Tabby Cat Scratching the furniture

Help! My Cat is Scratching the Furniture. What Can I Do?

Last Updated on February 1, 2023 by Holly Anne Dustin

First, remember your cat is not scratching the furniture to annoy you.  Cats have to scratch. Declawed cats will still “scratch”.  Even tigers scratch. It is not just about the claws; though it does help the cat keep up good claw health. It is up to us dedicated cat slaves to merge their need to scratch and our desire to not have our house look like Wolverine lives there.

Cats will scratch to help make their house a home, to work off boredom and stress, and to work out the kinks.  Cat trees/condos/posts are the foundation to solving the problem.   

Respect Your Cat’s Natural Instinct to Scratch

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Provides Comfort

We set up our home so it is comforting and relaxing for us.  Your cat wants the same feeling. You’ll notice that your cat is probably scratching the furniture that you use the most.  Likely your bed and your couch or favorite chair.  Your scent is most strong in those areas and your cat wants to mix his scent with yours.

He uses the scent glands in his paws to mark the areas he’s scratching and makes the house his “home” too.  This is why he’ll be quick to mark new furniture by scratching.

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Good Exercise

Cats scratch like we go to the gym.  It works out the shoulders and upper body, paws, and claws. It feels good to stretch and scratch.  You’ll often see your cat scratch after he gets up from a cat nap.

colorpointed cat stretches and scratches
Scratching Cat Tamba Budiarsana at Pexels

Reduces Stress and Boredom

Scratching burns off excess energy from boredom, lack of enrichment, or stress.  A stressed cat will scratch. A cat that is reacting to a cat showing up in the yard will scratch.  If you yell at the cat for scratching the furniture you will not get the results you want.  You’ll probably see that he scratches more because of the conflict with you.

Provide an Appropriate Alternative to Scratching the Furniture

Scratching posts, condos and cat trees are the foundation to the approach of solving the problem.

Related Post: 12 Scratching Posts You Can Buy on Amazon

Be sure that the post is stable and sturdy, that will hold up to the weight, size, and pressure of the cat scratching.  The post you choose needs to be tall enough that your cat can completely stretch out and scratch down.

It will help if the covering of the post is a different texture from what they are scratching.  Sisal fiber rope or mats is the most common.   If your cat isn’t scratching furniture but working out on the doorways, then consider a scratch post of plain wood instead of a post covered in rope or carpet.

Up or Down

Most cats like to scratch vertically to get the full stretch, but some like a horizontal scratcher.

If your cat is scratching the carpet then a horizontal scratcher is probably the way to go.

More scratchers are better.  There are all sorts of scratching tools on the market: posts, cardboard, toys with scratchers built in, scratchers that hang on doors.

There are designers making great looking scratching posts now. Go ahead and try them all! I’ve even seen success with a log from the yard with the bark removed.

The Purrfect Post has a great selection of top of the line scratching posts. They have a 7 day bootcamp program that is supposed to retrain your cat in a week. I haven’t tried it personally, but if you have an older cat with an ingrained habit I suspect it will take longer than a week unless you also get new furniture.

a cat with a scratching post like this one will be less likely to scratch the furniture
Cats need lots of scratchers to choose from.

Don’t Hide the Post

Don’t stick the post in the backroom and expect your baby to go find it when he wants to scratch.  How well does it work to put your treadmill in the basement?

Put the scratchers near where they are currently scratching the furniture or a window frame.  You won’t have to live with a scratcher stuck in front of your sofa forever but put it there to start with.

Spray the post or scratcher with catnip spray or sprinkle catnip on the toys or board.  Hide treats and toys on shelves of perches and trees.  Play with wand toys around the scratchers.  Make his scratching post the place you great him after a day away.

Train him to use the post by gently running his paws on the post as if he was scratching.  “Scratch” the post yourself. Give Kitty a lot of positive reinforcement when he uses the scratchers appropriately.  Once he use the scratcher reliably you can slowly move it to a nearby location by moving it 4-5 inches a day.

Don’t get rid of an old shredded post, Kitty will like it because it is full of his scent.

Make the Furniture Unappealing

Once you have gotten your kitty an appropriate scratching surface, then make the furniture or windowsill or doorway unappealing.

Block the furniture with a cover, blanket, quilt.  If it is a cover that has your cat’s scent on it so much the better.  Something as simple as putting a chair in front of a favorite scratching area for a time can help.

There are other “mechanical” deterrents you can try.  Sticky Paws is a brand of double-sided tape that can deter cats because of the texture.  Other cat parents have had success with aluminum foil or plastic.  Rubber mats, spiked or otherwise, can also keep cats away from a favored area. Clawguard makes a variety of protective devices to protect furniture, door frames, doors etc.

Deterrent Sprays that cover up the cat’s scent can help.  Citrus is often successful as a cat repellent.

Sometimes a motion activated tool, or some sort of noisemaker like poochie bells, can change your cat’s mind about where he’s going to place his claws.

If you’re buying new furniture consider the cats.  Avoid textures and tweed that will encourage Kitty to dig in his claws.

Related Post: How to Trim Your Cat’s Claws

Maintain His Claws

Trim your cats’ claws.  Trimming claws is fairly easy; especially if start with a young kitten.  Even an older cat can be trained to tolerate having their claws trimmed.

Gently press the pad of your cat’s paw.  That will cause Kitty to extend his claws.  Use your clippers to clip off the tips.

Keeping Kitty’s claws trimmed will keep him from doing as much damage if he scratches, and removes at least one reason to scratch.  If your cat won’t let you clip his claws call a groomer for help.

As a last resort, you can try claw caps.  Soft Paws is the most well-known brand.  You apply them to the claw much as you would fake nails on a human.  They come in a bunch of blingy colors.

The caps shed off as the claw grows so you will have to replace them every 3-4 weeks.

Related Post: Claw Caps: Cool or Cruel

Reduce Stress

If you can reduce your cat’s stress you can possibly reduce his desire to scratch.

  • Make sure your cat has places to hide and places to get up high.
  • Make sure you have adequate food and litterbox resources for the number of cats you have.  The rule of thumb is one litter box per cat plus one.  Each cat should have their own food and water station.
  • Increasing playtime can help work off some extra energy and make Kitty less likely to scratch.
  • You can look at rescue remedy, other hydrosols or flower essences, CBD oil or stress-reducing treats.

Contact your vet or a cat behaviorist for more help if these tips don’t help.

Don’t Declaw!

Just don’t do it.  You will be setting up your cat for a host of problems that are worse than scratching. Declawing leads to behavior problems, litter box avoidance, and arthritis.

Jackson Galaxy has a video on YouTube on stopping the scratching. If you’re a reader, The American Association of Feline Practice has a helpful guide to living with a clawed cat and a printable pdf.

Conclusion

Hopefully, these tips will help get your kitty to stop scratching the furniture. Scratching is a normal and healthy behavior for cats. By understanding why cats scratch, providing alternatives such as scratching posts, and playing with your cat to engage their instinctual behaviors, you can keep your furniture safe from harm and at the same time make sure that your kitty’s needs are met. Respect Kitty’s need to scratch so that both you and your beloved pet can be happy.

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4 thoughts on “Help! My Cat is Scratching the Furniture. What Can I Do?”

  1. Jillian (@jillianf2)

    Great tips. My cats are scratching the door frame to my bedroom. I’m about to buy another post but I want to try the citrus as well.

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