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Cat Scratching Furniture: What You Need to Know

(C) Copyright 2009 by

Cats are great pets. They love to play, they love to cuddle when you are watching TV or sleeping, and they purr for no reason other than being near you. But they also love to scratch. Unfortunately, the things they love to scratch are often the legs of your antique table, your upholstered sofa, or your expensive carpet.

Although many humans do not appreciate when their cats scratch, you have to know that kittens and cats do not scratch to be bad or to make us angry, they have a physiological need to scratch. Scratching is a natural hardwired behavior in cats, just like breathing and purring, and every cat owner must know WHY CATS SCRATCH. Once you understand this, there are very effective techniques that can be used to train your cat not to scratch the furniture, and to re-direct the scratching behavior to more appropriate locations. We'll cover that momentarily.

In the wild, cats scratch around their immediate environment to markt their territory: to signal their presence to other cats and to claim the area in question. The marking takes two forms: visual and olfactory. The visual is in the form of clawing marks and is so obvious that even we humans can recognise it. The olfactory mark is subtler, involving the release of pheromones. These are substances secreted from the body to be picked up by a member of the same species, causing them to know that the territory belongs to someone else.

Scratching has other necessary functions for a cat too. It removes the nail sheaths or outer layer of dead cells from the claw; a cats nails begin to feel very itchy when it is time for the nail sheath to come off, and scratching relieves this. Some people think a  cat is sharpening her claws when she scratches, but in fact, it actually provides her with a form of physical therapy for the muscles and tendons of her paws.

There are two groups of scratching targets for the typical cat. The first is usually near important territorial areas such as: sleeping area, eating area, litter box, and hunting or play areas. The second is where your cat probably undertakes more widespread and destructive scratching - highly visible areas such as: doorways, windows, prominent furniture - like the sofa.

How to Stop Your Cat From Scratching Furniture

1. Faced with cat scratching problems, many people consider declawing surgery. But declawing is a very painful procedure which requires the pet to suffer through a very long and extended recovery time (weeks or extended pain). Many veterinarians feel declawing is inhumane and unnecessary and refuse to do it for this reason. Instead, they advocate training your cat to use a scratching post. The fact is, any and every cat can be trained to use a scratching post, and to stop scratching furniture. The training process is really quite straight forward, you just need to know what to do, and be willing to apply a little patience during your cat's learning procss.

2. Make sure there are multiple scratching opportunities within your home. Cats often like to scratch after eating and sleeping, so be sure there is something to scratch near where they eat and sleep. A scratching post is an excellent investment for your cat. It will allow her to scratch, stretch and exercise all at once. If you want to provide your cat not only with scratching surfaces, but places where she can climb, play, perch and sleep,  consider a "cat tree" - most cats absolutely love to use these, especially if they are agile and active cats.

3. When you observe your cat scratching the furniture, it is time to re-direct the behavior. Never hit your cat or get physical with her in any other way. This is not effective, and in fact, is counterproductive because it causes the cat to feel alienated from you and distrusting of you. Instead, stop your cat from scratching with a firm "No!". You shouldnt yell and scream, because again this will merely teach the cat to be frightening of you, but not help her to understand about the scratching behavior. Instead just speak very firmly, like you're the boss. Then take the cat (without 'manhandling' her or being rough, as this, again, will defeat the purpose and dilute the learning opportunity) over to the nearest scatching post or scratching board , show it to her, and encourage her to scratch there. The most highly recommended menthod for enouragement is to simply use your own finger nails to simulate a scratching motion on the scratching post. Its typicall not effective to try rubbing the cats paws on the scratching post, because this is often uncomfortable for them, so its hardly a good way to encourage them to do it. Every cat is different, so you need to find the technique that is most effective for getting the mesage to your cat that this is where she should scratch. When showing her the scratching post, its important to use a pleasant and reassuring tone of voice to help her understand. If she gets the idea right away and scratches the scratching post, give her praise for to positively reinforce this behavior. Tell her she's good, pat her if this is what she likes, or give a cat treat. During the training phase, every time you see her scratch her scratching boards, she should be rewarded with praise and treats, to reinforce the message that this is good. Soon she will notice the pattern, and she will gravitate towards those places for scratching, rather than the ones where she is reprimanded. This can take different lengths of time for different cats. Be patient while they are learning - they WILL get the hang of it if you follow the proper training procedure as described.

