Scratching is a natural behavior for cats.
This isn't exactly a revelation, since you probably have the evidence everywhere--in the tattered corners of your sofa, the shredded drapes, your frayed nerves. Though Kitty's natural propensity for scratching may not be big news, it is a fact that you'll need to take into account if you're to make any headway in winning the battle to keep her from scratching in places you consider undesirable. You can't keep your cat from scratching.
What you can do is stop her from scratching those items you value and want to keep in their relatively pristine state.
Bear in mind Mark Twain's advice, which applies universally: Never try to teach a pig to sing; it frustrates you and annoys the pig. Translate this bit of wisdom to your dealings with cats and you'll avoid a good deal of futility and frustration.
You can't make a cat do anything she doesn't want to do. Get clear on that. And getting her to stop something she enjoys is just about as difficult. Therefore you have to think smart and re-channel her desires. A word about punishment--Don't do it!
Cats don't understand physical punishment. In addition to it being wrong to hit your cat, punishment simply doesn't work and is likely to make your situation worse. Clever though Kitty is about many things, she won't understand that you're punishing her for scratching the couch. She will only compute that sometimes when you catch her she is treated badly. This may make her insecure and stimulate her to scratch more or develop other undesirable behavior problems.
Eventually you will break the trust and security that is the basis for your cat's relationship with you, and you will find it very difficult to catch her for any reason at all.
Cats have excellent memories and hold serious grudges. Why do cats scratch?
More to the point, why do they scratch your prized possesions? Understanding your cat's need to scratch is more than just an act of charitabilty on your part. It's the key to channeling Kitty's efforts to more acceptable areas.
Marking their territor- Scratching is a territorial instinct by which cats place their mark and establish their turf. Through scratching, cats mark their domains with more than just visible signs of claw marks. Cat's paws also have scent glands that leave their own special scent on their territory.
And this is why they mark the most visible portions of your house. It's Kitty's way of adding her own personal touch to your (and her) home. Her version of interior decorating.
Exercise - Scratching also serves to keep your cat in shape. The act of scratching stretches and pulls and works the muscles of a cat's front quarters - a cross between a feline gym workout and Kitty Yoga.
Sheer pleasure - Hey! It feels good to scratch.
So give up the idea of reforming Kitty's desire to scratch. Rechannel her into scratching where you want her to. You'll both be happier. Provide your cat with an appropriate scratching post.
Since your cat brings you so much joy, you decide to buy her the softest, prettiest and most luxurius scratching post you can find. You take it home and your feline friend gives you a blank stare and walks away. This activates your parental guidance mechanism and you decide to show her how to use the post by taking her front paws and making scratching motions at the post. She of course struggles till she gets free of you and then treats you with utter disdain for the rest of the day.
Never make the mistake of trying to "show her how" to scratch anything. You'll only offend her. She knows pefectly well how to do it. She just reserves the right to scratch when and where it suits her.
Bear in mind that your idea of desirable and Kitty's may not coincide. Cats like rough surfaces that they can shred to pieces. (The exception of course is your velvet couch, which has its own particular appeal.) The scratching post with the most aesthetic appeal to your cat is often a tree stump, though this is a bit unwieldy in a one-bedroom apartment. Whatever post you choose, it must be tall enough for her to fully extend her body, and most important, it must be secure. If it topples over even once, she won't go back to it.
Sisal scratching posts are ideal for releasing Kitty’s primal urges. This is a material she can shred to pieces with great satisfaction. Sisal material has a perfect texture and grain for kitty to shred, and that is what she wants to do. (Studies have shown most cats prefer to mark their territory with vertical shredding marks, sisal textile provides the perfect surface for this behavior.) Be sure not to throw it away when it is shredded, since that’s when she’s broken it in satisfactorily, and she will not appreciate your tidiness.
A good post should be tall enough for your Kitty to fully stretch her body, usually at least 28 inches tall, and should be very stable. An excellent example of an exceptional scratching post is the Purrfect Post. http://www.purrfectpost.com/
The reverse side of rugs provides a good, satisfyingly resistant texture for clawing. You can place a piece of rug material over an area of carpet wher Kitty has already been scratching. However, it must be stationary. Secure it so it doesn't move by duct taping the edges or placing it under furniture. You can also staple pieces of rug to a wall or post. How to get Kitty to prefer the post.
Remember that an important part of scratching is the cat's desire to mark a territory, so a scratching post should be in an area that's used by the family, not hidden in a back corner. After a time you can move the post away to the periphery of the room, but you'll need to do this gradually.
Initially, put the post where your cat goes to scratch. This may be by a sofa, a chair or wherever Kitty has chosen as her territiory, and you may need more than one post to cover her favorite spots. Security is a major factor in making the post appealing to your cat. If it topples or shakes, she won't use it. It should either be secured to the floor or have a base wide enough and heavy enough to keep it stable.
Encourage Kitty to use her post with clever enticements. Feed her and play with her by the post. Rub dried catnip leaves or powder into it. Make all the asssociations with the post pleasurable. Reward her with a favorite treat when she uses it. Have her chase a string or a toy around the post or attach toys to it, which will result in her digging her claws into it. Eventually she will learn to love it and regard it as her own. It's also a good idea to put a post where Kitty sleeps. Cats like to scratch when they awaken, especially in the morning and the middle of the night. If space permits, a scratching post in every room of the house is a cat's delight. The most important place is the area of the house in which you and Kitty spend the most time.
If at first Kitty is reluctant to give up her old scratching areas, there are means you can use to discourage her. Covering the area with aluminum foil or double-sided tape is a great deterrent. These surfaces don't have a texture that feels good to scratch.
Remember too that Kitty has marked her favorite spots with her scent as well as her claws. You may need to remove her scent from the areas you want to distract her away from. You will find pet odor removers in pet stores and many supermarkets as well.
Cats have an aversion to citrus odors. Use lemon-scented sprays or a potpourri of lemon and orange peels to make her former scratching sites less agreeable to her. Double sided sticky tape is also a deterrent when one side is tuck to your furniture and other outer side left sticky. Cats do not like sticky stuff on their paws!!
If Kitty still persists in scratching the furniture, try squirting her with a water gun or a spray bottle set on stream. Another option is a loud whistle or other noise-maker. You must employ these deterrents while she is scratching for them to be effective. The point is to establish an aversion to the spot you don't want her to scratch. Start them young.
If you are starting with a kitten, consider yourself fortunate. It's much easier to initiate good habit patterns than to correct undesirable ones.
From the beginning teach your kitten the appropriate place to scratch. Use the methods already described, especially playing around the scratching post to capture her interest. Take advantage of your kitten's desire to play and attach toys to the post. She will soon "dig in" to catch her toy and discover how good it feels to scratch this surface.
Do not take her paws and make her scratch the post. This is a major turn-off and will only inspire a bratty "you can't make me" attitude. Even at an early age, cats refuse to be coerced into doing what they don't want to do.
If she starts to scratch an inappropriate object, immediately place her in front of her scratching post and begin petting her. Some cats will begin kneading when petted, thus digging their claws into the desired surface and establishing this as a fine place to scratch.
Cats are creatures of habit. Start them off with good ones.