How To Stop Your Cat Scratching Furniture

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How to stop your cat scratching furniture feature

In cats, scratching is as natural and normal as sleeping, but without the right training, it can also destroy couches, chairs, and more. Fortunately, you can redirect this behavior and save both the sofa and your bond with your cat. In this article, you’ll learn how to stop your cat scratching furniture in a healthy, safe way.

Expecting our cat to stop scratching on their own is like asking them to stop breathing. The solution is not to ask them to stop scratching but to redirect the behaviour onto appropriate substrates or scratching surfaces.

Scratching at inappropriate objects or exteriors is highly annoying for cat parents. Before confronting how to stop your cat from scratching unwanted places, let’s figure out why your cat needs to scratch our furniture instead of their own.

Why Do Cats Scratch?

Cats scratch for many reasons, including:

  • Excitement expression when we return after being absent all day, during playtime (a form of arousal), or as stress relief.
  • Scratching flexes many of the cat’s tendons and muscles and serves as a form of exercise. Some cats also scratch after walking or as part of a stretching sequence.
  • Territory marking by leaving behind visual marks through repeated scratching and by depositing chemical scent through the pads of the feet. The significance of these marks is not clear. It most likely acts as reassurance once our cat returns to investigate the spot.
  • Scratching also encourages the removal of a cat’s dead nail outer cover.

Why Do Cats Scratch Furniture?

Cat claws on furniture

Upholstered furniture is sturdy, tall, and has a texture that’s appealing to scratch.

From the cat’s point of view, the couch, desk, chair, and even the wall are brilliant scratching surfaces since they are sturdy, tall, and have the right material for nail-digging.

Couches are generally in areas of social importance, which enhances their value as communication spots, serving a purpose like a message board.

Cats are likely to scratch furniture when they do not have adequate scratching options, surfaces, and substrates that do not meet their individual needs. By observing closely our kittens and cats we can determine if they find the scratching post or surface enticing enough to latch onto or if we should offer a different substrate or post type.

How To Stop Your Cat Scratching Furniture?

Learn how to stop your cat scratching furniture without ruining your relationship by following these 5 easy steps:

1. Provide Appropriate Scratching Surfaces.

Cat scratching sisal scratching post

By providing appropriate places to scratch, you can redirect this behavior in a healthy, non-destructive way.

Cats are instinctive climbers and prefer vertical scratching posts, although some prefer horizontal ones. Vertical posts must be sturdy, tall enough for your cat to have a good stretch, and not wobbly.

A recent study found that most cats prefer rope or sisal covered posts instead of the carpeted type offered by owners, while others prefer wood, cardboard, and rough fabric.

Scratching posts must be plentiful in multi-cat households to avoid competition.

They should be placed next to your cat’s favourite spots, such as windows, the couch, entry doors, and sleeping areas since cats like to stretch after a nap.

If your home has space restrictions, consider leg wraps that protect the furniture while accommodating the cat’s needs with sisal mat wraps or do it yourself by wrapping targeted legs in a range of materials including sisal, fabric, and cotton rope.

Brushes that are wall-mounted for facial marking, food dispensers that dispense food when cats claw them, and doormats can also be used to help re-direct cats to appropriate places for marking.

Tree branches and logs are also excellent substrates for cats and can be fitted on a balcony.

Cats with orthopaedic problems can be encouraged to use one level vertical posts or horizontal scratchers as steps to jump onto higher surfaces. Discontinued carpet samples with an anti-slip rug pad (obtained from flooring stores) can provide variety of texture and non-slip scratching options for senior cats.

Also Read: Best 10 Cat Scratchers For Indoor Cats

2. Train With Toys And Food Rewards.

Tease the cat with a toy in front of the post so that when the cat takes a swipe, its claws connect with the pole. Alternatively, attach a toy (i.e. feathers, mouse) with a rope to the scratching post and encourage the cat to catch the toy.

You can also lay the scratching post on its side and rub some dried catnip leaves or powder. Catnip does not reliably attract cats to a post, so it is worth trying different substitutes, such as engaging your cat in interactive play right near a corrugated cardboard scratching pad.