4. During the training phase, you can protect your furniture from damage and  discourage your cat from scratching it by covering it with something your cat does not like: double sided tape or sheets of  aluminium foil. Many cats really dislike the feeling and sound of foil, and most cats hate things that stick to their fur. Double-sided sticky tape used in carpet installation works well, but be sure the tape won’t harm your cat or furniture.  Most large pet supply stores sell a wonderful training product known as "sticky paws" (some stores may not sell it under this name, but may have a similar product). This is a clear double-sided sticky tape made especially for putting onto your furniture in the spots where the cat tends to scratch. When she goes to scratch and encounters the tape there, she will lose all interest in scratching there - if not after the first time, then after teh second or third.And she wont be able to damage in that spot in the meantime. Tthe tape is clear, so when you afix it to your furniture, you won't even see it unless you really know what you are looking for. It is also sold in large sheets (about 8 1/2 X 11 inches) if you have larger areas you need to discourage your cat from scratching. People who try this product swear by it. After a period of time, you can remove the sticky stuff, and your cat will not show interest in scratching there again, as long as you have provided her with an appropriate scratching post or board for her to use, and consistently given her positive reinforcement, and praise to reassure her that this is good.

5. Keep your cat metally stimulated and offer her plenty of opportunity for exercise by playing with her and interacting. She will have less opportunity to be destructive. If your cat is frustrated and bored, she may feel the need to scratch more in order to burn off that energy. Give her enough play time. Cats are motivated by smell, sound, texture and movement. The toys you use should aim to cover all these aspects. Discover your cat’s preferences by presenting a variety different toys made from different materials and watch her reaction to gauge her preferences.

6. Trimming your cat's nails regularly is important. It may help reduce the frequency and intensity at which she needs to scratch, because it will help elimnate that itchy senstation the cat experiences when the nail sheath needs to come off. Trimmed nails will also do less damage to furniture if she does slip up and scratch in the wrong place. Get your kitten used to having her nails clipped once a week while she is young, praise her while you clip the nail and reward her with a yummy kitty treat. Its a good idea to make it a habit of gently massaging your cats paws as a regular part of cuddle time when you are sitting with her. This will get her accustomed to and comfortable with having her paws handled, and will make her paws less senstive when you try to trim her nails.

7. During the training phase you can also booby trap the furniture with a soda can with some pennies in it, so that if cat scratches in that location, she is likely to knock over the can and be alarmed by the noise. Use a doorknob alarm on your curtains if she has a habit of scratching these. When pinned to the drapes, the alarm will sound every time your cat tries to use curtains as a ladder.

8. Consider a window perch for your feline friend to help prevent her from scratching out of  frustration. It will give your cat hours of entertainment - especially if you place a bird or squirrel feeder in the garden outside the window. Be sure the window is closed so your pet won’t fall out.

9. When you catch your cat scratching furniture, try squirting her in the rear (never the face) with a water pistol or squirt bottle and use a firm ‘no’. Of course, this won’t stop your cat when you are not around.

10. If your cat is gaining access to a high bookcase by leaping from a nearby chair, move the chair. Without her launchpad, your cat will no longer be able to reach her perch.

11. There are training devices that keep cats away from or off of forbidden areas by making alarming sounds. They are available at pet supply stores, catalogs and websites that sell cat training devices. One such device is terrific for teaching cats not to scratch the corner of the sofa, etc. You simply place the device, which is roughly the shape and size of a soda can, on the floor near the location where she tends to scratch; when she heads over to her favorite corner of the sofa for a scratch, the device sets off a powerful burst of air which makes a loud hissing sound. The cat get instantly alarmed and flees the area. They detest this and after just a couple of times they will lose interest in scratching that location.

13. If your cat still scratches in inappropriate places, bitter orange or bitter apple spray,s old in pet supply stores for training purposes,  can be applied to the furniture to dissuade her from scratching those places.

All forms of physical punishment should be avoided since they can cause fear or aggression toward the owner, and at best, the cat will only learn to stop the scratching while the owner is around.

It's unreasonable and unfair to expect cats to stop scratching entirely, but you can re-train your cat to scratch in a manner that is acceptable.  As you can see, there are a number of different techniques to use to very effectively train your cat to scratch only where appropriate. A little patience, effort and understanding on your part is all that is required.

Final note: Many times, pieces of furniture that have been clawed can be 'repaired' quite easily so that the scratching is not obvious unless carefully examined under close inspection. Once you have brought your cat's scratching behavior under control, carefully use a pair of scissors to cut the threads as close as possible to the funiture, and no one will ever know it was ever scratched. However, don't do this until your cat has learned to stop scratching that area.  If you have questions on these techniques or need further advice, please feel free to ask us.

Thank you for caring for your feline companions!


Edited by
(C) Copyright 2009 by

About the Author: Petar Petrov is founder of His site together with the cat furniture that offer, try to help people to make their cat’s life better. Visit the site and learn more about Cat Care, Cat Health, Cat Behavior, Training Cats and Cat Breeds.

This article was edited and expanded upon by


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