How To Stop Cats From Scratching The Carpet

Your first instinct when you hear the sound is to yell ‘No!’ at the top of your lungs. That’s usually because your cat is in another room, I think they wait for us to leave or they purposely go find another spot because they know we don’t like, but it clearly doesn’t stop them.  You know what I’m talking about, they are scratching up your carpet or your rug, again!  You’ve probably found yourself yelling “ No!” your cat countless times by this point.

The bad news is that there isn’t really a way to stop a cat from scratching short of declawing, and declawing is not a choice you should really consider. The good news is there are a lot of ways you can combat this behavior, but naturally and through training your cat. Don’t worry, it won’t require a whistle and a stop watch. Let’s get into the question at hand how to stop cats from scratching the carpet?


cat showing off his pawsSo why do cats scratch?

Cats have claws that grow rather quickly and will continue to do so their entire lives. Cats claw and scratch things to shed off the outer shell of their current claw and reveal the newer layer underneath. In case you care to learn the technical term, it is called stropping. This has two primary impacts, first and foremost they need to find something to scratch to get the old layer to fall off. The second is that of course your cats nails are going to get sharper as the nail gets longer and they continue to shed the outer layers which makes them better hunters, but also better carpet destroyers.

There are two other key reasons cats scratch. It provides solid exercise and keeps their muscles in tip top shape which again goes back to their nature to hunt.  Last but not least, cats are territorial and they actually have glands in their paws that release a scent that marks their territory. So scratching is very beneficial for your traditional outdoor cat in that it provides 3 key benefits all at the same time.


How do cats scratch?

Cats scratch by extending their claws and dragging them “downward.” This can be done on either horizontal or vertical surfaces and it should be noted that every cat is different in this regard. Both of my cats Lexi and Beast go for vertical scratching as have most of my foster cats, but I have experienced the horizontal scratch as well.

You’ll even experience some cats that scratch by lying down and pulling themselves across a room, if you don’t care about the carpet it is quite interesting to watch. One additional note is that for scratching to effectively remove the husk of the nail the surface has to be rather solid. If it simply moves with the cat it won’t have any impact, hence the reason carpet and furniture make good targets for your cat.


How to stop cats from scratching the carpet?

Now I’m sure you’re saying great, thanks for the biology lesson, but I promise it does help with resolving the problem. If your cat is scratching up the carpet your cat is likely one of those cats that likes to scratch horizontally. While the most common method to stop your cat from scratching up things you care about is to buy your cat something you want her to scratch up, you need to make sure you choose something your cat will be interested in scratching.

This means that if you’ve got a horizontal scratcher you might need to trade out your scratching post for a scratching mat or rug.  Another option would be to make sure your scratching post is wrapped in carpet which may just be your cat’s preferred material.

Now if you’ve already done this and you’re not having any luck getting your cat to use it there are a few things you can try to help convince them to do so:

  • Variety: You may have selected a material that simply doesn’t interest your cat, or perhaps selected an option that isn’t stable/fixed. You might need to try more than one type of horizontal scratcher before you find success. The two most common types of scratching material are cardboard and sisal. My personal recommendation is sisal.
  • Location: If you’ve got a good solid scratching mat or object be sure it is in a location that your cat will use it. If they are constantly scratching one particular location try moving the mat to that location. You can also try placing something the cat won’t scratch (double sided tape is a great option) in the current location and locating your new mat right next to it so they redirect their attention to the mat or scratching post.
  • Catnip: For cats that go bonkers for catnip there’s a great solution, rub some of the catnip into the scratching mat to create a doubly rewarding activity for your cat.
  • Treats: Be sure to reward your cat once they use the scratching mat that you’ve selected for them. This will teach them that they get rewarded for scratching this particular area or object. Be sure to reward them immediately after or even while they are scratching so they make the connection, keep treats on hand!

Minimizing the damage from scratching…

While you’re still in the process of teaching your furry friend the ropes, it may make sense to consider a few other things.

