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Your cat’s claws grow from the inside out and, as new layers form, the outer layers become dull and ragged. Scratching helps your cat slough off the old outer layers. It also activates scent glands in your cat’s paws, effectively marking the scratching surface as your cat’s territory.
Scratching is a natural and functional behavior for cats and not one that should be discouraged. That doesn’t mean, however, that you have to stand by and let your cat shred your furniture.
Providing your cat with alternative scratching surfaces is important, but if his favorite scratching spot is still available, he may show no interest. Cat scratch deterrents keep your cat from scratching where you don’t want him to, helping redirect his natural instincts toward a more appropriate outlet.
At A Glance: Our Top Picks For Best Cat Scratchers To Buy
Want a quick look at the products reviewed in this article? In the comparison table below, we’ve highlighted some of the most important features of each product. You’ll find more detailed information about each product later in the article.
Why Should You Trust Us?
We’ve spent countless hours figuring out what makes a product safe, effective, and cat-friendly. We’ve researched the different types of scratch deterrents available, read customer reviews, and performed real-world tests on some of the most popular products in this category.
To write this review, Kate Barrington researched the top cat scratch deterrents on the market and ordered an assortment for testing. She tested these products with her three cats Bagel, Biscuit, and Munchkin to find the best option for five unique situations.
What Does A Cat Scratch Deterrent Do?
A cat scratch deterrent is simply a product that helps prevent your cat from scratching a particular surface. Cat scratch deterrents work in one or more of the following ways:
1. They Make A Surface Less Appealing For Cats To Scratch.
Cats are drawn to rough materials which is why sisal- and carpet-covered scratching posts work so well. Unfortunately, upholstered furniture has a similar appeal. One of the simplest ways to deter scratching is to make the surface less appealing to your cat.
One way to do that is to use a sticky scratch deterrent. These deterrents function like double-sided tape and they can be affixed directly to a piece of furniture without causing damage. They come in different sizes and can be trimmed to the ideal shape and size. They’re also generally clear so they don’t stand out like a sore thumb.
Another way to make a scratching surface less appealing to cats is to use odor. Cats have sensitive noses and certain scents function as deterrents. Spraying the surface with something your cat finds unpleasant could help keep him from scratching.
2. They Create A Physical Barrier To Prevent Damage Caused By Scratching.
If making the surface less desirable for scratching doesn’t do the trick, you can always create a physical barrier to prevent your cat’s claws from doing any harm.
Physical cat scratch deterrents can be affixed directly to a piece of furniture or another surface. They’re often made from claw-proof plastic, but you can also find products that match the color and texture of upholstered furniture.
Keep in mind that physical barriers may not prevent your cat from scratching – they simply create a layer of protection. If your cat continues to scratch the surface, you may need to replace the product from time to time as it sustains damage.
3. They Help Relieve Symptoms Of Anxiety That Might Contribute To Scratching Behavior.
While scratching is a completely natural behavior for all cats, cats who suffer from anxiety or stress may exhibit the behavior more frequently. Creating a calm, stress-free environment for your cat might help reduce unwanted scratching behavior.
One of the most effective methods for soothing stress and anxiety in cats is a pheromone spray. Pheromones are simply chemical signals animals use to communicate. They’re released through your cat’s scent glands to mark his territory, but they’re also released by mother cats to soothe their kittens. Products that release cat pheromones can have a calming effect on your cat.
If chronic anxiety is a problem for your cat, a pheromone diffuser that plugs into the wall might be a good option. If your cat tends to express his anxiety by scratching specific surfaces, a deterrent spray that contains pheromones might help.
4. They Startle Your Cat When He Approaches The Area You Want To Protect.
Cats can be determined and physical or spray deterrents simply might not work in some cases. Fortunately, cats also tend to startle easily, so if you can use that trait to your advantage, you might be able to train your cat to avoid the surfaces he tends to scratch.
Cat scratch deterrents that scare your cat away from the scratching site typically use one of two methods (or both): sound or sensation. These cat scratch deterrents are typically motion-activated, so they produce a startling noise or release a puff of air when your cat activates the sensor.
With continued use, these deterrents may cause your cat to develop a negative association with the scratching surface over time. You may eventually be able to phase out the device itself once your cat starts avoiding the area on his own.
The 5 Best Cat Scratch Deterrents On The Market
Chosen based on cat-friendliness, quality materials, thoughtful design, and positive customer ratings, here are our top 5 picks for the best cat scratch deterrents you can buy:
#1 Best Scratch Deterrent Tape: KatSupreme Double-Sided Deterrent Tape
Sticky scratch deterrent tapes are a quick and easy option, not to mention one of the more affordable solutions for problem scratching. Cats don’t like the feel of the sticky tape under their paws.
