BEHAVIOR & TRAINING

How to Stop Cats from Scratching Carpet: It’s Not Impossible

A cat playing with a toy mouse and a scratcher
Stella Noble
Written by Stella Noble

Most homes are carpeted. If not they probably have some flooring that they want to keep in good condition. However, if you have cats, you will agree that keeping your cat from sharpening their claws on the poor carpet can be an ordeal. Even if you have bought a scratching post for them, it seems like they’re not content with leaving the carpet alone. It leaves the lingering, constant question of how to stop cats from scratching carpet.

Just because you have a pet, it doesn’t mean that you have to resign yourself to having your precious carpets scratched to bits all the time. You won’t need to buy new carpets every few months or spend a fortune re-carpeting your place of abode anymore. With our tips and tricks, your cat won’t be deprived of their need to scratch as well. By directing that instinct to somewhere more appropriate, everyone will go home happy.

Image of a cat playing with a scratcher

We will show you the steps to take to prevent your cat from tearing up the carpet. One of the main reasons why your cat doesn’t focus her attention on the scratching post alone is possibly because the post doesn’t fit the type of scratcher they are, so we’re going to help you pick the best one for them. Before we dive into the tips and tips, however, let’s take a minute to understand why cats just can’t resist the call of the carpet.

Why Do Cats Scratch?

Scratching is an important activity for cats—be it wild cats or domesticated ones. It signifies and communicates a lot of things in the feline world. It also provides plenty of benefits for the cats, such as:

  • Claws are like a knife that gets blunt after a while of use, so it needs to be sharpened often. Scratching allows a cat to sharpen her claws.

  • Claws are a part of a living animal, and so just like the human fingernails that will grow out, they need to be cut and trimmed and replaced by new nails. Scratching also helps the cat remove the dead outer layer of her claws.

  • Scratching also helps them stretch and exercise their limbs—the front limbs in particular, which they use to leap and climb.

  • The act of scratching is also one way for cats to mark their territories. Scratching communicates to other cats or animals that the marked area belongs to them, so trespassers and enemies, stay clear.

  • When cat’s scratch, the scent glands at the base of their claws and the pads of their paws release a heady smell that announces their arrival and sends signals to other animals.

  • Scratching also keeps them in limber shape for hunting activities because it strengthens their spines and limbs.

Scratching can also be for negative reasons that may require further investigation if done in excess. It includes the following:

  • Your cat may be suffering from a flea attack and is scratching to get them off.

  • The cat could be having an allergic reaction to something in her food, litter, etc.

What’s the Obsession with Carpets?

You might be thinking: Okay, I get that cats need to scratch. But why the carpets? Why not the scratching post? What is it about a carpet that drives a cat to scratch? What is their obsession with carpets? Is it the carpet? We intend to get to the bottom of this as well.

cat scratching at a couch with claws

Carpets are made of synthetic fibers of polypropylene, nylon, or polyester which create the perfect resistance for scratching. Before you ask, yes, scratching posts are created specifically with a cat’s needs in mind, so it should provide ample resistance as well. But then why does the cat seem to prefer the carpet? The problem lies in the overall feel and directional inclination of the scratcher.

Just like there are right-handed and left-handed humans, or people who prefer to sleep sideways, facing up, or even facing down, cats have their own scratching style and preferences as well. Felines are either horizontal scratchers or vertical scratchers.

Horizontal Scratchers

If your cat’s preferred style and pattern of scratching are on a flat surface on a horizontal plane, then he is a horizontal scratcher. This could be because of his age, weight, or nature.

A cat playing on a horizontal scratcher

Horizontal scratchers can also scratch vertically from time to time but are most comfortable with the horizontal position.

Vertical Scratchers

Just like the name implies, cats who prefer scratching in the vertical plane are vertical scratchers. If you observe your cat standing on her hind legs to scratch in an upright position most of the time, then she is a vertical scratcher.

Cat playing with a Vertical Scratchers

Depending on the type of scratcher your cat is, you need to purchase a suitable scratching post so she will leave your carpet alone. Now, this brings us to the topic of how to protect your carpet from your cat’s claws.

How to Protect Your Carpet

Having a pet should be a joy, and although you will spend money on them, it can be considered as good spending. When having a cat now begins to cost you unnecessary expenses and damages because she keeps tearing up your carpet, then you have to put a stop to it. Here’s how:

Buy the Right Scratching Platform

If you observe that your cat is a horizontal scratcher at the onset of your relationship, then you should provide scratch pads and toys that lie flat on the floor. The same rule applies if your cat is a vertical scratcher. But scratching posts that stand upright. If you buy a scratch post because it is beautiful and everyone you know has the same, then you may lose your carpet to your cat’s claws. The market is full of scratch pads, scratch beds, and horizontal scratch platforms for you to choose from.

Cat playing with a scratching platform

Another overlooked detail is the material the scratch post is made of. Most are made of sisal ropes. This is perfect for cats that love shredding things. The sisal textile material allows your cat to make vertical markings which they love. A corrugated cardboard scratcher can also be bought as some cats will leave your carpet alone after getting their claws into one. It is all about your feline’s preference and taste.

Some other posts are covered with carpet. Yes, carpet. If your cat just doesn’t get the right feel from any other surface that’s not carpet, then let her sharpen her claws on carpet—just not the one you place in the living room, but rather, the one specially purchased for her.

Train Your Feline

You must ensure that you train your cat to use the scratching platform you have provided. Cats do not understand words or actions the way humans do. Just because you bought a scratch pad, doesn’t mean they will use it.

