Cat shredding the carpets

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March 2004

Our family recently adopted two adult cats, a brother and sister. They are absolutely wonderful additions to our family, except that they sharpen their claws on our nice carpets and are starting to do some real damage. We got then a cat claw tree and keep it right between the two carpets. They sometimes use it, but not as mucha s the carpets. Anyone have any advice about how to keep them from doing this? Anyone have advice about how to fix clawed carpets? Carolyn

As a cat behaviorist at the SF SPCA, I wanted to give you both some advice and some resources for further advice...First: It is great that you adopted a pair of adult cats! Now the scratching...cats need to scratch for a variety of reasona: stretching their back muscles, marking territory, and maintaining the health of their nails. The trick is finding them something that they prefer to the carpet...You didn't mention much about the cat post you have- cat posts should be very sturdy and at least 4 ft high...preferably with a couple of different surfaces, such as sisal, wood, and/or carpet. If it wiggles, it's not going to work for them. So...if your post doesn't fit this description, consider getting a new one. If it does, and they still prefer the carpte, try cardboard scratching pads, often sold enhanced with catnip. Trader Joe's has some. It could be that your cats prefer to scratch horizontally. You can also try laying a split log nearby. Make sure to clip your cats' nails regularly- about every 4 weeks- to minimize the damage they do to the carpet. If possible, while you are retraining them to the scratchers, remove the carpets (temporarily!) Once they are routinely scratching the post or pad, you can reintroduce them...Also, make sure that the kitties are not doing this for attention. As with kids, even negative attention is a reinforcer! make sure they are getting a lot of playtime with interactive toys- especially if they are indoor- only kitties. Punishment or correction doesn't tend to work well for kitties- who just do the behavior when you're not around! If you want to interrupt the behavior, it's best to use a ''nonhuman'' sound such as shaking an empty soda can with 5-7 pennies inside, taped on top...

And I am glad you didn't mention declawing in your post; you are likely not considering this, but please do not listen to anyone who advises you to declaw! It is much better to find them another home than to take away an integral part of their system. We can find another cat for your family who doesn't claw carpets if this behavior is a ''deal breaker'':-) As for resources: catbehavior [at] will get you free literature (including on clipping your cats' nails) and some advice; go to for a private behavior group that will come out and analyze your situation, and give you a written behavior plan. Best of luck! Dilara

Try one of these products: ''Get out of my garden'' or ''Bitter End.'' Both can be found at pet supply stores like Petsmart. I suggest spraying right before you leave because the smell is pretty offensive even to humans. But, it worked for us for one cat.

Or, if you'd prefer a chemical-free method, try spraying the cats with a spray bottle of water whenever you catch them in the act. No yelling. No sudden movements. Just leave the bottle nearby so you can spray them when they start up. This worked like magic for both of our furniture-scratching cats. Finally, you can provide your cats with one or two of those card- board scratchers (sold cheapest at Trader Joe's) - they love them for scratching on the floor. (A bit messy but it's worth it to save your rugs.) signed, Cat Lover

You can glue on rubber nail covers--they come in colors, and supposedly last for about 6 weeks. They have them at pet food express. My sister has 4 cats and says they work well-- completely halt the cat's ability to damage furniture, and are painless--in fact the cats just ignored them after about 15 minutes. ann
The carpet may be more comfortable for your cats to use than the upright cat scratcher. You can get special cardboard scratchers that just rest on the floor. Your cats may find this preferable to the upright. Check your local pet-supply store. My friend's cat LOVES his. Best of luck! cat lover, too
We've had huge success with corrogated cardboard scratchers...they're rectangular boxes (about 1 inch high) of corrogated cardboard, and they come with small bags of catnip. My cat LOVES his, and I got one for my sister's kitten -- he's never scratched on anything else. You can find them at most pet stores, but the best price I've found is at Trader Joe's ($3.99). Good luck!! Happy cat lover
You need to find something else that the cats will like to scratch more than your carpet, and it sounds like the claw tree isn't their thing. Several of my cats (and some friends' cats) love cat scratching carboard boxes, like the Cosmic Catnip Scratching Post. You can lay them on the floor and so the cat is in the same position to scratch as when scratching the carpets. Catnip is included which you can sprinkle on the cardboard. Our cats love these so much we sometimes have to put them away at night so they don't disturb our sleep when they scratch away at them. They are available at pet stores and only cost about $8 so it's worth a try. A link to this product and more is here: You might put a few out, everywhere where they like to scratch up the carpet. Good luck!! Andi
Most cats do this. what I do is give them a verbal ''no'' and if they do it again I grab their neck scruff, tap their nose with my finger tips, the next level is to actually cut a couple of their claws with a pair of finger nail clippers. it doesn't hurt them and they grow back quickly but they HATE it. just cut the tip of the claw. You hold the clippers perpendicular to the way you might cut a persons nails because of the way their claws are shaped.

follow each reprimand with putting their paws on what you want them to claw and extend the claws into it with soothing noises and gentle pets (even if they don't like this part, they get the message). if you cut their claws they may just run away so you drop this part - give them as much love as you can when they are being good so they will be less likely to claw the rug for negative attention (better than none!) be consistent and they will stop doing it at least while you're around then they tend to just get out of the habit. they may relapse in the future but you just have to keep telling them no and doing the claw cutting when they are bad. I have one exceptionally laid back cat that doesn't seem to even mind having his claws cut so I rub the claw with the metal clippers until I know he's not enjoying himself and then cut the claws.

I've have cats where I went through all their front claws and started on the rear ones good luck it really does work life-long cat owner with intact carpets