KatSupreme double-sided deterrent tape comes in extra-large sheets measuring 12 inches wide and 17 inches long. They’re sold in sets of 8, 10, or 12 to deliver damage-free protection for furniture and other surfaces around the home. The sheets are flexible and transparent, so they are adaptable for surfaces of nearly any size or shape, and they blend in for near-invisible protection.
I used KatSupreme double-sided deterrent tape on the end of a sectional where my cat Biscuit likes to scratch. The tape affixed easily to the fabric and blended nicely. I appreciated the large size of the sheets – one sheet covered the entire top of the arm and I used one more to cover the side of the sectional for a little added protection.
These extra-large sheets are economically priced, especially considering that they can be trimmed to the desired size with no unnecessary waste. I found them to be sufficiently sticky, though I can see how the thin material might not adhere as well to textured surfaces. My sectional is covered in smooth, tight fabric, so the tape adhered easily.
It’s also worth noting that because these sheets have a sticky surface, they will collect cat hair and other debris.
What We Liked:
- Large 12×17 inch double-sided sheets
- Can be trimmed to the desired size and shape
- Easy to affix and remove as needed
- Transparent to blend with the surface
What We Didn’t Like:
- May not adhere well to textured surfaces
- Not recommended for leather furniture
- Sticky surface will collect cat hair
#2 Best Pheromone Spray: Comfort Zone Cat Calming Spray
Frequent scratching can be a sign of anxiety in cats and it’s worth bringing the issue up with your veterinarian. On top of a proper course of treatment, you might also consider using a calming spray like this to discourage destructive scratching and help your cat feel more comfortable at home.
Comfort Zone calming spray comes in a 2-ounce bottle which is ideal for travel. It offers a safe, non-toxic solution for problem scratching and may also help reduce issues with urine marking and other anxiety-induced behavioral problems.
This spray is non-damaging for use on fabrics, upholstery, and hardwood. It contains calming pheromones which signal to your cat that the area to which it is applied is safe. Spray it where your cat tends to scratch, on his bedding, and in his carrier for trips to the vet.
My cats don’t struggle with anxiety, so it was difficult to test the calming effects of the spray, but some customers have reported positive results.
As numerous reviews corroborate, I found that the sprayer itself didn’t always work well. The smell of the spray is also pretty strong. Some customers have reported that the spray works better as a cat repellent than a calming spray.
What We Liked:
- Contains calming cat pheromones
- Safe for use on multiple different surfaces
- May help reduce urine marking
What We Didn’t Like:
- Fairly expensive for a small bottle
- Spray nozzle doesn’t always work well
- Some customers found the smell too strong
#3 Best Motion Activated Spray: PetSafe SSSCAT Motion Activated Pet Repellent
If your cat is determined not to be deterred by sticky tape or foul-smelling spray, you might need to bring out the big guns: the SSSCAT Spray System. This system consists of a motion-activated sprayer that releases a quick burst of spray, startling your cat with both the sound and the sensation of air movement.
The system comes with a can of spray deterrent that lasts for up to 100 sprays. You simply remove the cap from the aerosol can, place the motion-activated sprayer on top, and slide the locking ring into place. You can adjust the direction of the spray by swiveling the spray head or moving the spray nozzle up and down.
This system requires four AAA batteries but it’s fairly compact and easy to use on counters, in entryways, or wherever your cat likes to scratch. Simply set it on a flat surface and aim the sprayer where your cat is most likely to trigger the motion-activated sensor.
It’s expensive in comparison to other scratch deterrents, but customers seem largely pleased with its performance. Out of more than 12,000 reviews, Amazon customers give this product a 3.9 out of 5-star rating. It can be tricky to decide where to aim the spray, however, and some cats simply won’t be deterred by it.
Because other scratch deterrents work so well for me, I decided to try using the SSSCAT spray system for another purpose. My cat Biscuit likes to scream at me through the bedroom door all morning, so I placed it next to the doorframe at night. The spray certainly worked as planned, though it was pretty easy for Biscuit to start meowing from a little further away, out of the line of spray.
What We Liked:
- Motion-activated within three feet
- Spray is odorless and harmless to pets
- Each can contains up to 100 sprays
What We Didn’t Like:
- Requires 4 AAA batteries
- May not deter very determined cats
- Can be tricky to know where to aim it
#4 Best Scratch Deterrent Mat: FUKUMARU Cat Scratcher Mat
Cats have a mind of their own and once they choose a favorite scratching spot it can be difficult to deter them – especially if it’s an unusual location. It’s easy enough to drape a blanket over the arm of a couch but for flat surfaces you’ll need something like the FUKUMARU cat scratcher mat.
