After a long day, it feels great to settle into your comfy couch to watch a little TV or read a book (possibly a book about cats?). And nothing ruins the moment faster than hearing your cat run her sharp nails all over the back of your couch. Not sure how to keep cats from scratching furniture? Cat deterrents and cat scratching posts to redirect their scratching behavior can help.
Cats Need to Scratch
When your cat scratches, she’s not trying to destroy your couch. Cats have an instinctive need to scratch.
“Scratching is a form of physical and emotional exercise,” says Dr. Rachel Barrack, DVM, CVA, CVCH of Animal Acupuncture in New York City.
When your cat scratches, she’s stretching out her body and paws. She’s also releasing physical and emotional energy.
You’ve probably noticed that your cat is more prone to scratching when she’s excited, like right when you come home. She also may scratch when she’s feeling bored, such as when you’re at work.
The urge to scratch fulfills an important practical purpose. Non-domesticated outdoor cats must scratch a hard surface—such as a tree—to keep their nails from growing too long. Scratching a tree keeps the nails short and sharp. At home, your cat is fulfilling the same desire.
How to Keep Cats from Scratching Furniture
If you catch your cat scratching your furniture, it’s important to promptly correct the behavior. Do not physically reprimand her. Hitting your pet is not a good cat deterrent to scratching. A firm “No” is more appropriate.
Because the urge to scratch is so strong, your cat may need additional clear direction that destroying your leather wingback chair is not OK. Many cat owners swear by the water spray bottle method. Keep a spray bottle in your living room, and when your cat begins to scratch, spritz her with water while firmly stating “No.”
Clipping cat nails also helps deter scratching. With dull and shortened claws, you cat may not feel the need to scratch as much. You might be thinking, “Cut my cats nails? Are you crazy?” It’s best to clip cat nails when they’re young. A good, sharp pair of cat nail clippers will go a long way, too. Four Paws’ claw clipper, for example, is made with a stainless-steel edge and a molded handle designed for easy use while trimming your cat’s claws.
If your cat likes to scratch the seats of your couch, try laying a few sheets of aluminum foil across the seats. When your cat jumps up on the couch, she’ll be startled by this popular cat deterrent and will jump right off.
You also can try cat deterrent sprays, such as such as Pet MasterMind’s deterrent cat spray, which is an herbal blend of rosemary and astragalus. This all-natural formula has a scent that helps repel cats from areas where they like to scratch and is formulated to be gentle on fabrics and carpets.
Another popular cat deterrent technique is using transparent training aids, such as SmartyKat Scratch Not Tape. Place the strips where you want your cat to stop scratching and, because cats do not like the sticky feel on their sensitive paws, they eventually stop trying to scratch that location. Then you can remove the strips. It’s designed to be invisible, so guests won’t know you’ve got a little scratching problem at home.
Teach Your Cat Where to Scratch
“If these methods don’t stop the scratching, you must redirect the desire to scratch and teach her where and what to scratch instead,” Dr. Barrack says.
Chronic scratchers may need a variety of scratching options strategically placed around the house. Some cats gravitate to vertical posts, like this 33.5-inch scratching tower by Frisco, while others prefer horizontal scratching surfaces, like the Scratch Lounge.
“I recommend buying a scratching post that is as tall as your cat when she is standing,” Dr. Barrack says.
Scratching posts come in different shapes, sizes and materials. For kittens, active cats or multi-cat households, a scratching tree like this 57-inch one by Frisco, might be ideal. A scratching tree includes multiple perches and cat towers for cats to explore.
Once you’ve purchased your cat scratching post, you can teach your cat that it’s an acceptable place for her to fulfill her scratching urge.
“It is best to place the post strategically, perhaps near where they have scratched in the past,” Dr. Barrack says. “Sit with your cat and play with the new post. Show her by sitting on the ground and encouraging your cat that she can scratch this post—even showing her with your hands.”
Even if your cat ignores the new post in favor of your furniture, Dr. Barrack says not to give up.
“Different cats like different scratching posts, so don’t try to force your cat to like it—just try another style,” she says.
Remember that scratching fulfills your cat’s emotional and physical needs, so if the behavior continues despite your best efforts, it might be a sign that your cat needs something you’re not providing. Or your cat might be stressed and could use help from feline-specific calming agents. The Feliway plug-in diffuser is made to mimic a cat’s natural facial pheromones, creating a calming environment and de-stressing your cat.
Extra affection and attention also goes a long way. Many indoor cats are under-exercised and bored, so be sure to provide entertainment with affection, cat toys and games.
Caitlin Boyle is a writer from Charlotte, North Carolina. Her hobbies include trail running and planning fantasy vacations. She has two dogs, Maggie and James, and a cat that believes he’s a dog, Ferguson.