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How to Stop a Cat from Scratching Furniture (Quick & Easy)

Furniture is one of the most expensive items to occupy an interior space. Unfortunately, it’s also a lovely (and common) place for your cat to scratch something to shreds.

It’s easy to think that your cat is out to get you when you find scratch marks in your furniture. Don’t worry, your cat has a natural instinct to scratch. Help him by educating yourself about why this happens and by providing an alternative place to get his scratches out.

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Why do cats scratch furniture?

To remove outer layer of claws

One instinctual reason cats scratch objects is to trim their nails. When they scratch, if an outer layer of their claws are ready to come out, running them through a nobby object will catch the dead layer and take it off for them.

To mark their territory

When cats scratch a surface, they obviously leave marks that all can see. But, did you know this method leaves their own scent behind too? Cat’s paws contain special scent glands that put their territorial smell on whatever they are scratching.

It’s a byproduct of stretching

Cats stretch a lot. When they stretch, their claws come out. They don’t have the forethought to keep their claws in just for your sake, so to get their full stretch on, the claws come out automatically.

cat scratching couch
Image Credit: Resio, Flickr

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Can I use a deterrent spray?

It’s not recommended to only use a scratching deterrent spray. This is because, when you are training any pet, the most effective method is to deter an undesirable behavior while providing an alternative, desirable behavior at the same time.

Just using a deterrent spray (or tape, or nail covers) is ineffective because the cat still needs to scratch, so he will just move on to something else to scratch. Sprays are especially assaulting to a cat’s sensitive sense of smell. When he comes into contact with the smell, he will cough and sneeze.

cat scratching
Image Credit: Paws for Life Rescue, Flickr

Declawing and why it’s not recommended

Declawing a cat is a pretty extreme measure to prevent the annoying scratching habit. We don’t recommend declawing because it can end up causing more behavioral issues in your cat.

The declawing surgery is invasive, as it is essentially an amputation of the lower parts of a cat’s toes. It can be painful for the rest of a cat’s life, so it might act out in other ways like through aggressive behavior or litter box problems. A declawed cat also loses a defense mechanism toward any potential threat from the outside world.

cat scratching sofa
Image Credit: Kathy Moberly, Flickr

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How to stop a cat from scratching furniture

Now that you have the basics of why a cat scratches your beautiful carpet or sofa, let’s dive into how you can discourage the behavior and redirect it towards an authorized scratching area.

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1. Discourage scratching where it’s not permitted

Figure out where and when your cat scratches, deter immediately

You have to know where your cat is scratching and be aware of when he is doing it. Trying to discourage unwanted scratching won’t work unless he’s in the middle of doing it. If you try to train your cat after the fact, he won’t understand what’s going on.

Cats tend to scratch when they are excited, when they want to mark territory, or right after they wake up, so pay attention to these specific times.

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Sound

When you catch them in the act, make a loud noise (like clapping your hands, slapping a wall, or something else that’s alarming). Try not to yell at the cat or hit him as this will probably cause him to be scared of you and avoid you.

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Cover up the area with something undesirable

Some cat owners cover the unwanted scratching spot with double-sided tape or tin foil. This will also surprise your cat enough to jar him out of instinct so you can successfully redirect his scratching efforts.

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Redirect

Now that you’ve got your cat’s attention with an unpleasant and startling sound (or with a cover of some sort), gently direct the cat towards the spot where it’s okay for him to scratch. You won’t want to aggressively pick him up or toss him. Be calm and place him next to the “green light” scratching spot.

If he takes the bait, praise your cat for good behavior. This should help your cat understand where it’s okay to scratch.

cat scratching post
Image Credit: Daga_Roszkowska, Pixabay

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2. Give your cat an alternative

Like we mentioned earlier, in order to effectively keep your cat from scratching furniture, you need to provide something for them to scratch on (because they are not going to stop). Here’s a list of things to consider while deciding on an alternative scratching place.

Select a scratching material that cats like

Cats like to scratch knobby and textured things. Here are some examples:

  • Things covered in thick, course rope
  • Thick, knobby carpet
  • Tree trunks or logs
  • Anything they can sink claws into

You could come up with a DIY solution or purchase an item made for cat scratching, like a scratching post or furniture protector.

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Use the Sofa-Scratcher Furniture Protector

Handmade in the USA, this Sofa-Scratcher works by placing it directly on your cat’s favorite scratching place on the couch. It protects your couch and your cat gets to keep scratching away. Everyone wins!

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Put the “ok” scratching spot where they usually scratch

No matter what your alternative scratching spot is, you need to have it in close proximity to where they usually scratch, so they get the idea more quickly. It will be easier to successfully train a cat that can see the “ok to scratch” place near the “bad to scratch” place.

black cat and furniture scratch protector
Image Credit: Alina Kuptsova, Pixabay

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3. Keep those nails clipped

One way to prevent damage from scratching is by being proactive and keeping your cat’s nails dull yourself. Yes, you can clip a cat’s nails! Here are some ways to make the process easier.

Start when they are kittens

When you start the habit when they are small, it won’t be as difficult to get your cat to comply when they are bigger.

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Clip every 2-3 weeks

Just like humans, a cat’s claws can be clipped every 2 weeks or so. It might help you remember to do it right after you clip your own!

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Try to do it while they sleep

If you’ve ever cared for a newborn baby, they also can be averse to having their nails clipped. A perfect time to clip their nails is when they are in a deep sleep and have no idea what’s happening. The same goes for a cat. You can have most of them clipped before they are stirred at all.

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A relaxing setting is best

When your cat is awake, entice them with some relaxing petting before attempting to clip their nails. They will be less prone to freak out in this state.

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Just cut the tips

There’s no need to clip a big part of their nails off. If you just cut the sharp tips off, this will give them enough nail to keep scratching, but not the edge to destroy your furniture.

a woman clipping cat's nails
Image Credit: marvienewcomb, Flickr

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Conclusion

Now you have tools in your cat-training arsenal to help your cat keep away from your expensive furniture. We hope your training is successful and you and your cat can live in peace again!

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Featured Image: AllNikArt, Shutterstock