Does your cat seem intent on destroying your furniture? Are they driving you crazy with their destructive ways? You might be in despair, wondering if this is something you will have to put up with for as long as you have a cat. Fear not, there are ways to prevent and stop inappropriate scratching.
Scratching is normal feline behavior so it cannot be stopped entirely. Discourage cats from inappropriate surfaces like furniture and redirect them to scratching posts and mats. Rewarding cats for using appropriate scratching surfaces is kinder and more effective than punishing them for inappropriate scratching behavior.
Scratching is normal feline behavior so it cannot be stopped entirely.
Discourage cats from inappropriate surfaces like furniture and redirect them to scratching posts and mats.
Rewarding cats for using appropriate scratching surfaces is kinder and more effective than punishing them for inappropriate scratching behavior.
A quick fix is not guaranteed, but with some patience and persistence, you can try to save your furniture from being shredded to bits by your cat’s claws. Read on to learn more about the steps you need to take.
Why Do Cats Scratch?
A cat that scratches is simply showing normal feline behavior. Scratching is a form of territorial marking. When cats scratch, their scent is deposited by scent glands located between their toes and on their foot pads. Their nails leave behind a clear visual mark. Scratching also keeps cats’ nails in tip-top condition.
Cats do not always understand what is theirs to scratch or not. So, if your cat tends to destroy your furniture, they aren’t deliberately trying to annoy you (even though it sometimes might feel that way!).
Since you cannot restrict scratching entirely, what you can do instead is redirect your cat to appropriate scratching surfaces. In this way, your cat can still act on their instincts and you get to keep your possessions and belongings intact.
Also Read: How To Stop Cats From Scratching Furniture
1. Provide Appropriate Scratching Surfaces
If your cat keeps scratching your couch, the first thing to consider is whether they have appropriate scratching alternatives. Without them, cats will turn to whatever they can find in the house. If they already have appropriate scratching surfaces, are they enough in number and variety?
Cat scratchers are available in a range of different shapes and sizes. There is also an assortment of materials, such as sisal rope and fabric, corrugated cardboard, and wood. It will take some trial and error to find out which ones your cat favors. So, initially, give them a good variety to choose from.
It’s also better to offer them more than you think they might need if you can. If you have multiple cats, make sure there are enough cat scratchers for them to share to avoid competition (at least one per cat).
Vertical cat scratching posts are the most popular. A lot of people make the easy mistake of buying ones that are too small. The ideal scratching post should be tall enough to accommodate your cat stretching their legs and body fully while scratching. This also allows them to stretch out their muscles. The base of the post should be heavy and secure.
A wobbly, unstable post can be enough to put your cat off using it. And if there is a risk of it falling over entirely, it becomes a safety concern and your cat is very unlikely to view it as an attractive scratching surface.
Some cats also like to scratch horizontally. Perhaps you’ve seen your cat clawing at your carpet. It’s a good idea to give your cat some scratching pads or mats so that they have the opportunity to scratch from a different direction. Placing scratching pads at different angles also adds another layer of variety.
Cat trees (or cat towers) can be great fun and allow for scratching and exercise, offering scratching surfaces and different platforms for perching and jumping up and down.
Also Read: The 5 Best Cat Scratch Deterrents
2. Strategically Place Appropriate Scratching Surfaces
Now that you’re armed with scratching posts and mats, it’s time to figure out where to best place them. Which pieces of furniture does your cat enjoy scratching? Identify those, then strategically position your cat scratchers next to or close to them.
It’s also a good idea to place some in your cat’s favorite spots in the house. Cats also enjoy a stretch and a scratch after they’ve woken up so you can’t go wrong with placing a scratching post or mat next to their sleeping areas.
3. Make The Appropriate Scratching Surfaces Appealing To Use
Try sprinkling catnip or use catnip spray on and around your cat’s scratching posts and mats. Some cats will fall under its spell and be compelled to explore and use their appropriate scratching surfaces.
4. Make Your Furniture Less Appealing To Use
It’s unlikely you’ll be able to block your cat’s access to your furniture entirely. Once you’ve got an appropriate cat scratcher set up around the house, you can, however, consider making your furniture less appealing to scratch by covering them with aluminum foil, cling film, double-sided tape, or a specially made product called Sticky Paws. The texture of these will act as a deterrent, as cats find them uncomfortable.
Also Read: Correcting Unwanted Scratching Behavior
5. Use Reward-Based Training Methods
Cats respond well to positive reinforcement, whereby they are rewarded when they display correct behaviors. With time, they will learn to repeat these behaviors. So, when your cat approaches and uses their scratching post or pads, make sure to praise them and offer something positive. The type of reward that you might use can be based on your cat’s preferences.
If they are very food-oriented, offer them some of their favorite treats. If they enjoy human interaction and being petted, give them a stroke around the side of their face or a groom. With consistent use of their appropriate scratching surfaces, the frequency of the reward can be gradually reduced.
Also Read: The 7 Best Cat Treats For Training
6. Don’t Use Punishment
As frustrated as you might be with your cat for covering your furniture with scratch marks, it’s important not to punish them for their behavior. From their point of view, they are simply carrying out an instinctive behavior and do not realize that they are being destructive. They won’t link what they have done with being shouted at or moved roughly.
Some people suggest spraying cats with water or scaring them away with loud noises if they are scratching inappropriately. Avoid doing this as you risk frightening your cat and weakening the bond you have with them. They might become stressed and anxious, which can then result in even more inappropriate scratching and other undesirable behaviors. Stick to positive reinforcement, as outlined above.
Also Read: 8 Reasons You Should Never Punish Your Cat
7. Environmental Enrichment
Stress, anxiety, and boredom can all result in excessive scratching. If you have carried out the above steps and your cat is still scratching your furniture, consider whether your cat’s mental and physical needs are all catered for. Try to identify any possible stressors. In a multi-cat household, competition for resources, such as food, water, and litter boxes, can be a source of much stress, so make sure you have at least one of each item per cat in your house.
Also Read: Why Do Some Cats Hiss When They Play?
Finding scratch marks all over your furniture can be frustrating. But this can be prevented by providing a variety of strategically-placed, appropriate alternatives while discouraging your cat from using your belongings. Reward your cat with praise, treats, and attention when they show correct scratching behavior. In this way, both you and your cat can live together harmoniously.
Also Read: How To Get Your Cat To Use A Scratching Post
Frequently Asked Questions
How do I stop my kitten from ruining my sofa?
It’s best not to let your kitten get in the habit of scratching your furniture, as they will continue to do so as they get older if you don’t stop them. Don’t punish them as this will only frighten them. Instead, redirect them toward a scratching post.
Reward them with treats and attention when they use them. You can also play with them around the scratching post, using a wand toy so that they grab onto the post as they try to reach the toy.
How do I cat-proof the sofa?
If there are particular areas of the sofa that your cat enjoys scratching, you can cover them with a material that your cat will find unpleasant, such as aluminum foil, cling film, or sticky tape. If a larger area needs to be covered, consider using a plastic sheet. Blankets and throws are also useful as they make scratching more difficult.
Should I spray my cat with water if they scratch my furniture?
No, it’s not recommended as this is a form of punishment. Either your cat will not be affected and continue to scratch your furniture, or they will do so when you are not there. The worst-case scenario is that you scare your cat so much that they become stressed and anxious. This can then worsen their scratching behavior. Consider using reward-based training methods as an alternative.
Atkinson, T. (2018). Practical Feline Behaviour: Understanding Cat Behaviour and Improving Welfare. CAB International.