Little kitty sitting on a scratcing platform

Put in the effort of training your cat. You can start by placing the scratching post on the part of the carpet your cat has been scratching. After using the scratching pad or post on the first day, she would have left her scent on it. Day by day, you can move it away gradually till you have placed it in a suitable place away from your carpets.

Make sure you have more than one scratching pads. Use the reward system, gently direct her towards the post each time she starts to look at the carpet funny and save your carpets from feline attack.

Keep Your Cat Busy

You may wonder what being busy has to do with your carpet, Boredom is the mother of mischief, and your cat may be scratching your carpet out of boredom. Keep her engaged with toys and wands that will exercise her body and mind and ultimately keep her occupied so her little mind won’t have time to think of playing with the carpet.

two cats sitting on a cat tree

Cats are also curious by nature, so if she is bored, she may get curious about what material your carpet is made of and start scratching. She may want to know the details of the carpet padding. Each layer she discovers as she tears apart the upper layer may be a source of excitement for her. This boredom scratching can be prevented by entrancing her with various toys, wands, knick-knacks and of course, catnip.

You can attract your cat using catnip. This is an irresistible substance that no cat can resist. It comes in different forms. You can spray or sprinkle some catnip spray or powder on the scratch post you have provided for your cats and lure them away from your carpets. It is a simple solution that should work.

Don’t Forget the Double-Sided Tape

This still works, especially if your cat likes to scratch only a small area of your carpet. Cover the area with the tape, and the next time your furball arrives ready to scratch, her paws and claws will get sticky. She will definitely hate it and may stay away from the carpet for good.

Cat Repellent Products

There is a lot of variety and brand names—all made with the purpose to deter your cat from getting anywhere near the area where it is sprayed. It uses ingredients that cats hate, for example, vinegar, citrus of any kind, rosemary, etc. You can also make your own repellant at home.

Image shoing citrus air fresheners

Or, you can simply use citrus air fresheners and spray it all over the scratching spot. That way you enjoy two benefits. One, you will keep your cat away because of their aversion to citrus and second, you will have a fruity smelling room.

Regular Nail Trimming

If your nails are long and sharp, it can be harmful to you and anyone that you come in contact with. A cat’s claws are similar to the human fingernails and therefore need to be trimmed regularly so that they would not cause damage to your carpet.

Clipping cat's nails

At the same time, with frequent trimming, the cat’s desire to scratch to exfoliate the dead husk on their claws will be reduced. You may need to trim your feline’s nails bi-weekly or once a month. If you are not sure about how it should be done, have a vet show you the first time. Use the right tools when trimming to avoid injury to the quick or the pads.

Get a Carpet Scratch Stopper

Yes, there is a specialized item designed to keep cats off of the carpet. It is made of durable materials that will withstand even the most severe scratching. Just place it in the areas of damage, and you can protect the carpet. It has a rubbery texture so when your cat attempts to scratch, she won’t be able to get her claws in—they will just slide right off.

Image showing a protective carpet covering

It is great because it protects your carpet whether you are present or absent. You can buy a roll of the scratch stopper and cut it yourself to suit the areas you need to protect on your carpet; turn the spiky part up, and your cat would definitely give up.

Use a Soft Claw Cap

It is an acrylic cap that is shaped like a cat’s claw. The soft claw cap comes in different colors; you can be creative with it. It works by covering your cat claws and preventing any damage done to your carpet when your cats attempt to scratch.

Image of a kitty wearing soft claw clap

To use the acrylic cap, first, open it up and pour in some adhesive. Next, place the soft claw cap on your cat’s claws. It is advisable to trim the claws first before putting on the soft caps. It can last for a month before your cat will need a new one.

Use Cat-Proof Flooring

If you have experienced extensive carpet damage because of your cat’s scratching habit and you need to redo the whole carpet, why not go for broke and get a cat proof flooring? This type of flooring is usually made of flat woven sisal. Another alternative is to opt for wood flooring with sisal runners in it.

soft sisal rug decorated on solid wooden floor in living room

If you missed it the first time, get it right the second time and eliminate any carpet scratching problems. Redoing the whole flooring will be expensive, yes, but it’s a one-time investment that will last a lifetime, so it’s really quite a good value for money.

Strange, But It Works

There are hidden secrets and myths that have to do with cats and their relationship with things. One is the use of black pepper. When sprinkled over a certain area, it will keep the cat away. It’s something like an old wives’ tale, sure, but it has worked for some people. When it comes to protecting your carpet, it doesn’t matter if its folklore or a myth—we all just want to solve the problem.

Wrap Up

A cat’s love of scratching carpets is a common problem that troubles many cat owners, so you are not alone. If they can get through it, you will too. Ensure that you know your cat’s scratching preference so you can devise the proper countermeasures.

Try to prevent the carpet scratching as early as possible to save you a lot of hassle. Prevention is better than cure. You can nip this habit in the bud by training your cat to only scratch at the designated post.

Little kitty scratcing the carpet

If your cat’s carpet scratching has become a norm or is in the advanced stages, then use any of the steps stated above to keep your carpet from being destroyed and your cat happily scratching away in the proper spot.

How bad is your cat’s carpet-scratching habit? Do you employ a special method to curb it? If it’s effective and we failed to mention it in this article, please share it with us! We would love to hear from you.

About the author
Stella Noble
Stella Noble

Stella Noble lives in Warren, Michigan with her family and three cats. She is a Certified Cat Trainer and a member of the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants.

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