  • nail clippersBlunt Claws Are Less Damaging: Maintaining a proper grooming schedule for your cat should be part of cat ownership in general, and that should include frequent nail trimming. When you trim your cats nails they become blunted on the end and are far less damaging to whatever they scratch. Check out this article from Asthma Cats on how to clip your cats claws if you don’t know how already.
  • Put a Cap On It: Nail caps are another option. Similar to glue on nails for humans you can purchase Soft Claws Nail Caps which are easy to glue onto your cats nails. They last about a month and won’t interfere with the daily life of your cat. These caps minimize the damage caused by scratching behavior.
  • Spray The Area: There are numerous sprays available on the market that have a scent that humans can’t really detect, but tend to drive cats away from a specific area. This Bitter Apple Spray for Cats is one of them. If you have a specific spot or spots you don’t want your cat to be scratching you can reapply these sprays every couple of days or weeks depending on the directions and it will help deter your cat.

There are some other options you can explore to as deterrents in this article on how to stop cats scratching furniture, but use them with caution. As documented in that article they can often result in the cat simply becoming afraid of you instead of whatever behavior you are trying to stop.


Whatever you do don’t declaw your cat…

Declawing your cat is really not an option you should consider unless you’ve exhausted every other option under the sun. Not only it is incredibly painful for your cat, but it also causes long lasting damage to your cats paws and can result in all sorts of other negative consequences from behavioral issues (like increased likelihood to bite) to physical issues (like difficulty walking properly).


kitten in a wooden bowlStart them as kittens

This section only applies to people who happen to be reading this in advance of getting a cat. Whenever possible, start cats young with appropriate scratching behavior. The younger you get them started the more likely they will be to behavior appropriately as they grow into adults.


Let’s recap quickly…

  • Understand why your cat scratches, it is natural behavior.
  • Provide an option that meets your cat’s scratching preferences.
  • Make the place she’s been scratching unattractive or inaccessible.
  • Keep your cat’s claws trimmed on a consistent basis.
  • Nail caps are an additional option, but will require reapplication ever 1-2 months.

Another important point is that you need to be persistent & consistent with your cat. Training a cat to do what you want requires time, patience and persistence.  Be sure to reward your cat immediately after they scratch on the post and do it every time you see it happen initially. Progress may take a few weeks, but keep at it and definitely let us know of your results.

If you’ve got any other thoughts on how to stop cats from scratching the carpet please do share them below!  If you have any additional items you’d like to see added to this post then please comment below or directly email me at Craig@StuffCatsWant.com so I can update the information here.

StuffCatsWant.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.

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23 thoughts on “How To Stop Cats From Scratching The Carpet

  • July 21, 2017 at 5:53 am
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    Hi there, I really like the suggestion of spraying the area with Bitter Apple Spray for Cats, that sounds like a great way to break their bad habit of scratching. I imagine that you’d only need to use this product for a while and they’d soon learn not to scratch – right? Thanks so much for sharing this information, Cheers, Karen

    Reply
    • July 22, 2017 at 5:25 am
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      You are correct Karen. The intent is that after a few weeks they’d just find a different place, hopefully a scratching post or mat, to spend their time sharpening their claws. Generally the spray should be a temporary solution

      Reply
  • July 21, 2017 at 6:07 pm
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    Love the way you explained everything in order. I never realized why my cats are scratching the carpet. It even has a technical term, stropping! Thanks for the valuable information. Perhaps now my carpets will be saved. Like you, I’d never declaw my cat. To me, that would be like someone taking my hands!

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    • July 22, 2017 at 5:26 am
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      Glad you find it helpful and glad to hear you aren’t interested in declawing your cat. I feel bad for any cat that I’ve met so far that has had his or her poor claws removed!

      Reply
  • July 21, 2017 at 8:00 pm
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    I’ve never heard of nail caps for cats. A great idea if you’ve tried training them not to scratch and it doesn’t work. I agree that declawing is cruel to the animal and should never be considered. How easy are the nail caps to get on and does a pet groomer have to do it or the vet?

    Reply
    • July 22, 2017 at 5:27 am
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      You can certainly have your nail caps applied by a vet or vet tech, but honestly you should be able to apply them yourself if you have a relatively docile or relaxed cat! Some groomers might be willing to apply them for you, I haven’t checked with Lexi’s groomer yet though…

      Reply
  • July 22, 2017 at 1:52 am
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    Wow!!! I didn’t know cats scratch the carpet to peel the old layer of their claws.. I thought they just think it’s grass! I’ve never heard of declawing but it’s awful and I really feel bad for cats that undergo that, and I don’t like owners who make their cats go thru that. :/ Great post tho! 🙂

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    • July 22, 2017 at 5:22 am
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      Well I’m glad that you’re against declawing, no matter how quickly I managed to sway your opinion. Declawing is wildly painful for cats and should only be used as a last resort. Thanks for stopping by and reading! 🙂

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      • July 28, 2017 at 5:49 am
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        I don’t even think declawing should be considered. :'( If it’s painful, then don’t do it to your cat especially if it’s just for a carpet.. I’m sure there are other ways which will solve scratching.. I like animals and it really pains me to know their suffering.. I’m glad this is your topic of interest as it can help open up a lot of minds. 🙂

        Reply
        • July 29, 2017 at 3:41 am
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          You and I are in the same boat. I definitely agree that declawing should not even be considered as an option.

