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How do I discourage a cat from scratching furniture?

The essentials

  • Scratching is an instinctive behavior — Scratching is a natural, territorial behavior that also helps keep a cat’s nails conditioned.
  • A scratching post can help — Scratching posts can provide an alternative area to scratch. However, they need to be placed in a prominent location, near areas they have already scratched.
  • Declawing is not the answer — Declawing does not stop scratching or behavioral issues and can cause severe, painful, and lasting injuries.

Scratching is a natural behavior for cats. It helps them keep their claws sharp while marking their territory. While it’s frustrating to come home and see your couch torn up, scratching is not a behavior that can or should be stopped. It should be redirected to and encouraged in the right places. 

Here’s what you need to know to keep cats from scratching furniture.

7 ways to stop your cat from scratching on the furniture

Deterring your cat from scratching your couch can be done with some patience and the right tactics. Trimming their claws, strategically placing scratching posts, or covering up your furniture can help stop them from scratching it.

Declawing is not a solution

Declawing is not going to do anything to stop scratching or undesirable behaviors in your cat. Removing their claws makes them feel defenseless and can completely negatively alter their personality. Rather than the issue of scratching in the wrong places, you may now have a cat that’s nervous, skittish, and, as a consequence, bitey. It’s also an excruciating recovery period and leads to lasting painful physical ailments like paw pain, back pain, infection, and lameness.

1. Provide scratching posts

Adding scratching posts in areas where they typically already scratch can redirect them to these preferred surfaces instead. Show them where it is and what to do, and rub some catnip or silver vine on the post to encourage them to use it. 

Be patient and let them take their time to get used to it. You can even make your own using PVC or wooden posts and carpet or thick jute rope. Give your cat a few options to see what they gravitate towards.

Every cat is different — some prefer upright scratching posts and some prefer a scratching mat that lays flat on the ground. I always say to give your cat both options!

Dr. Jennifer Schott

2. Trim their claws

Their sharp claws can wreak havoc on your couch, but trimming their claws can help protect your furniture from getting too cut up. When you trim their claws, avoid the pink part of the nail (the quick). If you cut the quick, it can be painful and bleed, and your cat may avoid nail trimming altogether. 

If you can’t do it at home, take your cat to the vet to have it done there.

3. Cover furniture

If your furniture is consistently a target, you can try covering it with thick materials like vinyl or plastic. You can also try specifically designed protective covers. These covers are made to protect your furniture and endure scratching without damaging the furniture itself. 

If you use double-sided sticky covers, be sure to spot test first to ensure that it won’t damage your furniture.

4. Use a repellent spray

A homemade repellent spray can also keep your cat away from their favorite scratching areas, like the chair or couch. Mix vinegar, water, lemon juice, and rosemary and spray it on areas you want to keep cat-free. 

But make sure not to spray your cat, just the furniture. The scent will deter them due to the strong smells from the vinegar and citrus.

5. Add textured rugs and mats

Incorporating rough-textured rugs and mats offers another great alternative for scratching. Try thick jute rugs and runners or entryway mats with a dense texture. These materials mimic the natural resistance they find in nature, providing the perfect materials for them to scratch and sharpen their nails.

6. Stick packing tape on certain areas

In certain areas, like underneath furniture, try sticking packing tape or double-sided tape along the bottom. Many cats don’t like the feel of tape on their paws, and it may deter them. However, this may not work for all cats. Some cats don’t mind tape and are more curious than discouraged by it.

Using sticky tape in areas where you don't want them to scratch is a great deterrent and usually works better than repellent sprays.

Dr. Jennifer Schott

7. Reward good behavior

Punishing your cat for their natural behavior will only stress them out and make them anxious. Rather than scolding, redirect their attention and reward them when they use their scratching post. 

Wait until they have completed their scratching session and immediately give them a treat. This can increase their chances of choosing the post rather than your couch for their scratching needs.

Why do cats scratch on furniture?

Scratching is more than just a habit — it’s an instinctual behavior in cats. It supports their physical and psychological well-being, allowing for territorial marking and mental stimulation, and keeps their claws functional.

  • Claw maintenance. Cats’ claws grow in layers and need to be removed to expose the new, sharper claws. Without regular scratching, their claws can curl backward and injure their paw pad.
  • Physical exercise and stretching. Scratching stretches and strengthens their upper body and spine, allowing them to have the agility cats are known for. 
  • Emotional well-being. Beyond the physical benefits, scratching can also give them a sense of satisfaction and contentment, naturally helping them reduce stress
  • Marking territory. Scratching releases a chemical from scent glands in their paws as they scratch. This scent and the visual scratch marks are their way of marking their territory. 
  • Play and stimulation. Cats also use scratching for mental and physical stimulation. They usually use climbing and scratching as part of their playing behavior.

Supplies needed to stop cats from scratching furniture

Starting on the right foot can help you successfully guide your cat’s scratching behavior in the proper direction. With the right supplies on hand from the get-go, like scratching posts, textured rugs, and nail trimmers, you can prevent your cat from turning your furniture into a scratching playground. 

It’s understandable to feel frustrated when you’re faced with trying to keep your furniture intact from your cat scratching. While it may seem like an uphill battle, sometimes the solution may be restricting access to certain areas. 

But, for most cat owners, the key is creating the right environment. By introducing a variety of scratching options and strategically deterring them, you can encourage them to focus their attention on scratch-friendly surfaces.

Frequently asked questions

What repels cats from scratching furniture?

A variety of things can help repel or deter them, but one method is to create a homemade spray made of vinegar, water, lemon juice, and rosemary. These scents are unpleasant to cats and can help repel them from scratching furniture.

How do I get my cat to stop scratching the couch?

Creating the right environment is the first step. Provide them with lots of scratching surfaces and mental stimulation. Strategically place different scratching surfaces, such as scratching posts and mats, around your home. You can also try covering their favorite scratching places or using a repellent spray.

What natural remedy stops cats from scratching furniture?

A citrus-based spray can help deter them from scratching furniture due to its strong, pungent scent that cats dislike. However, keep in mind that some citrus can stain or bleach fabric. Spot test before spraying on furniture, carpet, or fabrics.

Can I train my cat not to scratch furniture?

Yes, create the right environment with lots of scratching surfaces. Place scratching surfaces near or in front of areas they usually scratch and offer them a variety of types and textures. You may have to use a combination of methods to get them to stop scratching furniture.

How can I stop my indoor cat from scratching furniture without getting rid of them?

Give your cats lots of options for scratching and stimulation. Try different rugs, mats, and scratching posts with different textures, and place them in areas where they like to scratch. Don’t punish them for scratching. Instead, reward them when they use the scratching surfaces they’re supposed to.