How To Stop Your Adult Cat From Scratching Furniture

Stop your adult cat from scratching your furniture and other inappropriate items with these easy steps.

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Scratching is a way for your cat to mark his territory. kershawj/iStock/Thinkstock
Rita Reimers

If you’ve never owned a cat before, an adult is the perfect choice. You are giving a cat a second chance, and in return, you get a kitty who has already been through those high-energy, mischievous years. But you might be surprised, and confused, if your new friend decides to shred the sofa, making you wonder if you made the right decision bringing him home.

Cat Scratching Is Normal
Let me assure you, your cat’s behavior is not uncommon. Scratching is part of every cat’s life, so it’s important to understand why cats scratch in the first place.

Using those nails helps your cat to strengthen the muscles in his paws, while at the same time shedding the dead outer layers of the claws to keep them clean and new.

Scratching is also how your cat claims territory — by using the scent glands in his paws to leave his mark. His new territory is your home, and your cat is staking his claim on the areas he likes best.

It’s also part of a cat’s natural hunting instincts to keep his claws ready for the next big pursuit. It feels good to him when he scratches things, and is not something a cat can live without doing.

Discourage Inappropriate Cat Scratching
Foremost on your mind is stopping the inappropriate scratching on your sofa, chairs and rugs. But how do you allow this needed behavior while stopping him from destroying your furniture? It’s really as simple as offering your cat more appropriate places to sharpen his claws and exercise those paws, while making the other places unappealing to him.

Protect items like sofas and chairs from your cat’s nails by covering the furniture with plastic. This will make it impossible for your cat’s claws to take hold of the slippery surface. Also, put double-sided sticky tape on your chair and sofa edges. The tape will cause your cat to avoid clawing those items, since cats don’t like the sticky feel on their feet. Spraying sofas and carpets with an orange-scented spray will also keep kitty away, as most cats do not like the smell of citrus.

Should you find your cat clawing the places you’d rather he didn’t touch, clap your hands or throw a toy for him to chase to distract your cat. And have ready some appropriate scratching alternatives, so you can guide your cat to those good scratching places instead.

Encourage Appropriate Cat Scratching
Providing scratching posts, pads and boxes will delight your cat and save your furniture from his claws.

There are many different types of scratching posts available, so observe how your cat uses his claws to help you choose the best one for him. If he is a rug scratcher, a flat vertical scratching pad or box would work best. Cats who like to claw your sofa would best enjoy a horizontal scratching post. A cat tree can serve double-duty by offering another place for your cat to scratch. You may also want to try different textures, such as rope, knobby fabric or cardboard, until you find the one that will satisfy his need scratch.

Deciding where to place the scratching post is important, too. Put it in a place that is central to the action in your home, a place where your cat likes to hang out with you and your family. If you tuck it away in another room, chances are your cat won’t go out of his way to find and use it.

Attract your cat to the scratching post using some catnip, or by leading him toward it with a toy or treats. Whenever he uses his scratching post, give him praise and a yummy treat as a reward. Turn it into a positive and exciting experience for him and he will repeat using the scratching post with ease, giving his paws a good workout and keeping his nails filed to perfection.

Clip Those Nails
One of the best things you can do to discourage unwanted cat scratching is to keep your cat’s nails trimmed. Clipping the nails regularly will render them relatively harmless should your cat decide to scratch in an unwanted place. You can take your cat to a vet or groomer to have them trimmed, or you can learn to do it yourself at home. If you’ve never clipped a cat’s nails before, ask your veterinarian to show you exactly how to cut them.

Alternatively, nail caps can be placed over your cat’s front claws, making his nails harmless to the objects in your home. You can put them on your cat at home, or you can have your veterinarian or groomer do it for you. Nail caps last about 6 weeks and come in many fun colors, too.

Beware Of Boredom
Boredom can also cause your cat to create his own excitement by attacking your furniture, enabling him to release his pent-up energy. Play with your cat daily to ensure he is tired and ready for bed at the end of the day, so he won’t stay up late into the night redecorating your house with his claws.

Giving your cat lots of love and playtime may be important to prevent boredom, but, more importantly, it also strengthens the bond between you.

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Article Categories:
Behavior and Training · Cats


  • Thanks for the article. I must say however that I have read the exact same basic article on many other websites as well. The problem is, none of those solutions actually resolve the issue. They are all temporary measures that you must keep on top of forever and ever and if you stop for even a little while like half a second, the cats will do the same thing over again. So calling it out as an easy solution and then listing off the standard items that are available is not really giving anyone a solution, just workarounds that are everlasting and tedious and expensive. The best solution is to have plans to save money for replacement furniture that is less prone to total devastation from scratching, saving money by not investing too much in all the gimmicks that don’t solve anything.

    Jeremy February 21, 2016 6:30 pm Reply
  • Cats need to scratch, there is no getting around that. So giving them appropriate places to scratch while making the no-no places as unappealing as possible is really the best way to redirect scratching behaviors. I live with multiple cats, and after the learn where it is OK scratch and where is NOT ok to scratch, they really don’t scratch my furniture. These tips have helped quite a few of my clients as well. Keeping up with nail grooming and offering fresh scratching posts, pads, and boxes will keep those paws away from the furniture.

    Rita Rita March 3, 2016 8:15 pm Reply

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