Even the most docile cats have natural instincts that surface in some interesting ways. Which might be meowing up a storm up at night, pouncing on a moving toy…or scratching furniture. But why do our feline friends get so claw-happy anyway? And more importantly: how to stop a cat from scratching your couch, doors, and carpets?
Now if you’ve found your most recent IKEA masterpiece a target of their claws, we’ve got you covered. In this post, we’re going to dive into how to stop your cat from scratching your furniture, why they do it, and 9 practical steps you can take to redirect their energy. Let’s go!
Table of contents
- Why do cats tend to scratch things in the first place?
- Scratching helps cats mark their territory
- Scratching keeps their claws sharp
- Scratching helps your cat get a nice stretch
- A stressed out cat might scratch things more often
- How to get your cat to stop scratching your furniture
- Provide your cat a scratch-friendly alternative
- Reward your cat when they scratch the “right” spots
- Use a cat-friendly deterrent on your furniture
- Keep your cat’s claws trimmed
- Use soft paws or nail caps on your cat’s nails
- Use furniture covers or slipcovers
- Use a scent repellent on your furniture
- Help your cat reduce their stress
- Redirect your cat’s scratching outdoors
- What to do if your cat refuses to use a scratching post
- Familiarize your cat with their “new” scratch area
- Experiment with different shapes, sizes & materials
- Rub a treat near the scratch post
- Try multiple scratching items
- Build a scratch-free household with these 9 simple tips
Why do cats tend to scratch things in the first place?
Cats scratch things as a result of their natural instincts.1 They might also do so for a bunch of reasons – from marking their territory, to stress, and more. So while it may be frustrating to come home and find your new couch covered in claw marks, here are a couple of reasons why our feline friends get scratchy in the first place:
Scratching helps cats mark their territory
Cats have scent glands on their paws – so leaving scratches is how they indicate their presence and territory to other cats. It leaves both a visual and olfactory signal that communicates their boundaries and place in the complex feline social hierarchy.2
You might be more likely to see this in multi-cat households, where everyone’s busy showing each other who’s boss. But you’ll also see this in the wild – for example, one of the ways tigers mark their territory is by leaving scratch marks on trees.
Scratching keeps their claws sharp
Scratching helps cats shed the outer layers of their nails, which help keep them healthy and sharp. Unfortunately, without any other surface available, they might end up doing so on your curtains, couch, or carpet.
In many ways, your cat still thinks they’re a lion or a leopard in the wild – and wild cats (including big cats) also tend to scratch trees to keep their claws sharp. It helps them hunt more easily and take down prey quicker.
Scratching helps your cat get a nice stretch
Cats stretch way out and flex their bodies while scratching, which can actually help them get a bit of exercise.3 Unfortunately, they might just end up scratching your couch or carpet if that’s the only surface available for them. We cover a few ways you can protect your furniture from scratching a bit further below.
A stressed out cat might scratch things more often
Your cat might engage in scratching behavior when they’re stressed, frustrated, or have a ton of pent-up energy. They might experience this as a result of being cooped up indoors for too long or if they’re experiencing a massive change in routine. (Like when you move houses or introduce a new pet or person to them.) You might also hear them meowing, or even crying excessively to get your attention.
Now with these reasons in mind, here are a couple of practical ways to stop your cat from scratching on furniture – and redirect their energy elsewhere.
How to get your cat to stop scratching your furniture
Your cat still thinks they’re a hunter stalking prey and patrolling their territory in the wild. So let’s meet them halfway and work with their instincts, not against them. Here are some practical, proactive steps to redirect their scratching instinct – away from your household furniture: