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How to Stop a Cat From Scratching Your Couch: Easy Guide

If you’ve just invested in a beautiful new couch, it can be a little horrifying to see your cat raking their claws down the side. Scratching is an instinctive behavior for cats, so you’ll never be able to stop your cat from scratching. What you can do, however, is redirect their behavior to something other than your couch!

There are a few different ways to stop your cat from scratching your couch or any other piece of furniture. But first, it makes sense to figure out exactly why your cat is carrying out this behavior. This way, you can tailor your solution to meet their needs, which should equal success!

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Why does my cat scratch the couch?

  • To stretch their muscles. We all know how good a nice stretch feels, and it’s the same for our cats. Scratching can be a result of your cat holding onto the arm of your couch with their claws as they lean into a nice deep stretch. Cats release tension from their bodies when they stretch.
  • To mark their territory. The paws of a cat contain scent glands, which release pheromones as your cat places their paws on a surface. So as they scratch, your cat’s scent is left behind. This helps your cat mark their territory, which is particularly important for cats in a multi-cat household. Leaving their pheromones on familiar objects helps cats feel secure and safe in their home environment.
  • To clean their claws. Cats love to scratch as a way of removing the old, dead layer of their claws to reveal a shiny new set underneath!
  • To feel good. Scratching and stretching simply feel good to cats, as well as helping them relieve stress.

How can I stop my cat from scratching my couch?

It’s essential that cats have somewhere to scratch, as this is an instinct that they can’t control. It’s simply something that they have to do! Take a good look around your house. Have you provided your cat with other surfaces to scratch on? If not, the couch is probably their only option!

We recommend a two-pronged approach to prevent your couch from getting scratched, which includes:

  1. Offering your cat a variety of other surfaces to scratch on
  2. Making the couch a less desirable place to scratch

It’s essential to deal with the first step, as without providing an alternative surface, your cat will still use the couch, even if you make it less attractive to your cat. Let’s take a closer look.

1. Offering your cat a variety of other surfaces to scratch on

A Russian Blue cat sitting on a scratcher
Image Credit: Khairil Azhar Junos, Shutterstock

Scratching is an instinct. This means your cat is always going to want to scratch, no matter what. The key is offering them surfaces that you don’t mind them scratching!

Adding a variety of surfaces and making them more appealing than your couch is the way to go. We recommend:

  • A tall scratching post (or two!)
  • A horizontal scratching pad or one with a gentle incline
  • A hanging scratcher

You want to offer as many different scratching surfaces as possible to start with, and see which ones your cat likes the most.

Take note of how your cat angles themselves when they scratch, and look for a scratching surface that mimics that shape. Cats who love reaching high with their claws and then dropping their bodies down will appreciate a tall upright scratching post.

Other cats that love to get down low to scratch will probably prefer a horizontal or gently angled surface. These are often made from cardboard and are quite cheap.

You can also make your own DIY scratching post.

Scratching posts are often covered with or made from:
  • Sisal rope
  • Cardboard
  • Tree trunks
  • Seagrass
  • Carpet
cat on the scratching post
Image Credit: Pxfuel

A warning on carpet scratching posts

You may see scratching posts covered with carpet, but these can be problematic. Using a post covered with carpet can teach your cat that carpet is an acceptable surface to scratch. This may be fine on the scratching post, but probably not if your cat starts scratching your nice new bedroom carpet.

But how are they supposed to know the difference? Unless you have a house with no other carpeted surfaces, scratching posts covered in carpet can send mixed messages to your cat.

Choose the right size scratching post for your cat

Cats prefer tall and sturdy scratching posts because they want to reach up as high as possible and then lean their whole weight onto the post. If you bought a post that’s small and flimsy and falls over the first time your cat tries to use it, they’ll likely never go near it ever again!

A scratching post for an average-sized cat needs to be at least 31 inches tall. For larger breed cats, like Maine Coons, go even taller!

Make the new scratching post attractive to your cat

Once you have your new scratching post, it’s time to make it your cat’s new favorite place!

Sprinkle it with catnip, spray a pheromone spray like Feliway on it, and place a few of your cat’s toys on it. Encourage your cat to come over and investigate. When they do, offer them treats and plenty of praise.

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2. Making the couch a less desirable place to scratch

british cat with fake nails
Image Credit: Pixabay

Couches are a natural place for cats to scratch because the arms are usually a good height, and the couch is sturdy enough that your cat knows that it’s not going to topple over on them.

Once your new scratching surfaces are in place, it’s time to break your cat’s habit of scratching your furniture. You can do this by making it less pleasant for your cat to use.

First of all, place a new scratching post directly in front of the area that your cat used to scratch the most. Hopefully, with catnip and toys on the post, your cat will go for this first.

If they’re still using the furniture, there are a few other things to try, including:

  • Covering the arm of the couch with a sheet or tin foil
  • Using a tape like Sticky Paws Furniture Strips. This tape has an unpleasant texture that cats don’t like to touch
  • Temporarily using soft nail caps

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Keep your cat’s nails trimmed

It’s usually the sharp end of your cat’s nail that does the most damage to furniture. So, keeping their nails trimmed regularly can reduce any damage if your cat does have a momentary lapse and heads for the couch.

trimming nails of cat
Image Credit: Yimmyphotography, Shutterstock

What about declawing?

Some people may suggest that you have your cat declawed if they keep scratching your couch. This is effectively an amputation, as the last third of your cat’s toes, the section containing the claw, is what gets removed. This is an extremely invasive and painful surgery for cats. Declawed cats can’t escape from predators, so they should never be allowed outside. They can also suffer from litter box problems, aggression, and chronic pain.

Many humane associations, including the ASPCA, now condemn declawing, and it should never be used as a solution to a behavioral problem. The steps that we’ve outlined in this article will be far more effective!

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The changes will take time

Remember that the transition from your cat using the couch to scratch to them using a new and more appropriate surface can take time. Spending 10 minutes every day playing with your cat near their new scratching surface can encourage your cat to view this area as a nice place where they will want to hang out.

Be patient, and before long, your cat should be happy using their new scratching surfaces, and your couch is no longer the object of their attention!

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Featured Image Credit: Magdanatka, Shutterstock

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