Every cat parent has been there: You’re about to get cozy on your couch only to realize there are scratches on it that weren’t there before — yikes! You know who the culprit is, of course, and they’re probably sweetly meowing as if they’ve never done anything wrong right now. It’s a fact of life that cats will scratch just about anything they can get their claws on, but what’s an owner to do if they want to keep their furniture scratch-free? We spoke to cat-care pros to learn how to stop cats from scratching furniture.
Why cats scratch furniture
Like so many cat behaviors, scratching is natural and instinctive. Cats are territorial, and “they have scent glands in their paws, so scratching leaves both visual and olfactory messages to mark their territory,” says Dr. Mikel Maria Delgado, cat behavior expert for Rover.
Scratching also serves a utilitarian purpose for their claws. When a cat scratches, they remove the loose outer husk of their nails, which keeps them neat as they grow, says Dr. Delgado. Think of scratching as your cat’s way of giving herself a manicure!
Scratching can even be a “feel-good behavior” when cats are excited or in need of stress relief, Dr. Delgado notes. Cats often stretch while they scratch, and a sturdy piece of furniture like a couch or dresser provides an appealing surface for them to simultaneously stretch against while digging in their claws. Doing yoga and getting a manicure at the same time? You have the admit that’s pretty impressive, even if the impact on your furniture isn’t so great.
What makes furniture attractive to cats
“Cats have very individual preferences when it comes to scratching,” says Dr. Delgado, but there are certain qualities that make furniture a particularly appealing scratching target for many cats. “Cats typically like material similar to carpet and corduroy. Some cats also like leather.” says Dr. Grant Little, a Bennington, Nebraska-based veterinarian and expert for JustAnswer. These tightly woven fabrics provide an inviting texture to dig one’s claws into, and combination of these fabrics and a stable surface make couches an ideal target.
How to stop cats from scratching furniture
You might think you have to accept your cat scratching your furniture — cats are so cute, they can basically get away with anything, right? Thankfully, there are surprisingly simple, expert-recommended ways to get your cat to stop scratching so much. “There’s no need to squirt your cat with water or yell at them for scratching,” says Dr. Delgado. Instead, try giving them alternative places to scratch.
If you’ve been a cat parent for a while, you likely already have a scratching post or two, but it’s important to remember that different cats like different types of scratching surfaces. “Some cats prefer vertical scratching, some prefer horizontal scratching and many cats like both or somewhere in between, and prefer an angled scratcher,” says Dr. Delgado.
In general, scratchers that are sturdy and made of sisal (a strong natural fiber) are best. “Cats like to scratch things that don’t wobble when they scratch them, so they can get a full body stretch,” says Dr. Delgado. She recommends the Ultimate Scratching Post (Buy from Chewy, $49.99) for its construction and appealing scratch-ability. She also likes scratchers that are made to be placed directly against your couch, like the Sofa-Scratcher Furniture Protector (Buy from Chewy, $68 to $79).
If your cat keeps scratching a specific area of your furniture, Dr. Little suggests a plastic or sticky cover on the furniture to deter them. For particularly stubborn felines, he says you can try Feliway (Buy from Chewy, $17.69), a drug-free pheromone diffuser that can deter scratching. “It can encourage cats to rub themselves on the furniture at the spot sprayed as opposed to scratching it,” he says. Your cat will also be less likely to scratch if their claws are shorter, so it’s worth trying to trim them if you can.
How to get your cat to use a scratching post
Okay, so you have a scratching post, but how do you make it more appealing than the armchair? “Place them where your cat tends to be when they want to scratch — so near where they greet you when you get home, near where they rest, near where they play and near where they eat,” recommends Dr. Delgado. She says that simply having a couple of scratchers near her couch has worked wonders in keeping her cats from clawing where they shouldn’t. “My cats much prefer the scratching post and do not scratch our furniture!” she exclaims.
Cats may be notoriously tricky to train, but a little positive (or should we say paw-sitive?) reinforcement goes a long way. “Give them praise and treats whenever they use their scratching posts!” Dr. Delgado encourages. “Providing your cat with several scratching options they like is usually very effective.” If none of these anti-scratch techniques work, you may want to ask your vet for further advice.
Even though scratching can be very frustrating, it’s important to remember that “Scratching behavior is normal for cats,” says Dr. Little. No matter what you do, you’re probably not going to learn how to stop cats from scratching furniture completely. The best solution is to give them plenty of designated items to scratch and treat them with positivity rather than punishment.
First For Women aims to feature only the best products and services. We update when possible, but deals expire and prices can change. If you buy something via one of our links, we may earn a commission. Questions? Reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Read on for more about cat behavior!