Cats make great pets. They love to play, cuddle, and purr. They also love to scratch. Unfortunately, the object of their scratching may be your antique table, favorite chair, or leather couch.
Scratching is easier to deal with if you understand why cats scratch. In the wild, they scratch objects to mark and lay claim to an object or territory. This marking has both visual and olfactory components. The visual mark is obvious but the olfactory mark more subtle: It comes from pheromones secreted from scent glands in cats’ paws. A competitor approaching will see and smell the encrypted message: “Kilroy was here.” Scratching is also a form of feline calisthenics, diverts stress, and probably just plain feels good. The bottom line: Cats need to do it, and we should facilitate it.
Declawing surgery is painful, unnecessary, and can create other problems. Instead, go for the right number and type of scratching posts. You should have one more scratching post than there are cats. Each one should be tall enough for the cat to stretch to its full height. Scratching posts should be stable—they shouldn't wobble when a cat goes to work on them—and covered with appropriate, easily shreddable fabric (the cat wants to leave a visible mark).
The location of scratching posts should be carefully considered. Many people try to hide them from view, which negates the purpose of scratching for the cat! Put them in obvious areas, preferably near sites where the cat's scratched previously. For those sacrosanct areas where you want to keep the cat from scratching at all, double-sided sticky tape is best.
Territorial issues aggravate furniture scratching. If there are inter-cat squabbles in your household, address this issue first. Also note that frequent nail trims or plastic nail caps minimize furniture damage. If all else fails and your satin-covered armchair becomes a target for scratching, well—you may need to lighten up. Your chair is inanimate, but your cat is a living thing to be treasured and enjoyed. (And there's always reupholstery.)