How to stop your cat from scratching your furniture

Cats scratch your furniture for various behavioral reasons, but here are some of the most common.

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Despite going through 10,000 years of evolution, cats are instinctive, so It takes a special kind of hooman to be able to care for one. As you’ve already discovered by now, there are many reasons to love them, yet there may also be quite a few that may irk you. One of those is their destructive ability to leave furniture in shreds.

Telling them off isn’t the answer, and the only way to address this is through preventive action. Here are a few tips on how to stop cats from scratching furniture.

What causes cats to scratch furniture?

tabby cat perched on top of a scratched sofa armrest

When trying to address a cat care issue, it’s always smart to start by identifying the root cause. When it comes to scratching, keep in mind that this is normal, instinctive cat behavior. Here are a few reasons why cats feel the urge to scratch furniture:

1. To mark their territory

Did you know that those little paws have a lesser-known functional use besides being cute toe beans? Cats use their claws to mark their territories, leaving a pheromone through glands found in each of their paws. These interdigital glands are used for “scent marking,” which they also do when they rub against objects around the house. So when you see them scratching on your dining table’s legs, it’s a way for them to say, “dibs.”

2. To sharpen their claws

A cat’s claws have practical purposes. They are used for climbing, hunting, and grabbing items, among other things, so cats need to keep them sharp to be more effective. However, a cat’s claws work differently from nails.

A dog’s nails work similarly to humans in that they need to be trimmed to keep them short. They could also be naturally filed when walking or running around. But a cat’s claws are retractable, so they can’t be worn down from walking, and they need to be kept sharp after clipping a cat’s claws to serve their various purposes. Scratching sheds the old outer layer and sharpens their claws at the same time.

3. To relieve stress

It may appear to be an annoying habit, but scratching is actually beneficial for your cat’s health. Not only does it keep their claws in great shape, but it is also good exercise and an excellent stress reliever. There’s nothing like digging their claws into a stable object and getting a good stretch to relax those muscles and keep their mind off that stressful chase with the neighbor’s nasty dog.

Can cats be taught not to scratch furniture?

The good news is yes, cats can be trained to stop scratching your precious furniture. While they can’t be prevented from scratching because it’s in their DNA, there are ways to keep their sharp claws away from objects you’d want to stay pristine and avoid costly furniture repairs.

How to stop cats from scratching furniture

Now that we’ve identified the causes, it would be relatively easier to stop your cat from scratching your couch, table legs, chairs, and the like.

1. Get a scratching post

A scratching post is an essential accessory for any healthy and well-adjusted cat. It serves as an outlet for their urge to scratch, saving your furniture from potential damage or even loss.

Scratching posts are available at most pet shops. Most major retailers that stock up on pet care supplies will also sell scratching posts. They come in a range of sizes and textures, the most popular being those made with carpet and rope. The scratching post you select needs to be tall enough to allow your cat to stretch and sturdy enough to take your cat’s weight.

cat scratching post

When a cat won’t stop scratching your couch, place the scratching post near its immediate area. If your furniture or goods have not fallen victim to scratching yet, put them in a convenient area for your cat. Near the front door or their favorite sleeping spot are usually effective places. 

Ideally, you should provide one scratch post per cat to avoid any territorial disputes.

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2. Provide exercise and playtime

Indoor cats can be susceptible to boredom, and, unfortunately, there are times when they take it out on the soft leather of a La-Z-Boy. One way to train your cat to stop scratching furniture is to keep them busy with exercise and playtime.

Find something for them to look at or buy toys that can help keep them active. This will help ease any anxiety or tension they are feeling instead of targeting your furniture.

3. Redirect your cat’s behavior

If you catch your cat doing some sneaky scratching in places where they shouldn’t be, encourage them to move and do something else. Use a toy or call them away from what they are working their claws on. When you catch them scratching while cat sitting, avoid yelling at or smacking your cat; this type of negative reinforcement will only give them a reason to run away and avoid you.

well-behaved kitten on its owner's lap

 If you need to redirect this behaviour, a blanket or sheet is what to put on furniture to stop cat scratching until the kitty’s focus moves away from that item. 

4. Use anti-scratching products

There are a few products that you can purchase at your local pet store to help you address this cat scratching issue.

  • Cat scratch spray - The contents are not harmful to cats and they only work as a deterrent. Spray a small area in your furniture to make sure it doesn’t damage the material then apply liberally on the furniture and its surrounding area.

  • Cat claw clippers - Clipping their claws regularly helps lessen any damage they can inflict on the furniture. Just make sure you don’t cut them too short and injure their digits.

  • Sticky deterrent strips - Apply these sticky strips on their favorite furniture and watch them feel the unpleasantness of having their paws stick to the right spots.

5. Help them feel more secure

You may notice your cat scratching near doors, windows, or cat flaps. This is a sign that it’s going through some sort of territorial insecurity. To help relieve them of this kind of stress, there are a few things you can do:

  • Install a cat flap to give your cat better access to outdoor territory.

  • Clean the areas where they are scratch-marking.

  • Downsize the areas they can access and restrict them from “non-essential” rooms, making them more comfortable in main rooms like the living room, hallways, and the kitchen.

  • Mount sitting platforms in high places to help them survey their territory and boost their confidence that their immediate area is free from intruders.

  • Help them scent-mark your whole house by collecting their scent from the glands found in their cheeks using a cloth and spreading them in various areas of the house.

  • Again, do not shout at or punish your cat; this will only increase their stress levels, giving them more reasons to scratch at your furniture.

Also read: Cat Care 101 - Tips for grooming your cat at home, long-haired cat grooming, house training, and more.

Keep those claws away from your furniture

You don’t have to keep your fur babies away from expensive furniture. The trick is to find preventive ways and focus their scratching elsewhere. And if you think you’ve tried every cat care tip to address your cat’s scratching behavior, it’s time to get the help of an expert. Reach out to a cat trainer near you today.

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Frequently asked questions

There are a few ways to train your cats to stop scratching your furniture. You can give them a scratch post, keep them busy through exercise and playtime, use deterrents, and make them feel more secure about their surrounding territory.

Cats dislike minty and citrusy scents such as eucalyptus, peppermint, and lemongrass. You can use these scents around furniture to help deter them from going near your furniture.

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