Cats scratch on things for two reasons: to shed their claws and to mark their territory. To save your furniture from damage, you need to provide your cat with a scratching post or two and teach him how to use it.
Vertical or angled? The first thing to find out is what type of post your cat prefers: horizontal, vertical, or angled. The best thing you can do is observe your cat. If the cat is currently scratching on anything other than the post you are offering, you might have the answer already. Some cats like to rear up and pull down, while others like to stretch way out along the floor and pull. If he tends to rear up to claw, then a vertical post is your best bet. If your cat favors your carpet or rugs, then a floor-based horizontal scratching post is better. If you are proactive about this, you can offer your cat a few choices. Most large cat trees provide both surfaces, while the basic post is made more for vertical than horizontal scratching. Cardboard types tend to lie directly on the floor. Some types of vertical scratching posts can be hung from a doorknob or off the back of a door.
There are multiple types of surfaces offered, and again you will have to do some observing and testing to determine a preference.
Carpet. Carpeted scratching posts and cat furniture make up the bulk of most manufactured products. It is easily made, easy to work with, and can be attached to many different surfaces and shapes. Carpet is not nearly as durable as sisal, so over time it shreds and loses bits of the nap, making it messy. Carpet also retains dirt and debris, so it will need regular vacuuming. Cats can get their claws stuck in the fabric loops and stop using the post as a result.
Sisal Rope. Sisal is very tough and resists shredding very well. Sisal scratching posts are excellent choices for cats that prefer to claw and scratch rough surfaces. Sisal rope scratching posts and cat furniture provide long-lasting scratching surfaces for cats. The main downside to sisal is that it is not very easy to incorporate catnip into in order to make it more attractive to your cat.
Cardboard. Cardboard scratching surfaces are fairly new and by far the cheapest alternative. Most cardboard scratching surfaces are refillable. Cardboard, which has a lot of holes, can easily accommodate catnip to make it more attractive; however, it shreds easily, leading to bits of cardboard around the house. Some cats also like to chew on cardboard, which is not good due to the chemicals present within it.
Wood. Wood is probably the closest thing to what a cat in the wild would use to stretch, mark, and shed on. A wood post will be very durable, more so than sisal. It does not lend itself to hosting catnip, but it also will not retain dirt or leave bits of wood lying around.
Once your cat is using the scratching post you have provided, you can teach him that other things are off limits by making those areas undesirable. Cover the area with aluminum foil or double sided sticky tape or lightly spray the area with a lemon scent.
Do not spray or scold your cat as this can make him fearful of you, and your cat may learn to scratch the sofa or couch in your absence.
This document created by the San Francisco SPCA with a grant from Maddie's Fund®