Your cat’s claws grow from the inside out and, as new layers form, the outer layers become dull and ragged. Scratching helps your cat slough off the old outer layers. It also activates scent glands in your cat’s paws, effectively marking the scratching surface as your cat’s territory.
Scratching is a natural and functional behavior for cats and not one that should be discouraged. That doesn’t mean, however, that you have to stand by and let your cat shred your furniture.
Providing your cat with alternative scratching surfaces is important, but if his favorite scratching spot is still available, he may show no interest. Cat scratch deterrents keep your cat from scratching where you don’t want him to, helping redirect his natural instincts toward a more appropriate outlet.
At a Glance: Our Top Picks for Best Cat Scratch Deterrents To Buy
Want a quick look at the products reviewed in this article? In the comparison table below, we’ve highlighted some of the most important features of each product. You’ll find more detailed information about each product later in the article.
Top Picks Explained
Why Should You Trust Us?
We’ve spent countless hours figuring out what makes a product safe, effective, and cat-friendly. We’ve researched the different types of scratch deterrents available, read customer reviews, and performed real-world tests on some of the most popular products in this category.
To write this review, Kate Barrington researched the top cat scratch deterrents on the market and ordered an assortment for testing. She tested these products with her three cats Bagel, Biscuit, and Munchkin to find the best option for five unique situations.
What Does a Cat Scratch Deterrent Do?
A cat scratch deterrent is simply a product that helps prevent your cat from scratching a particular surface. Cat scratch deterrents work in one or more of the following ways:
1. They Make a Surface Less Appealing for Cats to Scratch.
Cats are drawn to rough materials which is why sisal- and carpet-covered scratching posts work so well. Unfortunately, upholstered furniture has a similar appeal. One of the simplest ways to deter scratching is to make the surface less appealing to your cat.
One way to do that is to use a sticky scratch deterrent. These deterrents function like double-sided tape and they can be affixed directly to a piece of furniture without causing damage. They come in different sizes and can be trimmed to the ideal shape and size. They’re also generally clear so they don’t stand out like a sore thumb.
Another way to make a scratching surface less appealing to cats is to use odor. Cats have sensitive noses and certain scents function as deterrents. Spraying the surface with something your cat finds unpleasant could help keep him from scratching.
2. They Create a Physical Barrier To Prevent Damage Caused by Scratching.
If making the surface less desirable for scratching doesn’t do the trick, you can always create a physical barrier to prevent your cat’s claws from doing any harm.
Physical cat scratch deterrents can be affixed directly to a piece of furniture or another surface. They’re often made from claw-proof plastic, but you can also find products that match the color and texture of upholstered furniture.
Keep in mind that physical barriers may not prevent your cat from scratching – they simply create a layer of protection. If your cat continues to scratch the surface, you may need to replace the product from time to time as it sustains damage.
3. They Help Relieve Symptoms of Anxiety That Might Contribute To Scratching Behavior.
While scratching is a completely natural behavior for all cats, cats who suffer from anxiety or stress may exhibit the behavior more frequently. Creating a calm, stress-free environment for your cat might help reduce unwanted scratching behavior.
One of the most effective methods for soothing stress and anxiety in cats is a pheromone spray. Pheromones are simply chemical signals animals use to communicate. They’re released through your cat’s scent glands to mark his territory, but they’re also released by mother cats to soothe their kittens. Products that release cat pheromones can have a calming effect on your cat.
If chronic anxiety is a problem for your cat, a pheromone diffuser that plugs into the wall might be a good option. If your cat tends to express his anxiety by scratching specific surfaces, a deterrent spray that contains pheromones might help.
4. They Startle Your Cat When He Approaches the Area You Want To Protect.
Cats can be determined and physical or spray deterrents simply might not work in some cases. Fortunately, cats also tend to startle easily, so if you can use that trait to your advantage, you might be able to train your cat to avoid the surfaces he tends to scratch.
Cat scratch deterrents that scare your cat away from the scratching site typically use one of two methods (or both): sound or sensation. These cat scratch deterrents are typically motion-activated, so they produce a startling noise or release a puff of air when your cat activates the sensor.
With continued use, these deterrents may cause your cat to develop a negative association with the scratching surface over time. You may eventually be able to phase out the device itself once your cat starts avoiding the area on his own.
The 5 Best Cat Scratch Deterrents on the Market
Chosen based on cat-friendliness, quality materials, thoughtful design, and positive customer ratings, here are our top 5 picks for the best cat scratch deterrents you can buy:
Two Other Options To Consider
The products reviewed above are designed to deter your cat from scratching, but that’s only one piece of the puzzle. If you’re going to take action to keep your cat from scratching certain surfaces, you need to provide him with an alternative option.
Scratching posts and pads are an absolute must in any cat-friendly household.
Vertical scratching posts and horizontal scratch pads provide your cat with an appropriate surface on which to enact his natural scratching instincts. Vertical posts are ideal because your cat can get in a good stretch as he scratches. They need to be tall enough to accommodate the length of your cat’s body and should have a sturdy base to keep them from falling over.
Some cats prefer horizontal scratch pads, however, so it’s worth trying one of each to see which option your cat prefers. Horizontal pads are often made of cardboard versus sisal or carpet and can easily be incorporated into toys like captive ball tracks.
As a third layer of protection for your furniture and other household surfaces, you might consider using nail caps. Also known as claw covers, nail caps are small silicone covers that slip over your cat’s nails.
Nail caps are a humane alternative to declawing and can go a long way in minimizing the damage sharp kitty claws can do. They’re inexpensive, easy to apply, and can last for up to 6 weeks at a time. Plus, they come in every color of the rainbow.
Your cat is more than just a guest in your household – he’s a member of the family and deserves to be treated as such. This means making accommodations in your home to keep your cat comfortable while enabling him to enact his instinctual behaviors.
As a cat owner, you have the opportunity to direct your cat’s impulses but trying to eliminate them entirely is both unfair and unlikely to be successful.
The best thing you can do to mitigate the damage caused by scratching is to use scratch deterrents like the products reviewed above to protect specific surfaces and redirect your cat toward a more specific outlet for his scratching instincts.