23 Proven Ways To Stop A Cat From Scratching Furniture

23 Proven Ways To Stop A Cat From Scratching Furniture

How can you convince a cat to use a scratching post?

You can’t stop a cat from sharpening her claws. It's a natural behavior and part of feline nature.

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What you can - and should - do is provide Kitty with a good scratching post.

A good scratching post can serve as an alternative to your favorite piece of furniture. We have 23 awesome tips for you here that will help you introduce the scratching post concept to your cat and guarantee that those claws get their use there - and only there.

Offer your cat a better alternative

Before we dive right into the tips, a few words about how the concept works.

The key here is -

Recognize the cat’s natural need and provide her with a solution in the form of a very good scratching post.

Before you begin teaching her not to scratch the couch or carpets, you must first work with her on forming a new and healthy habit of clawing at designated scratching posts.

Your focus should be on making the scratching post super appealing. Once your cat uses the scratchers regularly, then - and only then - can you begin teaching her to avoid other places.

Don’t rush the process and don’t try to prevent your cat from clawing the furniture before she regularly uses her scratching post.

Now that we have the concept all laid out, let’s dive right into the 23 tips!

1. Understand why it is that cats scratch things

Scratching is a perfectly natural behavior for your cat. All felines - big and small - do it.

Understanding the motivation behind this behavior will help you create an effective strategy for teaching Kitty to use only the designated scratching posts.

So why do cats claw at things?

Experts believe cats scratch surfaces for several reasons:

  • Marking the cat’s territory by leaving visual marks as well as secret scents that only other cats can smell.
  • Maintaining the health of the nail by removing external layers
  • Exercising the cat’s muscles and stretching them properly
  • Relieving stress

As you can see, this is truly a multi-functional behavior.

As you read the following tips, keep the cat’s agenda in mind and it will help you find the best and most accurate solution for your own situation.

2. Start young

Forming habits is easier when the brain is young and more adaptable. If you recently adopted a kitten, now is the right time to provide her with a good scratching post and teach her to avoid scratching the furniture.

While you can, in fact, teach an older cat new tricks, it’s just easier to work with a kitten.

However, since there is a strong territorial aspect to clawing behavior, you should focus on redirecting it in an adult cat as soon as you adopt one.

When the cat is new to your home, she doesn’t have finalized preferences about where to scratch. Offer the right setup right away and you stand a better chance of convincing that cat to use only the scratching post.

3. Offer multiple scratching posts

Your cat would like to claim the entire territory as her own, so you will need to have scratching posts in several places (more on location in a minute).

Moreover, having multiple scratching posts allows you to experiment with types of posts and see which ones she likes best.

4. Never force a cat to use a scratching post

When you bring home a new scratching post, don’t try to force your cat to scratch it by placing her paws on the scratching surface. Cats don’t like to be held against their will.

Not only is she not likely to learn how to use the post, but you could also actually teach her to fear it.

Choosing the right scratching post

5. Use large scratching posts

Cats almost always prefer to scratch big surfaces - which means large scratching posts.

When scratching an object, the typical cat creates a visual mark that’s about 10 inches long. You should leave some space on both ends of the actual scratched area, so opt for a total of 20-30 inches of open scratching surface on your posts.

And don't forget stretching! The entire length of the post should be enough for your cat to stretch across in comfort. A shorter post is likely to be ignored.

6. Make sure all scratching posts are stable

Do you know what a tiger’s “scratching posts” would be in the wild? Trees. Tigers and other large felines mark their territory by scratching the bark of large trees in their environment. They choose trees because trees are large, stable, and permanent.

The scratchers that you offer at home don’t have to be actual trees, but they should be as stable as a tree.

Nothing is more off-putting to a cat than reaching out for a good long “stretch & scratch” only to hit a wobbly surface that could topple any second.

7. Find out whether your cat prefers a vertical or horizontal scratching surface

While most cats seem to prefer vertical scratching posts - at least judging by their availability in stores - some go for horizontal surfaces instead.

