Why your cat is scratching furniture (and how to stop it)
Although the benefits of sharing our homes with our cats far outweighs the challenges, damage caused by the scratching of furniture can be expensive to fix.
Let’s discover the reasons our cats scratch furniture, helpful hints to prevent them from doing so, and what to do if the steps to stop destructive scratching are unsuccessful…
Why do cats scratch furniture?
There are many reasons your cat scratches furniture:
To sharpen their claws
They may be living their best life with you, with their every need taken care of, though your cat is still wild at heart.
The desire to scratch is built into your cat’s instincts, since clawing helps them to remove old, outer layers of their claws to reveal the fresh, sharper layer beneath. You may even find claw sheaths (a claw’s outer layer) near their preferred scratching spots!
It’s important for your cat to have sharp claws, as it allows them to climb and practise using their hunting instincts.
To stretch and condition their muscles
While they’re scratching something, your cat will often stretch – allowing many of their muscles to flex and strengthen.
By keeping their muscles healthy, your feline friend can enjoy exercising natural behaviours like jumping, climbing, and pouncing.
To mark their territory
Did you know? Cats have scent glands between the pads of their paws!
Whenever your cat stretches their paws as they’re scratching something, they’ll be spreading their scent to let others know that your home is theirs.
To communicate with you
It’s probably a source of stress when your feline friend destroys a piece of furniture, though have you considered that your cat might be doing it to capture your attention?
Despite your negative reaction to any damage they’ve done to your sofa, curtains, or carpet, the fact you’re interacting with them could be your cat’s motivation. While it’s frustrating to find furniture ravaged by cat claws, it may simply be a weird way to show they care about you!
Your cat could also be scratching furniture because they’re stressed or anxious. For example, some felines feel uneasy about the presence of potential rivals in their home. So, if you’ve recently added a new feline to your family, that might be the cause of your cat’s scratching behaviour.
To relieve boredom
In the same way anxiety can spark the scratching of furniture, if your cat is bored, they’re more likely to engage in destructive behaviour.
Indoor cats, especially, are at risk of boredom, since they tend to have less opportunity for mental stimulation. Whereas cats who can venture outdoors are able to use trees and other surfaces to wear down their claws, instead of relying on carpets or furniture.
Visit our cat advice page for some great ideas on ways to exercise your indoor cat!
Do all cats scratch furniture?
Yes – whether your cat loves to stay cosy indoors or enjoys adventuring outdoors, they’ll need to manage their claw length and condition through scratching.
Thanks to the health benefits provided by scratching, your cat will do their best to exercise that instinct whenever they can.
Remember: Older cats, or those with health problems, may struggle to wear their claws down properly through scratching, and might need to have their claws clipped by a vet.
Tips to stop your cat from scratching furniture
Luckily, there are lots of actions you can take to discourage your cat from destroying furniture with their claws!
Before we continue, it’s important to note that the declawing of cats isn’t an option for stopping your cat from scratching furniture, because it’s illegal in the UK. The Animal Welfare Act 2006 recognises that declawing (complete removal of a cat’s claws) is a form of mistreatment and has a negative impact on feline welfare.
Please note: It’s never acceptable to punish your cat for scratching furniture either; in fact, punishing your cat could cause them to scratch furniture more, due to stress and anxiety.
Do cat scratch sprays work?
You should always seek expert advice – from a vet or qualified feline behaviourist – before using an anti-scratch spray to deter your cat from scratching furniture.
If you decide a deterrent spray might work to stop your cat from tearing the fabric of your furnishings, make sure it’s safe for use and recommended by vets.
An alternative to anti-scratch spray is a vet-approved diffuser that plugs into an electrical socket, spreading a calming scent all day and night.
Clean the area they’ve scratched
Pay attention to places your cat prefers to scratch and thoroughly clean that piece of furniture, curtain, or section of carpet using a non-toxic disinfectant, to remove their scent.
By completely removing your feline friend’s odour from the area they’ve scratched, they won’t feel such a strong need to keep ‘strengthening’ the power of their scent.
Protect your furniture
It may look a little odd, though if you cover your furniture in plastic wrapping, your cat will find it less appealing to scratch!
Keep them entertained
Carving time out of your busy day to play with your feline friend could decrease their desire to destroy your furniture with their claws.
If they’re engaged in whatever game you’re playing with them, your cat may be too occupied to think about ruining the rug or clawing at the carpet.
Provide an alternative scratching post
Offering an alternative is the best way to stop your cat from scratching your furniture!
It’s widely agreed that setting up a scratching post is the most effective strategy for redirecting your cat’s energy onto something that’s designed to be scratched.
Scratching posts and mats
Be prepared to trial different types of scratching posts before finding the perfect one for your feline friend. Your cat is an individual, so they’ll probably have preferences as to the design, type, and material of any scratching posts you provide for them.
Top tip: Place your feline friend’s scratching post somewhere they already like to use their claws (e.g. beside the sofa), or put it next to their favourite snoozing spot.
To help your cat enjoy their new scratching post, here are some considerations:
- Sturdiness – Whichever style scratching post you choose, it should be sturdy and strong enough to safely support your cat’s weight.
- Cat tree – A scratching post will be more appealing to your feline friend if it offers different levels for them to explore.
- Reach – Your cat should be able to stretch fully while using the scratching post.
- Amount – If you have more than one cat, it’s important to set up a scratching post each, plus a spare!
- Treats – A tasty treat or two may be needed to persuade your cat to approach their new scratching post, after they’ve had time to investigate it themselves.
- Catnip – Should treats fail to work, consider using a little catnip to coax your cat towards a scratching post if they’re cautious of it.
- Have fun – Make the scratching post a fun place to be, by having your cat chase their favourite fishing rod toy around it.
Don’t forget to give your cat lots of praise for using a scratching post, instead of your furniture, to sharpen their claws!
What to do if your cat won’t stop scratching furniture
If you’ve tried to discourage your cat from clawing at furniture, yet find that nothing has worked, here are a few options for what to do next:
- Relieve your feline friend’s anxiety about any new cats in your household, by following the advice in our guide to introducing two cats.
- Contact an online vet service – like Joii Pet Care – who can provide advice and support, without the worry of travelling your cat to a vet practice.
- Book an appointment with your vet.
- Get a recommendation from your vet for a qualified cat behaviourist who could help.