Critter Culture
Why Cats Scratch Furniture and How to Stop Them

Why Cats Scratch Furniture and How to Stop Them

Critter Culture Staff



Many cat owners become frustrated when their pet scratches up their couch or leaves huge claw marks on their favorite table. It's not personal. Scratching is instinctive for kitties and serves important functions for their physical and mental health. Cats scratch to relieve stress, keep their claws healthy, stretch, and communicate. There's no healthy way to stop your cat from scratching entirely, but there are ways to help them satisfy their needs without sacrificing another love seat.


Get a scratching post

A shallow depth shot with a serious looking cat's claws going into a scratching post. Thomas Faull / Getty Images

An ideal scratching post is tall, sturdy, and covered in a material that will shred beneath a cat's claws. Avoid posts made of similar material to items in your home, so kitty doesn't associate the carpet or couch with their scratching post. Cats also enjoy scratching horizontally across long pads of cardboard or other satisfying material. Place a variety of scratching posts around the house. If there are multiple attractive options, your cat's less likely to scratch furniture.


Help your cat discover the scratching post

young bengal cat playing with a colorful cat's toy on a beige colored scratching post Nils Jacobi / Getty Images

Sometimes cats need a little help to start using a scratching post, especially if they're already used to attacking furniture. If your kitten seems uninterested, try sprinkling a little catnip or honeysuckle on the post. Brushing a favorite toy along the post during playtime may also help kitty discover their new favorite place. Avoid grabbing your cat and forcing them to scratch the post — cats are much more likely to use a scratching post when they're in charge.


Make the couch less attractive

curious maine coon cat lying on side scratching sofa looking at camera in sunlight Nils Jacobi / Getty Images

Once an alternative scratching post is available, owners can make furniture less desirable. Covering the couch with a fitted sheet, aluminum foil, or double-sided tape can make scratching difficult and unpleasant. Cats tend to avoid citrus scents, so consider using a lemon or orange-scented fabric spray. Owners can remove these measures once the cat has learned that couches aren't a good place for scratching.


Encourage your cat to scratch appropriately

Paw with claws of a ginger cat digs into the fabric of a blue sofa, furniture protection from pets concept. Macro shot Olezzo / Getty Imags

It's more effective to reward a cat for positive behaviors than to punish them. Offer your kitty gentle praise, pets, and treats when they interact with their new scratching posts, and calmly pick them up and move them towards appropriate alternatives when they begin shredding furniture or carpet. Over time, cats will start to use appropriate scratching areas without being rewarded.


Clip your cat's nails regularly

Close up cat claws trimming with nail clipper or claws trimmer. Pet grooming. Cat claws care. High quality photo Daria Kulkova / Getty Images

Cats scratch more when their nails are overgrown. The average cat needs their nails clipped every two weeks, but some cats may need it more often, while others may wear their nails down on scratching posts and not need extra clipping at all.


Use nail caps

A veterinarian puts special caps on the cat's claws.

Many pet retailers sell hollow vinyl caps that fit over a cat's claws. These caps use non-toxic adhesive and keep them from doing damage to furniture when they scratch, and the caps fall off naturally in four to six weeks. While some cats do find them uncomfortable at first, they can be a helpful short-term solution.


Use an automatic deterrent

Cachorro de gato jugando asomando cabeza y pata de debajo de la cama Amaia Castells / Getty Images

It's not ideal for owners to carry around a spray can or make loud noises when they see their cat scratching furniture because the feline is more likely to associate the unpleasant sensation with their owner than with the inappropriate scratching. After all, it only happens when their owner is around. An alternative is purchasing an automatic cat deterrent spray. These air canisters are motion activated and can be placed near inappropriate scratching areas. The puff of air won't hurt your cat, but it does encourage them to avoid the problem area.


Play with your cat

Playful Siberian Cat Enjoying Playing On Sofa With Her Owner CasarsaGuru / Getty Images

Cats may scratch inappropriate surfaces out of boredom or to get attention. Regular play with cat toys or wands helps cats to regulate their energy, get sufficient exercise, and bond with their owners. How much play time a cat needs depends on their age, breed, and temperament, but most cats benefit from at least one 15-minute session daily.


Reduce stress

Smiling woman wearing kimono, in bed, asleep next to white cat. by Dornveek Markkstyrn / Getty Images

Because cats use scratching to regulate their emotions, owners can reduce destructive behaviors by helping their cats feel safe. Make sure your cat has plenty of healthy food and water available. Provide hiding places they can retreat to if they feel overwhelmed, and give them time to cuddle. If they still seem stressed or there is a major change in their environment, it may help to spray the house with calming pheromones.


Consult a specialist

Veterinarian examining cat Phynart Studio / Getty Images

If owners try everything and their cat is still scratching inappropriately, there may be something specific to that kitty that is causing the behavior. Vets and pet behavioral experts can help owners gain insight into their cat as an individual. There may be something unique about the layout of the home or the temperament of the cat that is causing them to scratch destructively. An expert may help owners uncover the root problem.


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