Food-driven cats can be enticed with delights. Initially, reward them for sniffing and investigating the post. As they become more familiar, give a treat when they place their paws on it, working up to when they scratch it. Putting treats on top of the post will encourage climbing and delicacy retrieval.

Avoid holding your cat’s paws and rubbing them against the post, it can make them fearful and dislike the post especially if they find this type of handling scary or aversive.

Lastly, imitate the cat by scratching the post on a daily basis.

Also Read: The 12 Best Cat Toys: Keep Your Cat Fit And Happy With These Irresistible Toys

3. Apply Deterrents.

Make the relevant object or surface unattractive to the cat. Cover it with double-sided sticky tape, a bit of orange or lemon peel, or spray it with lemon-scented sprays.

Be mindful that some cats may end up attached to the double-sided sticky tape, making unpleasant hair trimming necessary.

For extra furniture deterrent, wrap it with a tight-fitting sheet or even a plastic curtain. Once your cat is using the scratching post, remove the deterrent.

4. Trim Your Cat’s Nails Regularly.

Trim your cat's nails to prevent them from damaging furniture.

Regularly trimming your cat’s nails will help to prevent damage to the furniture.

Cats’ claws are like human fingernails and will become sharp and overgrown. Typically, cats scratch to remove old, outer layers of nails and replace them with new nail growth.

Fortnightly or monthly nail trimming will ensure your indoor cat’s nails are not thick and remain short. Outdoor cats do not require clipping since they need their claws for protection and climbing. Geriatric or arthritic cats’ nails typically require bi-monthly cutting because they are untidy and brittle due to lack of exercise and old age.

Do not force your cat. Instead, train your cat to accept nail clipping at home! If your cat does not enjoy having its nails clipped, hire a professional cat groomer, or take them to the vet.

Also Read: Best Cat Nail Clippers

5. Use Cat Surface Attractant.

Utilise Feliscratch by Feliway to attract your cat to an appropriate surface. Feliscratch is a pheromone that has been clinically proven to decrease or stop unwanted scratching in the home, both on vertical and horizontal surfaces. Several studies have shown that when Feliscratch is applied to a post, the cat will gravitate to that post to scratch.

Scratching is so instinctive that even cats who have endured declawing still attempt to do it.

Do not shout or punish your cat when they scrape at the wrong spot as it may cause anxiety, potentially leading to other problems.

Be patient, try several techniques and substrates for at least a few weeks and reward him or her with play, treat, or pets when he or she scratches at proper surfaces.

By considering our cat’s pattern of behaviour and communication needs, we can provide better scratching solutions that meet our individual cat and improve our human-animal bond.

About Melina Grin

Melina’s love of animals began in childhood, when she would care for sick or stray dogs and cats while dreaming of becoming a Vet. While working in the Veterinary field she found a distinct interest and passion in Small Animal Rehabilitation and Feline Behaviour. Melina is the proud director of Pet Nurture in Sydney, Australia (Unique Mobile Animal Wellness Centre specialising in Cats). Melina is currently studying to become a qualified Veterinary Nurse with a view to progressing to Animal Behaviour Therapy

5 thoughts on “How To Stop Your Cat Scratching Furniture

  1. susan

    This has to do with my cat scratching my window screens on the outside trying to get in. How can I stop him from doing this.

    Reply
    1. Melina Grin Post author

      Hi Susan,

      Thank you for your recent question.

      It’s important to find out the motivation for your cat’s behavior. Since I’m unaware of his previous experiences or if you had from kitten hood. If he was re-homed, is it possible he used to gain access from a window sill in his previous household?

      I need to establish if he has a cat flap or another access point to enter/exit the home. If you do, perhaps he feels unsafe or fearful of the current set up, try seeing it from his perspective, get down low.

      Another reason could be he is trying to gain your attention which is probably reinforced by your response.

      To prevent him from scratching window screens try the following:

      1. Train him to use the correct entry/exit point.
      2. Ignore him, walk away and don’t respond to the unwanted behavior – avoid rewarding negative behavior.
      3. Clicker train with a cue like ‘down’ or ‘off’.
      3. Deter him by sticking a double-sided tape on the window screen.
      4. Reward him when he uses the correct entry/exit point with treats or interactive play.
      5. If all else fails, replace the screen with a pet door or restore the screen to a pet proof mesh.

