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It's normal for cats to scratch. Give them something to scratch on and save your furniture.
It's normal for cats to scratch. Give them something to scratch on and save your furniture. / Les Hirondelles Photography / Getty Images

Q: I’m crazy in love with my 5-year-old cat — who recently began to scratch my furniture. I don’t want to declaw her and take away her means of self-defense, but I’m frustrated. She has plenty of toys and a scratching post. Help?

A: Cats must scratch. It’s normal behavior. Where they leave marks can be the problem.

To discourage scratching on large surfaces, like sofas, you can drape carpet runners or car mats (nubby side up) over them. For the sides of furniture, use double-stick tape or sticky tape.

Buy a sturdy (so it doesn’t topple over) vertical post scratcher, tall enough so the cat can stand on her back legs and reach up for a good stretch (at least 3 feet). Location is important; place the scratcher near places where the cat shouldn’t scratch “illegally.” To entice cats to use it, wave a fishing pole toy with feathers at the post until kitty begins to scratch in an effort to catch the toy. Reward with a treat and praise.

Steve Dale, a certified dog and cat behavior consultant, blogs at pets.usaweekend.com.

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Contributing editor Steve Dale is a certified dog and cat behavior consultant. He writes a twice-weekly syndicated newspaper column and is the host of two syndicated radio shows. Most recently he is the author of two e-books that answer common (and some not-so-common) pet-behavior problems, Good Dog! and Good Cat! (available wherever e-books are sold).