How to Stop a Cat From Scratching
If your cat is shredding your furniture (and testing your patience) it's time to put an end to the bad habit. From understanding why your cat is scratching and correcting the behavior, to helping them find alternatives that satisfy their need to flex their claws, we have some surefire solutions for you and your feisty feline.
You love your furry friend to pieces, but those cutting claws can turn your fine furniture into a frayed fiasco. Your cat doesn't scratch to be naughty. In fact, cats scratch for a variety of reasons. This can range from the need to remove the frayed, worn outer layer of their claws, to their instinctual need to mark their territory or just as a way to stretch.
Cats prefer to scratch a stable vertical surface so they can fully arch their backs. This is what makes your furniture so appealing as a scratching post. But they really only choose to scratch the couch because they don't have another option. If provided with the right options and deterrents they are more likely to avoid scratching the places you wish they wouldn't.
There are three keys to stopping destructive scratching: provide alternative scratching surfaces, make your furniture a less appealing scratching surface, and keep up with claw care. Once you’ve tackled all three, you and your kitty should be much happier.
Provide Alternative Scratching Surfaces
We can't blame cats for wanting to scratch. It is part of their instinctual nature. And when they have nothing to claw at, the furniture seems like a fine spot to get to a good workout.
Cat Scratching Alternative: Scratching Post
Scratching posts are the most common solution for cat-owners looking to keep their kitties from shredding their furniture. The best posts are made of thick, rugged material like rope or burlap. Your sofas and seats will lose their appeal once your kitty launches a paw into these cat-friendly items. Most cats prefer a vertical post that allows them to stretch out while kneading their claws into the tough surface so make sure it’s a tall enough post for your cat when she’s fully extended. You should also make sure the post is sturdy and can resist your cat’s weight; you don’t want a post that will easily tip over during use. Encourage your cat to investigate the post by hanging toys from the top or scenting it with catnip.
Get the Pioneer Pet SmartCat The Ultimate Scratching Post ($42, amazon.com)
Cat Scratching Alternative: Scratching Pads
Products made specifically for cat scratching don't end at posts either. If your cat prefers a horizontal or angled scratching surface, consider a cat-scratching pad. There are lots of different types, but all basically contain a pad made of a rugged, cat-friendly material like durable cardboard, coir, or sisal. Some pads do double duty as beds or loungers so your kitty and stretch out for a nice scratch followed by a nap.
Get the Catit Style Scratcher with Catnip ($16, amazon.com)
Once you determine which post type works best, pick up several and place them throughout your home so there’s always a solution at hand (or paw). Definitely position them near the furniture they are currently tempted to damage to redirect their attention.
Teach Your Cat Not to Scratch Furniture
There are several clever and low-cost DIY solutions for keeping cats from scratching your furniture. You may need to try a few to find the ones that work best for you and your cat.
Cat Scratching Solution: Aluminum Foil
For some reason, most cats can't stand aluminum foil. Be it the strange sound, the smooth sensation, or the shocking shine, felines get frantic when you unroll a sheet of the stuff. Use their fear to your advantage. Wrap some foil around the legs of furniture your cat is liable to scratch or tape a sheet to the scratchable surface. Before long, you can remove the foil and your cat will be trained to avoid that area for good. But keep the aluminum foil in place until your cat is consistently using his scratching post.
Cat Scratching Solution: Sticky Tape
When your cat goes to scratch your things, imagine her surprise when her paws get semi-stuck to the surface thanks to some handy double-sided tape. She’ll be surprised by the stickiness and will get her paws off in a snap. The tape will prevent her from scratching through to the furniture too, so it serves as a protective barrier as well as a training tool. Of course, you won't want your furniture covered in unsightly tape forever. But after a few unsuccessful scratching attempts, your cat will be turned off and learn scratching only lands her in a sticky situation. And if you need a longer-term solution there are more inconspicuous products available that blend into the furniture.
Cat Scratching Solution: Plastic Caps
One way to minimize scratching of furniture while you’re retraining your cat is to apply soft plastic caps to their claws. There are a few different types on the market, but all are basically soft plastic caps applied with temporary adhesive to the front claws. They may feel a bit funny to your cat at first, but she’ll get used to them, and it may just buy you the time you need to reset her scratching behavior.
Get Soft Claws Nail Caps Cats & Kittens ($16, amazon.com)
Cat Scratching Solution: Anti-scratch Spray
There are a number of pet-safe anti-scratch sprays on the market that keep cats away from your furniture—and they don't ruin the furniture either. While the odor is pleasant to us (often a citrus or floral scent) cats aren't fans of the anti-scratch aroma that replaces their territorial markers and will avoid any areas that have been spritzed with a few mists. You can keep spraying regularly so long as your cat continues to go after the furniture, but after a while, they will learn the places they once longed to paw at are off-limits.
Get Comfort Zone Spray & Scratch Control Spray for Cat Calming ($30, amazon.com)
Practice Responsible Claw Care
Though cats are known for being self-groomers, they do need some assistance from you from time to time, and one of the grooming tasks you can help them out with is claw care. If your cat isn’t used to having her claws clipped, you should approach slowly. You may only be able to clip a few claws at a time but easing into it is just fine. See our full guide to caring for your cat’s claws to get started.
Once you implement cat behavioral training to curb the clawing, you can feel confident they will no longer long for your furniture. Declawing is never the answer as it's unnecessary and can cause other medical issues or make the cat more likely to bite. But with a few rounds of repetitive techniques and some well-deserved treats for good behavior, your cat will likely finally leave your things alone and regain his stature as your household's most well-behaved furry friend.