This scratch mat measures 15.7-by-23.6 inches and is crafted from natural sisal material. It has an anti-skid design with latex nubs on the underside of the mat. It also comes with four Velcro pads that can be installed on a smooth surface and on the bottom of the mat to keep it in place.
I found the FUKUMARU scratch mat to be sturdily constructed, though the thickness made it a little difficult to flatten the mat since it had been rolled up for shipping. Once I got it flattened out and put it on the floor, however, my cats immediately took to it.
This mat is highly versatile in terms of installation as long as the surface is flat and smooth. I used it on the floor, but product photos picture the mat being affixed to a wall to create a vertical scratching surface.
The only potential problems I see with the product (that customers seem to agree on) have to do with the size and installation method.
This scratch mat is fairly small and is only available in one size. Second, the Velcro pads have a sticky adhesive on one side to keep the product in place, but I was worried about the adhesive damaging my flooring. Without being firmly affixed to the surface, I can see how a mat this small might move around as your cat scratches.
What We Liked:
- Sturdily constructed from natural sisal materials
- Available in four different colors
- Non-skid bottom to help it adhere to smooth surfaces
- Can be installed horizontally or vertically
What We Didn’t Like:
- Fairly small in size
- Velcro installation pads might damage surfaces
#5 Best Furniture Guard: Navaris 2x Cat Scratch Mats Sofa Protector
If double-sided tape isn’t enough to deter your cat, something that provides a degree of physical protection might do the trick. These furniture protectors from Navaris are durably constructed from linen and sisal fabric to provide your cat with a more appropriate surface for scratching.
These scratch mats are sold in a set of two, so you can use them on either end of a couch or sofa. They measure 45cm (17.7in) across with a 60cm (23.6in) sisal surface and an additional 70cm (27.5in) of linen you can fold over the arm and tuck into the cushions to keep it in place.
I was impressed with the Navaris sofa protector. The scratch mat is generously sized, and the linen end was plenty long enough to tuck into and underneath the couch cushion. My cat Biscuit must have found the surface highly appealing because she started stretching and scratching as soon as I placed her on the couch arm after installing the mat.
One thing worth noting is that the mat doesn’t come with any pins to secure it to the furniture. It works very well for couches with removable cushions, but they may not stay in place as well if you can’t tuck the extra under a cushion.
Some customers comment that their cats aren’t interested in the product. If you’re using the mat as a furniture protector, however, and provide alternative scratching surfaces for your cat the goal of scratch deterrence will still be accomplished.
What We Liked:
- Comes in a convenient two-pack
- Generously sized with a large scratching surface
- Durably constructed with strong seams
- Works on upholstered furniture as well as leather
What We Didn’t Like:
- Some cats don’t take to the product
- May not work as well for couches without removable cushions
Two Other Options To Consider
The products reviewed above are designed to deter your cat from scratching, but that’s only one piece of the puzzle. If you’re going to take action to keep your cat from scratching certain surfaces, you need to provide him with an alternative option.
Scratching posts and pads are an absolute must in any cat-friendly household.
Vertical scratching posts and horizontal scratch pads provide your cat with an appropriate surface on which to enact his natural scratching instincts. Vertical posts are ideal because your cat can get in a good stretch as he scratches. They need to be tall enough to accommodate the length of your cat’s body and should have a sturdy base to keep them from falling over.
Some cats prefer horizontal scratch pads, however, so it’s worth trying one of each to see which option your cat prefers. Horizontal pads are often made of cardboard versus sisal or carpet and can easily be incorporated into toys like captive ball tracks.
As a third layer of protection for your furniture and other household surfaces, you might consider using nail caps. Also known as claw covers, nail caps are small silicone covers that slip over your cat’s nails.
Nail caps are a humane alternative to declawing and can go a long way in minimizing the damage sharp kitty claws can do. They’re inexpensive, easy to apply, and can last for up to 6 weeks at a time. Plus, they come in every color of the rainbow.
Your cat is more than just a guest in your household – he’s a member of the family and deserves to be treated as such. This means making accommodations in your home to keep your cat comfortable while enabling him to enact his instinctual behaviors.
As a cat owner, you have the opportunity to direct your cat’s impulses but trying to eliminate them entirely is both unfair and unlikely to be successful.
The best thing you can do to mitigate the damage caused by scratching is to use scratch deterrents like the products reviewed above to protect specific surfaces and redirect your cat toward a more specific outlet for his scratching instincts.