Save Your Sofa! Here’s How to Keep Your Cat from Scratching Furniture

By: Wendy Rose GouldUpdated:

Save Your Sofa! Here’s How to Keep Your Cat from Scratching Furniture
Chewy Studios

Save Your Sofa! Here’s How to Keep Your Cat from Scratching Furniture

Picture this: You’ve found the perfect sofa to complete your home’s aesthetic—but the moment it enters your home, your cat decides your new loveseat is their personal scratching post. You need to act fast to prevent further scratch marks. So, how do you keep cats from scratching furniture?

First, understand that your cat needs to scratch—cat scratching is an innate part of being a cat. That means it’s up to you to provide appropriate places for them to engage in this cat behavior (and to make those spaces more appealing than your tempting new furniture). Keep reading to learn how to keep cats from scratching furniture and why cats scratch in the first place.

Why Do Cats Scratch?

Big or small, purebred or mixed, feral or domesticated—all cats are instinctually inclined to scratch! There are a handful of key reasons why scratching is a natural behavior for cats:

  • To sharpen their claws: “This is how they remove old nail and expose the new, strong, sharp portion of the nail,” says Dr. Gary Richter, DVM, owner of Holistic Veterinary Care in Oakland, California.
  • To mark their territory: Because your cat’s paws have scent glands, scratching is a way for them to mark their territory. (Hey, at least it’s better than spraying! Save it for the litter box, kitty.)
  • To express their emotions: Cats tend to scratch when they’re feeling excited or anxious, says Dr. Amanda Williams, DVM chief veterinarian at Furry Friends Adoption, Clinic & Ranch in Jupiter, Florida.

    But why do cats scratch furniture, specifically? Dr. Richter says that cats are all about textures, and that they also often prefer using a vertical scratching surface. This makes the plush, upright sofas and chairs in cat households particularly tempting. The key is to let your cat scratch their little heart out, but to direct them to objects that are OK for their claws.
how to keep cats from scratching furniturehow to keep cats from scratching furniture

Supplies to Stop Cats From Scratching Furniture

If you’re at your wit’s end and want to learn how to keep cats from scratching furniture, you’re in the right place. There are a handful of highly effective methods for cat-proofing couches and other furniture, and many ways to redirect your cat’s destructive scratching behavior elsewhere, too.

Here are a few things you’ll need to help prevent cats from scratching furniture:

Four Paws Keep Off! Cat Repellent Outdoor & Indoor Spray
Four Paws Keep Off! Cat Repellent Outdoor & Indoor Spray
$9.37
Shop Now!
Emmy's Best Pet Products Stop the Scratch Max Strength Cat Scratch Deterrent Spray
Emmy's Best Pet Products Stop the Scratch Max Strength Cat Scratch Deterrent Spray
$18.95
Shop Now!
Petlinks Scratch Stop Deterrent Training Cat Spray
Petlinks Scratch Stop Deterrent Training Cat Spray
$6.49
Shop Now!

How to Keep Your Cat from Scratching Furniture: Step By Step

Ready to learn how to get cats to stop scratching furniture? Follow this step-by-step guide and you’ll be on your way.
how to keep cats from scratching furniturehow to keep cats from scratching furniture

1Make Your Furniture Less Appealing

Do your best to make their favorite scratching ground undesirable. This means using cat scratching deterrents in the spots they frequent most.

One way to protect furniture from cat scratching is to cover it with a tight-fitting sheet or blanket. A nice throw blanket that covers their favorite spots can even be a nice decorative touch!

For small surfaces, cover the area with something that is sticky, smooth, or slick, like double-sided tape. Aluminum foil can also be an excellent deterrent, since many cats don’t like the noise it makes or the way it feels under their paws.

Another trick to stop cat scratching is furniture spray repellant. Cats dislike certain smells—like citrus or vinegar—and will steer clear of areas that have been sprayed.

Pro Tip: An odor neutralizing spray can also help fight your cat’s marking instinct. The theory is that it nixes the scent they left behind the last time they scratched. That makes them less likely to revisit the spot again.

how to keep cats from scratching furniturehow to keep cats from scratching furniture

2Place Cat Scratchers Next to the Off-Limits Area

The next step in keeping cats from scratching furniture is to introduce a variety of cat scratchers or cat trees to your home. Every cat has their own preference, so offering a few options is best. For example, some cats prefer rope or carpet textures, while others like cardboard. Some like vertical surfaces while others like horizontal scratchers. Find out more about the different types of cat scratchers, then add a few to your home and observe to find out what’s the best cat scratcher for your unique kitty.

Encourage your cat to use the scratcher by putting it near their typical scratching area—for example, next to the couch. This way they’re still going to the same area of your home they typically frequent but are choosing—on their own terms—to scratch the more desirable scratcher. (You know how cats love to do things on their own terms.)

