When cats start destroying expensive furniture, this can be really frustrating. Leather furniture is expensive and isn’t replaced very often, so damage must be avoided.
Instead of trying to stop this behavior, you should redirect your cat to a scratching post. Use catnip, scent-marking, and encouragement to re-enforce your feline’s new behavior.
Due to misinformation, some cat scratching ‘treatments’ make the situation worse. Cat claw covers and cat repellent sprays cause stress to the cat, potentially leading to more scratching. So, if you want to stop your cat from clawing the furniture in a constructive way, follow the tips below.
Why Do Cats Scratch the Leather Furniture?
Cats scratch the furniture for a variety of reasons, but most commonly to sharpen their claws. Periodically, cats must remove the dead outer layers from their claws. If they don’t, the claws will become long, painful, and difficult to retract. Scratching also has the following benefits:
- Feeling Secure – When they sharpen their claws, cats release a scent which helps them to feel more safe and secure in their surroundings. A cat that feels secure will be calmer and happier.
- Improved Muscle Tone – Cats rarely get an opportunity to tone their back and shoulder muscles, except when scratching an upright surface. Good muscle tone helps cats stay strong and agile in older age.
Cats who go outdoors may sharpen their claws on fences, trees or stone paving slabs. Cats who live indoors have fewer opportunities to scratch their claws so may end up tearing the furniture.
Is it Normal for Cats to Scratch Furniture?
For the reasons mentioned above, scratching and clawing the furniture is a “normal” cat behavior. In fact, it is expected in cats who are contained indoors.
However, frantic scratching can be a sign of chronic stress, illness or extreme boredom. If your cat’s scratching has become excessive, they may have an underlying condition.
Why Do Cats Claw Leather Couches?
Leather couches seem to incur the most damage from cats’ claws. But why do cats like to claw leather so much? Cats seem to like leather because it is a very sturdy material.
The leather used in leather couches is made of fine and densely packed fibers. This means cats can really sink their claws into the material and slough off the dead outer layer of the claw in one dragging motion. So, cats scratching leather may be able to remove the outer sheath of their claws more efficiently.
Also, leather seems to absorb new smells quite easily so cats may find it more satisfying to scent mark on a leather sofa.
Remove Cat Scent from Furniture
If you want to protect your furniture from any further damage, the first step will be to clean the leather. Cats leave their scent on furniture to help them feel more secure in the home.
This scent is comforting because they recognize it as their own. Cats will return to areas they have scent marked at a later time. By washing off the cat’s scent, you’ll be dissuading this behavior.
Follow these tips when washing scent marks off your leather furniture:
- Vacuum the furniture to remove all debris. If there is a brush attachment on the vacuum, it is best to use this.
- Dust the furniture with a microfiber cloth; focus on dust trapped in the claw marks.
- Combine equal parts white vinegar with (room temperature) water. Soak a cloth in the liquid, ring out, and wipe down the furniture; pay close attention to anywhere your cat has punctured the furniture.
- Wipe the furniture clean with a dry cloth and leave to dry for several hours.
This will remove your cat’s scent from the furniture and discourage them from returning.
Protect the Furniture from Cat Scratches
The best way to protect your furniture is to redirect your cat’s behavior elsewhere. In addition, you have the option to cover your furniture. Options include:
- Throws and Blankets – Choose thick, old blankets that you don’t mind getting scratched. These can be draped over the ends of the couch, as many cats scratch the ends/feet of the couch. Blankets can sometimes be pulled down by cats if they are not secured.
- Cat Scratch Guard for Leather Couch – These are adhesive tabs placed on the ends of couches. They don’t look attractive, but they do protect the problem areas cats usually go for.
- Couch Slip Covers – These tend to stay in place better than a throw or blanket would. If you have a non-standard sized couch, it can be hard finding a suitable slip cover.
- Add a Step – Kittens or small cats sometimes cause damage to the sofa because they clamber up to sit on it. If that’s the case, try positioning a footstool or other small piece of furniture near the sofa so they can jump up.
These protective items can become a bit irritating if you use your furniture regularly.
Is There a Furniture Spray to Repel Cats?
Your first thought might be to spray a repellant on the furniture to stop your cat from clawing. A home remedy is to add some lemon essential oil to water and spray this on the furniture.
The PDSA disapproves of this for two reasons. Firstly, lemon oil does repel cats, but that’s because it is toxic and potentially harmful to cats. Secondly, excluding cats from some regions of the house can create stress and anxiety (especially if they were previously allowed in those spaces).
You’d probably prefer your cat to be happy in your home, rather than on edge. It’s better to convince them to scratch elsewhere than force them to change their behavior. Convincing a cat to scratch elsewhere can be a challenge, but it is not impossible. Let’s explore the critical steps involved.