          Reply
  • July 22, 2017 at 2:01 am
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    Very interesting article about cats. On of the key elements in providing a solution is understanding the issue. You’ve done this in this article and when reading it I got some insights into the problems and the possible solutions. I know a few people who will find it very interesting. Thanks for sharing.

    Reply
    • July 22, 2017 at 5:21 am
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      Thanks for stopping by, please do feel free to forward the article to folks that might find it helpful!

      Reply
  • July 22, 2017 at 3:05 am
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    Great information! My girl friend has one cat and she sometimes feel depressed about this issue. Like most cats, her cat is uncontrollable…Spraying the areas and rewarding seems good ways to try. Your post is clear and easy to understand. I would like to refer my friends to your site!

    Reply
    • July 22, 2017 at 5:21 am
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      Thanks for stopping by and reading my article. I don’t think cats are necessarily uncontrollable though. I think you just need to approach training a cat in a far different way than what is normally taught. Positive reinforcement is far more effective than negative reinforcement.

      Reply
  • July 22, 2017 at 6:25 pm
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    Hello. I never thought about the horizontal vs verticle preference before. One probably feels better than the other to that particular cat I would guess? I also really liked the double sided tape idea. Wold single sided tape work too?

    Reply
    • July 24, 2017 at 2:56 am
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      Single sided tape works just fine, it just doesn’t tend to stay in place nearly as well. I personally use standard packaging tape quite often simply because it is dirt cheap. You can just flip the tail end on each side of the single sided over to make your own ‘double sided’ tape and keep it in place.

      Reply
  • July 22, 2017 at 7:39 pm
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    Wow! What a great website about cats! Very informative and helpful! Your website is beautiful – perhaps because I like cats 🙂 The videos and images are good! Well done! You have invested a lot of work about cats in your website. I would recommend that anyone who would like to have a cat, should go first through your website!
    All best wishes for the future!
    Cheers,
    Balsam

    Reply
    • July 24, 2017 at 2:55 am
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      Thanks so much for your praise, I really appreciate it :).

      Reply
  • July 23, 2017 at 3:34 pm
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    These are some very good helpful tips. I have had to deal with the furniture scratching and I was one of those who yelled no! It has not worked too well. I took her as hard headed, but perhaps I’ll try some of these options!

    Reply
  • July 31, 2017 at 1:05 am
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    I have considered declawing my kitty, Betty Bop, because nothing I tired worked. I will certainly try spraying the area with Bitter Apply Spray for Cat. I’m not sure why I never researched before now to find these solutions. Thank you so much for sharing.

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    • July 31, 2017 at 2:40 am
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      Hope it helps! Definitely aim to avoid declawing if you can, it isn’t fun for anyone involved.

      Reply
  • October 3, 2017 at 3:48 pm
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    Just came across this! Such great information that I wish I would have had about a decade ago when I inherited two kitten brothers (that’s another whole story). Being the first cats I had as a “new adult” at the ripe old age of 20, I did what I was told. I had them declawed. I don’t know what I thought this procedure was at the time, but more along the lines of just removing the nails. Like, numb them up, remove the nails, bandage them, they heal for maybe a week and voila! Done-zo!

    I was absolutely heartbroken to learn the truth of what I had let happen to them. I don’t know why “De-clawing” is seen as a humane option. I think it’s entirely heartless. Thank you so much for sharing this and I hope people think twice when they’re looking over their options at curbing scratching behaviors!

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    • October 4, 2017 at 2:35 am
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      Ouch! As corny as it sounds, what GI Joe said still rings true. Knowing is half the battle! I’m surprised more vets don’t push against it these days too, you would think they’d be heavily against it given the pain, but perhaps some of them depend on the income. Hard to say!

      Reply

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