      Hope this helps, let us know if you had any success, Melina

      Reply
  2. Karen Sullivan

    Hello! Hope I’m in the right spot for this, but I need info on kittens. I have a new baby, she’s 8-9 weeks old now, I’ve had her since she was 3 or 4 weeks. Someone dumped her off in my yard, a tiny, lost little calico furball, hungry and so not weaned!
    I keep puppy and kitten milk replacer on hand ( it’s good for lots of different babies), along with nursing bottles, and we got going on that straight off and she did really well. She is weaned and on kitten kibble now, but it’s just been so many years since I’ve had a kitten to raise all the way. My other cats arrived all around a year or more old, so I’m very out-of-practice with the little ones. I especially need info on not letting them develop bad habits (which she seems to be doing) like scratching and clawing, climbing up your legs and biting your face and fingers. Not gently! If it’s a normal phase kittens go through and outgrow, great! But if not, I need to know how to break her of this behavior while I still have a face and hands to work with. Parts of me look literally like raw hamburger. Seriously. This isn’t meanness, just rough play, but I don’t know how to stop it.
    Any and all information and/or advice will be greatly appreciated.
    Sincere thanks,
    Karen Sullivan

    Reply
    1. Melina Grin Post author

      Hi Karen,

      You’re in the right spot for behavioral advice for your little calico fur-ball – she is a lucky kitty to have you as her cat parent.

      Unfortunately, there is little documentation on the effects of hand rearing processes on behavioral development which highlights the need for further research in this area, however, to ensure weaning occurs in a behaviorally appropriate manner, owners should address the following key functions:

      A. Gradual and/or delayed weaning – whenever possible, kittens should be continuously kept with their mother or a surrogate mum. Some research suggests that delayed weaning improves the quality of a cat’s life and reduces stereotypical behavior including aggression. Kittens should also remain with their siblings to minimize risk of developmental psychological abnormalities, nervousness and aid with coping mechanism in novel situations and environments.
      B. Socialization and habituation – this is especially important time to ensure offspring’s grow into confident, well-adjusted adult cats. Kittens should be introduced to humans, children and other animals as soon as possible. Gentle human contact through frequent handling and novel experiences are crucial at the sensitive period. Habituation is also a vital process by which kittens are progressively and quietly exposed to sights, sounds, tastes, smells and textures in the home environment ranging from introduction to the TV, music sounds, vacuum cleaner, variety of furniture and car trips.
      C. Feeding choices and litter preference – although more research is required, it’s been recognized that cats establish olfactory preferences during early life with the perinatal exposure having the strongest effect. Feed variety of food to avoid fussy eaters. Litter substrate preference is also influenced by the litter type used by the queen and her offspring’s, so please keep that in mind if making future changes.
      D. Play and predatory behavior – during the weaning period kittens will shift from nursing to eating prey. They also learn social and hunting skills by playing with their siblings. They will start to display predatory behavior by capturing prey. To avoid misdirected play/predatory attention seeking behavior or deal with misplaced play/predatory aggression teach your kitten to play appropriately from a young age by redirecting onto inanimate objects such as ping pong balls and ‘fishing rod’ toys where a person moves a wand, but the cat chases the toy on the end of the wand, instead of hands/feet. Likewise rotate toys and avoid stroking or picking your kitten during or after playtime as it might unintentionally encourage your kitten to think hands are toys.
      E. Scratching and clawing – introduce a sturdy upright scratching post (less than 1m) and train your cat to claw at the pole with these few simple tips (https://www.petnurture.com.au/tips-for-training-a-cat-to-use-a-scratching-post/).

      I also recommend reading an article written by International Cat Care named Bringing up a litter of kittens: behavioral considerations (https://icatcare.org/advice/bringing-up-a-litter-of-kittens-behavioural-considerations/) and enrolling in Kitten Kindergarten classes in your area for added socialization.

      Hope this helps, please keep us posted on your progress.

      Reply

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