Why Is Your Cat Scratching Furniture?

A cat scratching furniture may be a sign that your pet needs other outlets for maintaining their claws, relieving stress and stretching out. Rather than punishing your cat for scratching furniture, offer alternative areas for scratching, such as scratching posts, pads and cat trees.

Why do Cats Scratch Furniture?

Cats like to scratch and claw at furniture for a number of reasons.  Scratching provides a visual way to mark their own territory while also letting cats leave a scent that is released through pads on their paws. Physically, clawing is also as a way to stretch out muscles and relieve stress. While many people believe scratching allows cats to sharpen their claws, they are actually conditioning their nails by removing the outer layer on their claws.

Choosing the Right Scratching Alternative

There are many cat scratching products available to pet owners, but finding the right alternative to your couch or favorite chair will require some thought. Watch where your cat likes to scratch in your home, such as carpets, backs of couches or other areas. If he favors the floor, try a scratching pad that will allow your cat to scratch horizontally. If he prefers the couch, get a tall scratching post where he will be able to stretch out his body and claw at the vertical post.

You may want to try multiple products throughout your house to give your cat options for clawing. Buying products made of different materials, including sisal rope, carpet and cardboard, may also help.

Encouraging Your Cat to Scratch Where He Should

Physical punishments, such as spraying water at your cat when he scratches the couch, may not be an effective deterrent. Cats generally respond to positive, encouraging praise rather than negative punishment. Try these methods to encourage your cat to use his scratching post.

  • Praise your cat when he uses the post
  • Direct him to his new scratching area if you see him ready to claw the furniture
  • Try using cat nip on the post or scratching pad
  • Place the post near sleeping areas to let your cat scratch and claw after a nap
  • Keep posts in areas where your cat normally stays, especially close to furniture and objects he already scratches 
  • Buy a post with a toy attached or attach one yourself, such a squeaky mouse on a string
  • Cover furniture your cat normally scratches at until he starts using a post. Double-sided tape, plastic and aluminum foil can also prevent cats from touching off-limit furniture
  • Have patience. You may need to take the time to train your cat to use a scratching post rather than the furniture

Preventing Scratching of Furniture

Keep your cat active with daily exercise—a bored cat is more likely to scratch furniture. Buy toys that your cat can use while you are not at home or busy in the house, and try playing with your cat each day.

Also, groom and trim your cat's nails regularly to help him shed the outer nail. Start grooming routines early in your cat's life to make him comfortable with you and having his paws handled by his owner.