This becomes clear once you read enough complaints in our forums about inappropriate scratching.

Some cats prefer to leave their mark on the side of a couch, while others are just crazy about carpets. Preferably those in a rented apartment…

So, how can you tell whether your cat prefers a horizontal or vertical surface?

Simply offer both options side by side. Choose the same location (because the location does matter) and place two scratchers there, one by the other.

Both scratchers should be large and stable - with the only difference being in how the scratching surface is positioned. You’ll soon see which direction your cat prefers.

8. Experiment with textures

Just like a preference in direction, cats also have different tastes when it comes to texture. Most cats prefer a rough surface, like sisal or cardboard. Some prefer something more delicate, like soft fabric.

Since we can’t ask our cats in words, the solution is once more to offer the cat a choice. You’ll soon learn what your cat prefers.

9. Replace the scratching surface as may be necessary

Whatever your cat’s preferred texture is, make sure the post delivers it down the road. Clearly, clawing at a surface will damage it - that’s why we don’t want our cats to scratch the furniture. Given enough scratching, even the strongest sisal rope will eventually give out and peel off.

Keep an eye on the scratcher and if you think it’s showing too much wear and tear, consider adding a new scratching post next to the old one so that Kitty can easily make the transition.

10. Try a scratching area that the cat can stand on

Does your cat use the carpet instead of the fancy horizontal scratching post? Try a larger scratching post. Find - or build - a horizontal scratching post that’s large enough for the cat to stand on.

Think about what the carpet actually offers her - maximum stability and the opportunity to stretch to her full length. The scratching post should offer the same.

11. Invest in a large cat tree

Cat trees are large pieces of furniture that offer room for play and rest. Get a cat tree with designated scratching surfaces as well - or which just has varied enticing textures.

Make sure that the tree is stable and large enough and you just might get a piece of furniture that doubles as Kitty’s favorite new scratching post.

Where to place the scratching post

12. Keep scratching posts away from the litter boxes

Cats bury their waste because they want to avoid leaving a scent in that area. It wouldn’t make sense for a cat to mark territory with clawing in the same area where she’s trying to hide her presence.

If you must place a litter box and scratching post in the same room, make sure they’re as far away from each other as possible.

13. Place a scratching post in the central living area

Many new owners make the mistake of shoving a great scratching post in the garage or some other peripheral location. They expect Kitty to go all the way there to sharpen her claws, but that’s just not going to happen.

Now that you know that scratching is also a form of territorial marking, it just makes sense that your cat needs to carry out the action in a central location.

That’s why cats prefer to claw at the living room furniture - why not mark such an important part of their territory?

So, once you choose a great scratching post, make sure you place it in a great location - a place that is central to your home and to your cat’s territory.

14. Keep a scratching post next to Kitty’s favorite napping spot

Another great location for a scratching post (you should have multiple ones, remember?) is next to your cat’s napping spots.

Scratching is often accompanied by stretching. Cats - just like us - prefer to stretch when they wake up from a nap. Stretching triggers the scratching behavior - so your cat should be able to find a designated scratching post when that happens.

15. Try adding a scratching post where your cat meets and greets you

As mentioned earlier, scratching also offers stress relief. That means cats tend to engage in the behavior when they are excited. And one of the most exciting moments of a cat’s day could be when you come through the door!

So for many cat owners, placing a cat scratcher near the door makes sense.

16. Find the exact spot that your cat already uses as a scratching post

Our final tip for location is to follow your cat’s instincts. If you’re reading this, chances are that your cat is scratching the furniture somewhere around your house - and you’re not happy with that.

Your cat knows where she wants to scratch. And that’s where you need to offer a large and stable scratching post.

How to help your cat find and use a new scratching post

We've already mentioned that you shouldn't force a cat to use a post by placing her claws on it. Here are a few tips for making the introductions more positive.

