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How to keep a cat from scratching up your furniture

You’d never trade your cat for peace and quiet or an empty house, but now there are scratch marks on your favorite furniture. It’s gone too far. Your cat is your companion, but it’s time to learn some manners!
Scratching is a distinct cat behavior, but you don’t have to sacrifice your furniture to keep your cat happy. You can find a way to satisfy your cat’s urge to scratch in a healthy and less irritating way. Let’s take a look at a few reasons your cat might be scratching and what you can do to save your furniture.

Gray cat scratching a couch
Melissa Sue/

Why cats need to scratch

In the wild, the natural movement of cats through the brush, climbing trees, or walking over uneven terrain helps keep nails sharp and trimmed. Cat claws grow continuously, so cats need to wear away the old outer shell to keep claws healthy and, more importantly, sharp.

House cats live a life of leisure, causing them to lose some of their ability to wear down old claw material. Your cat will develop an instinctual drive to scratch at things to help renew claws. They’ll use anything near them, including your nice couch. Scratching is also a way to release excess energy or to alleviate boredom. House cats may be missing the engagement and interest of their outdoor counterparts, and that boredom makes your furniture the perfect target.

House cats often develop a preference for specific textures and locations, which is why that fancy scratching post goes unused in favor of the material on your sofa. That doesn’t mean you’re doomed to marred sofa arms. You’ll just have to get creative.

How to discourage the wrong scratching

Here are our best tips and tricks for keeping your cat’s claws healthy while discouraging the destruction that happens when your cat is left to its own devices.

Buy a scratching tool

Chances are that this was your first move, but if not, it’s time to get a scratching tool. Whether you choose a post, board, or some other type of tool will depend on your cat’s natural personality.

If you notice that your cat loves to scratch on the arms or back of furniture, the vertical stretch may be part of the preference. A tall scratching post can help get that stretch. If your cat prefers to scratch the seat of your furniture, a flat pad may be more to your cat’s liking. Consider the material as well. If your cat shows a preference for a specific type of material over others, try to find something similar in your scratching post. That way, your cat is more likely to use it.

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Scratch-proof your cat’s favorite spot

If your cat scratching tool isn’t working on its own, it’s time to make the undesirable spot as unappealing as possible.

  • Use double-sided tape — Cats hate having something stuck to their paws, and double-sided tape may turn them off your sofa arm for good.
  • Use foil — Your chair may look strange with aluminum foil on the seat, but the texture, sound, and appearance is off-putting to many cats. Leave it on until your cat is using the scratching post regularly.
  • Use a deterrent spray — Deterrent sprays are safe for cats and furniture, but the odor is something cats don’t like. Test a small spot on your furniture first and watch for any adverse reactions from your cat.

Increase enrichment

If your cat is scratching furniture because of boredom or stress, it’s time to evaluate your cat’s daily routine. Is your cat getting enough exercise? Enough time with you? Enough mentally stimulating activities?

Find toys that encourage your cat to exercise and use them when you get home from work or any other time your cat seems particularly excited to see you. These toys help your cat healthily release excess energy.

Find puzzle games or create them to help your cat’s natural curiosity. These can help with boredom while you’re at work or on those slow weekends when you aren’t very active. They can even help you encourage healthy eating with puzzle feeding toys that unlock your cat’s hunting instinct.

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Encouraging healthy scratching step by step

Cat using a scratching post in a home
Dora Zett/

Once you’ve purchased a cat scratching post and you’ve increased your cat’s engagement activities, it’s time to retrain your cat to scratch correctly.

  • Place the scratching post or tool near your cat’s favorite scratching spot.
  • Encourage your cat to scratch by spending time with it at the scratching tool.
  • Move the tool slowly away from the previous scratching spot to a place where you’d like the scratching to happen. Move slowly day by day.
  • Don’t give up. If your cat doesn’t follow your direction, it could be the scratching tool. Change out the style or material to find something that appeals to your individual cat.

Scratching must remain a part of your cat’s life, but there are ways you can direct it. Removing claws isn’t on the table for health and safety reasons, so combine proper scratching tools, scratch deterrents, and plenty of enrichment to help your indoor cat alleviate scratching needs without driving you crazy.

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