats enjoy like jumping and climbing.
- Scratching posts: most cat owners have scratching posts or cat trees for their cats. You can encourage them to use the post rather than the sofa by rubbing some catnip in and around the post to encourage them to use it. It’s probably wise to have several of these around your home.
- You can also temporarily cover your sofa with plastic or strategically placed contact paper so that the surface is slippery and not conducive to the shedding process.
- Your cat’s claws are curved at the end and come to a fairly sharp point. This sharp point is the cause of all the damage to your furniture when it gets caught in fabric and pulls threads loose. You can try trimming the ends of their claws to reduce the amount of shredding they are capable of, or you can try a product called Soft Claws that are little caps the you put on their nails to reduce the damage they cause.
Just remember, a cats clawing at carpets or furniture is a natural behavior and part of their grooming, so don’t punish them for doing something that comes naturally, redirect them to an acceptable outlet for the behavior.