17. Play with your cat near and around the scratching post

A better way to entice a cat to use the scratching post is to play with her around it. Use a rod-like cat toy that allows you to direct Kitty’s attention in a positive way.

Move the toy at the end of the rod near - and eventually on - the scratching area.

The idea here is to get the cat to pounce at the toy in a way that makes her paw touch the scratching surface. This simply lets her experience the new texture. Hopefully, she’ll return again later for further inspection - and clawing.

18. Use catnip to draw your cat to the scratching post

If your cat responds to catnip, try to sprinkle some dry catnip or spray the scratching post with catnip spray.

For some cats, this makes the scratching post nearly irresistible. Once they form the positive association and begin to regularly scratch the post, there’s no need to continue adding the catnip, although you can, if you want to.

19. Try Feliway spray to attract the cat to the scratching post

Feliway is a spray that acts as an attractant, appealing to the cat by mimicking the “invisible” scent of feline pheromones, as well as the visual signs of scratching.

The manufacturer suggests applying this spray daily during the first week and then repeating it at weekly intervals.

Preventing your cat from clawing at the furniture

20. Careful about how you say no

Most cats don’t respond well to negative reinforcement. You should never punish your cat - including by not spraying water. In many cases, even scolding loudly can stress out a cat. That’s why shouting “no” at a cat when she’s scratching the couch could backfire.

More on how to train a cat without punishment.

21. Cover the furniture with double-sided tape.

Instead of reprimanding Kitty, block access to her favorite - yet undesirable to you - scratching areas. The easiest and most effective way to do this is by covering these places with double-sided sticky tape.

Cats don’t like to touch a sticky surface (who does?) so your cat is likely to turn away once she finds out the couch isn’t fun to scratch anymore.

If you also provided her with enough quality scratching posts which she’s already using, it shouldn’t take long before she forgets about the couch. At that point, you’ll be able to remove the tape.

It’s best to test the effect of the tape on the fabric in a hidden area first. Or you could invest in a special product like Panther Armor or Sticky Paws [Amazon links] that promises to take better care of your furniture.

22. Spray the furniture with repellent

If you hate the thought of making your couch all sticky, then spraying with a pet repellent may be a better solution.

There are two things you need to keep in mind here though -

  1. You must choose a pet-safe product. Avoid homemade solutions like essential oils which can be safe for people yet toxic to cats.
  2. Not all cats react to scent-based deterrents. Test to see if yours does - and then try a different brand if she doesn’t.

Click to see more about SmartyKat on Amazon - a spray designated to deter cats from scratching furniture

23. Consider claw caps

Finally, if all else fails, you could try covering Kitty's claws with special plastic caps.

Depending on Kitty’s temperament, you may or may not be able to get the caps fitted properly on her claws.

If you’re having difficulty, you can ask your veterinarian to help out. Just keep in mind that you’ll have to reapply caps every several weeks, so this could end up being an expensive solution.

Avoid declawing

Whatever you do - please never declaw your cat.

Declawing is an extremely painful procedure that involves the amputation of your cat’s toes. In fact, declawing was made illegal in most countries, and for a good reason.

Even if it’s still legal where you live, it’s cruel and should not be practiced.

Hopefully, this article helps by giving you ideas on how to get a cat to use the scratching post - and avoid clawing at your furniture and carpets.

Please share it around so other cat owners can learn about humane behavioral solutions to inappropriate scratching. And if you have your own tips to share - we’d love to hear all about them! Just add them in a comment below - thank you!