Frisco Double Cat Scratcher Toy with Catnip
Frisco Double Cat Scratcher Toy with Catnip
$7.94
Shop Now!
Frisco 21-in Sisal Cat Scratching Post with Toy
Frisco 21-in Sisal Cat Scratching Post with Toy
$12.99
Shop Now!
SmartyKat Scratch Scroll Cat Scratcher with Feather Toy
SmartyKat Scratch Scroll Cat Scratcher with Feather Toy
$22.50
Shop Now!
how to keep cats from scratching furniturehow to keep cats from scratching furniture

3Slowly Move the Scratcher Away

Over time, you can slowly move the catch scratcher toward someplace in the house you would prefer. Just move it a little each day so the cat gets used to the change gradually.

Though you might be tempted to bring your cat over to the scratcher, Dr. Williams recommends letting your cats find and use it organically. However, there are some things you can do to expedite the process.

“Play with the cat with a laser light or a fishing rod toy in the vicinity of the scratching post so that the cat will begin interacting with the scratching post on their own terms,” she suggests.

She adds that you can also rub catnip on the scratcher to attract your cat to the area. (You won’t have to keep reapplying catnip forever—your cat will eventually become conditioned to go to the scratcher without the catnip.) Another option is to place their favorite toys or even a treat on top of the cat scratcher.

how to keep cats from scratching furniturehow to keep cats from scratching furniture

4Redirect and Reward

There’s one exception to the “don’t bring your cat to the scratcher” rule: When you catch your cat scratching inappropriately. In this case, redirect them to their scratching post or other appropriate scratcher. The best way to do so is to pick them up from the area they’re scratching and set them aside. You can also break out the lasers, toys, and catnip and start playing with them wherever their new cat scratcher is located.

Pro Tip: Keep the cat scratching deterrents in place as long as you can tolerate them. It may not be pretty or convenient, but it will help your cat become less interested in the furniture and a lot more interested in their scratchers. If you remove the deterrents and they go back to the off-limits spot, it’s a good idea to use the deterrents again.

how to keep cats from scratching furniturehow to keep cats from scratching furniture

5Trim Your Cat’s Nails

For indoor-only cats, regular nail trims done every six weeks (or as needed) can help them to shed old nails and prevent nails from overgrowing and curling around to embed in the paw pads of your cat’s toes. It can also help reduce urgent desires to scratch your furniture.

You can clip your cat’s nails at home with nail clippers, like Frisco Dog & Cat Nail Clippers. Just make sure to only trim the very top portion of the nail to prevent cutting into the quick. If you’re nervous about clipping your cat’s nails, this is something you can have a veterinarian or groomer help with.

Need a primer on how to cut your cat’s nails? We’ve got you covered.

Outdoor cats likely won’t need their nails trimmed. Dr. Williams says, “For outdoor cats, their nails are part of their self-defense mechanism. Their claws should be checked regularly to prevent ingrown nails, but otherwise left alone.” Also, their nails tend to wear down naturally on the rougher surfaces found outside.

Pro Tip: Our experts do not recommend using nail caps, which can sometimes get caught on rugs and furniture as they start to grow out. This can lead to injury. Cats may also chew at them or ingest them as they fall off with time. Regular nail trims are preferred.

Over time, your cat will stop scratching your furniture and carpet and will use the scratcher more and more. Be patient—as any cat parent will tell you, cats can be stubbornly independent!

The Dangers of Declawing Your Cat

Even if you’re frustrated with your cat’s scratching habits, think twice before you consider declawing. Both the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) are opposed to the procedure except as a last resort, as are many veterinarians, behaviorists and other animal lovers.

“The process of declawing is an amputation of part of the digit. Imagine having your fingers amputated at the first knuckle—that is what declawing is,” Dr. Richter explains.

Declawing can cause cats pain during and after the surgery, and many vets believe it can also cause behavior or personality shifts. Cats use their claws for play and defense, so declawing can make it more difficult for cats to do both of those things—and that can lead to behavior issues down the road. Dr. Richter says it can cause cats to develop a biting habit, since biting is their next best way to defend and play.

In general, positive reinforcement (aka rewarding good behavior, like in the steps above) is the best way to approach any type of training with your pet—including teaching your cat where to scratch appropriately.

Following this guide on how to keep cats from scratching furniture should help you solve your cat scratching problem so that you can kitty can live harmoniously. Remember to practice patience and use affirmative guidance, and you’ll be able to protect your upholstery and keep your furry friend happy at the same time. Good luck!
Expert advice provided by Dr. Gary Richter, DVM, owner of Holistic Veterinary Care in Oakland, California; and Dr. Amanda Williams, DVM chief veterinarian at Furry Friends Adoption, Clinic & Ranch in Jupiter, Florida.

Share:

Published:

Share:

By: Wendy Rose GouldUpdated:

Adult Cat