20 comments on “23 Proven Ways To Stop A Cat From Scratching Furniture

RJsGirl November 20, 2022
I have 6 indoor cats,(3 which are young ones). They love to scratch this one wall to the point it needed paneled. But instead I used carpet squares ( 2x2) and carpetd that small portion of wall. They climb to the top and them jump over onto my washer & Dryer. It is a place they call their own and is constantly using it to scratch or to climb. They also have a bedroom that is theirs where I keep their tunnel, etc. They still love running and playing from one end of this mobile home to the other. It does keep their claws for the most part off furniture.
Jaxson’s momma August 20, 2022
This is a really good article. I would add that positive reinforcement really helps. In addition to covering the side of the chair my kitty was scratching with plain old packing tape I gave Victor a treat immediately after he scratched his post. It only took a week to teach him to use the post. It’s important to note I had to find a post that Victor liked. Once I found the post that was tall sturdy and covered with a material close to the fabric if the chair, I placed it right next to the chair. Victor immediately showed interest and even scratched on it! At that point it was easy. All I had to do was make the chair less appealing with the tape and positively reinforce him using the post!
Ramona December 7, 2019
I always say, you can have nice things or you can have pets. Generally this goes with the territory of sharing your life with furry (or feathered) friends.
    Ramona December 7, 2019
    I will, of course, try these suggestions to minimize destructive behavior.
    Babypaws November 10, 2021
    I fully agree!
auntdawny November 14, 2018
I would have NEVER thought of these other tips!!! TY!!!
Maria Bayote November 11, 2018
A good read. I have tried most of these things. Thanks for this info. However, I am already resigned to the fact that probably, just probably, I would never ever own a decent sofa anymore. Not in this lifetime while I love my pets, particularly my cats.
mentat October 22, 2018
Beautifulone1 said:
I have also tried claw caps but that only made Felix very frustrated. He would spend a large amount of time in a bad mood and trying to bite them off. He finally got them all off eventually! So that doesn't work for me.:oops:
"Veterinarians should counsel cat owners on alternatives for declawing such as: providing cats with scratching posts/pads regularly trimming the claws to prevent injury or damage to household items considering temporary synthetic nail caps using synthetic facial pheromone sprays and/or diffusers to help relieve anxiety or stress providing appropriate feline environmental enrichment There are inherent risks and complications with declawing that increase with age such as acute pain, infection, nerve trauma, as well as long term complications like lameness, behavioral problems, and chronic neuropathic pain."
mentat October 22, 2018
Beautifulone1 said:
I have also tried claw caps but that only made Felix very frustrated. He would spend a large amount of time in a bad mood and trying to bite them off. He finally got them all off eventually! So that doesn't work for me.:oops:
Declawing Position Statement | American Association of Feline Practitioners "Feline declawing is an ethically controversial procedure. Declawing is NOT a medically necessary procedure for cats in most instances. Scratching is a normal feline behavior--both inherited and learned. Cat owners should be educated on feline scratching behaviors. Veterinarians should provide behavioral recommendations that allow cats to express these behaviors and reduce those undesirable to the client. Declawing is an amputation of the third phalanx (P3). It is the veterinarian’s obligation to educate cat owners and provide them with alternatives to declawing."
mentat October 22, 2018
Beautifulone1 said:
I have also tried claw caps but that only made Felix very frustrated. He would spend a large amount of time in a bad mood and trying to bite them off. He finally got them all off eventually! So that doesn't work for me.:oops:
SmartCat The Ultimate Scratching Post Declawing is definitely not an option. 90% of doctors won't perform the surgery as it's painful and damages their digits long term. Some states or cities have banned it, as has Europe, due to it being deemed cruel treatment.
mentat October 22, 2018
Beautifulone1 said:
I have also tried claw caps but that only made Felix very frustrated. He would spend a large amount of time in a bad mood and trying to bite them off. He finally got them all off eventually! So that doesn't work for me.:oops:
2 city shelters and a cat sanctuary use the SmartCat Scratching posts. The sisal covering the broad sides in knit panels rather than rope/cord wrapped around the post. Any cat they bring in loves them, minimum 2 per cat room so they don't argue over them. Individuals perch on the top of the 4ft post as there is a wood top. As well as scratching the corner edges of the open litter boxes, big hit after using the boxes. The base of the SmartCat is solid hardwood. Keeps it upright better than the smaller posts. Some like scratching the sides while it is toppled rather than upright. FeliScratch by Ceva Pharmaceutical really is an effective attractant product to apply to the surfaces of scratch-appropriate areas you want him to focus on. Place a SmartCat post next to the end of the couch he prefers, apply FeliScratch solution, and see what happens.
Beautifulone1 October 21, 2018
foxxycat said:
My sofas all have blankets and sheets covering them...I know it takes away from the look of colors that I picked out..but the Bee is an annoying scratching kitty so I just keep the furniture covered. She's got more cat furniture than I have for myself. SHe's got 2 huge trees, 2 small trees and 6 scratching posts..plus unlimited mice with rattles that she loves to bat around
I thought about putting blankets on my couches too but didn't because of the look for my family room.(colors) I'll figure it out. Thanks for responding.
foxxycat October 19, 2018
My sofas all have blankets and sheets covering them...I know it takes away from the look of colors that I picked out..but the Bee is an annoying scratching kitty so I just keep the furniture covered. She's got more cat furniture than I have for myself. SHe's got 2 huge trees, 2 small trees and 6 scratching posts..plus unlimited mice with rattles that she loves to bat around
Beautifulone1 October 13, 2018
I have also tried claw caps but that only made Felix very frustrated. He would spend a large amount of time in a bad mood and trying to bite them off. He finally got them all off eventually! So that doesn't work for me.:oops:
Beautifulone1 October 12, 2018
 I have been frustrated at the scratching of my couches. I have a cat tree that I ordered on Amazon but the larger ones are too expensive. I just got my carpet replaced in my apartment and I don't want my cat to ruin the carpet within 12 months. I haven't tried the spray yet and I don't want to try the two sided tape. I even got to the point where I didn't know if I was going to able to keep my cat. I read about declawing but my boyfriend was against it.
tarasgirl06 September 14, 2018
Antonio65 said:
I wonder what "good reason" there might be for declawing!
Oh, I heartily encourage people to declaw -- AFTER they go get their own toes whacked off at the first joint and then have to use a box for elimination for the rest of their lives. ;)
tarasgirl06 September 14, 2018
I can't think of a single instance of cats clawing inappropriately in our home, except 2 house ago in a house that was quite small, the cat population was large, and we had upholstered furniture. Since then, we're now in a large home, there are only 3 cats now, and the furniture is leather and wood, which they never bother and rarely even jump on. There are scratching posts and pads and cat furnishings throughout the house, which I either sprinkle with catnip or spray with catnip spray regularly. They use these with great enjoyment!
    Nursegirl December 27, 2020
    We too have adjusted our household furnishings to accommodate the cats. Best fabric for furniture is Velvet, Suede, Microfiber, or Sunbrella which is especially great. Cats don't like these fabrics because the weave is so tight We also use vertical blinds instead of curtains or drapex
PushPurrCatPaws September 12, 2018
Great article, so many good tips! I second the ideas of: -having several scratch posts (we have three, both tall and short), -learning the 'pathway patterns' of your cats so that you can place the posts strategically where they would commonly stretch or mark territory (I recommend putting them within 3-5 feet of their favorite napping spots... when they wake up and take a few steps, they are ready to stretch their muscles), -also, posts are great for de-stressing. I actually recommend that people consider putting a small scratch post within a crate or cage if your cat ever has to experience cage rest... it really helped my kitty, when she had leg surgeries. We put it in the crate about 4-6 days after her surgeries, about the time she began to improve. She was really happy to be able to scratch, even with a weak leg. It helped her mental state. Also, my new tip would be that it adds a lot of excitement to scratch posts if you place some loud jingle toys on top of the post. When your kitty scratches, they can stretch up and knock those toys right off of the top, and dash away into Zoomie Mode. We've been doing that for years for our kitty! We pile toys atop both our tall, Smart Cat brand of scratch post, and this smaller one, too:

Milly-toys-post by PushPurrCatPaws posted Sep 12, 2018 at 4:26 PM
Antonio65 September 11, 2018
I wonder what "good reason" there might be for declawing!

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