Provide a Scratching Post
If your cat lives indoors, scratch posts are necessary. When purchasing a scratching post, consider the following:
- A Sturdy Post – Look for a post that won’t get knocked over. Part of the reason cats choose furniture to scratch is that it’s heavy and supportive.
- 90cm Tall – Look for a post that is at least 90cm tall. Most cats like to scratch in a vertical position, so they’ll appreciate having plenty of height.
- Sisal Fabric – Sisal fabric (as opposed to sisal rope) seems to be the preferred choice for cats.
- One Each – If you have a multi-cat household, each cat should have their own scratching post. Two each usually works best.
- Sofa Protection Units – You can purchase standalone scratching posts that wrap around the legs of the couch.
My Cat Is Not Using the Scratching Post
Many owners buy a scratching post only to find their cat is not interested. Perhaps you already have one of these posts in your home, but your cat ignores it. If your cat is still tearing up the furniture even after purchasing a scratching post, consider the following tips:
1) Place Near Sleeping Spot
Most cats like to stretch and scratch as soon as they wake up so try placing the scratch post near your cat’s bed. If your cat sleeps near the leather furniture, you could try to relocate them to a new sleeping spot (or move the furniture).
2) Think About the Exits
Place the scratching post near to an exit and not too close to a wall. Cats feel vulnerable during scratching and may want to make a quick getaway.
3) Scent Marking (Pheromones)
Cats release a scent when they scratch. Once the post becomes marked with their scent, this helps them feel secure, and they are more likely to return to it.
You can try adding your cat’s scent to the post, either by gently swiping their paw down the post (if they will tolerate it) or wiping a cloth around their cheeks and then wiping this onto the scratch post.
It can take time for cats to learn how to use a scratch post. Every time you see your cat scratching the furniture, pick them up and place them in front of the scratch post. Try to be consistent and avoid shouting at your kitty when they get it wrong.
Place different scratching posts throughout the house. It may help to provide a mix of vertical posts and horizontal scratching pads.
Most cats find catnip irresistible so look for a scratching post that contains catnip. Alternatively, you could take some fresh or dry catnip and rub this on the outside of the scratching post.
7) Pheromone Spray
Products such as Feliscratch (from Feliway) can be sprayed on the scratching post to entice your cat to use it. This spray only works for kittens or newly adopted cats; it doesn’t work for cats who are already scratching the furniture in a particular household.
Overall, try to be patient with your cat because learning a new behavior does take time. If the above tips don’t work, you may need to look at your home environment and see if anything might be stressing your cat.
How to Distract your Cat from Clawing the Furniture
Some cats are prone to scratching when bored. To manage this, try to offer a selection of toys and fun activities for your pet. Toys that stimulate clawing and scratching are the best. Some good options include:
- Food Puzzles – These exercise the paws and keep a cat entertained for long periods.
- Feather Toys – Feathers are light and delicate so cats must contract their claws quickly when chasing them. This provides an excellent paw workout.
- String Cat Toys – Anything that gets a cat chasing and pouncing will help burn off energy and reduce the chances of destructive scratching.
- Scratching Post with a Ball on a String – Some scratch posts incorporate toys into them; these can be a great choice if your cat is tearing up the furniture.
Remember to play with your cat daily; small bursts of play work best (5-10 minutes at a time). Where possible, try to play with them around dawn and dusk because this would be ‘hunting time’ if they were living in the wild.
Should I Trim My Cat’s Claws?
Another option could be to get your cat’s claws clipped. Generally, if a cat is healthy and active and has plenty of opportunity to scratch, they shouldn’t need their claws clipped.
However, it can be a good option for cats who have mobility issues and cannot scratch freely. It may also be a good option for cats who scratch excessively.
It’s easier to get cats to tolerate claw-clipping if they are introduced to it at a young age. Older cats can have their claws clipped, but it’s best to ask a vet or cat grooming specialist to do this for you.
When You Should See a Vet
Though scratching is a natural cat behavior, there are some occasions when you should see a vet. These include:
- A sudden increase in scratching, and more damage to the furniture than usual.
- If your cat is scratching their own body frequently.
- If your cat is clawing your skin regularly (unprovoked).
- Other changes in behavior such as toileting problems, hiding for long periods, aggression or meowing incessantly.
- Your cat’s claws are very long, broken or split.
Physical health conditions cause some of these symptoms whereas others are caused by anxiety. Either way, these symptoms should be investigated by a vet.
What Not to Do If Your Cat Is Scratching the Couch
If your cat starts destroying expensive furniture, this can be really frustrating. It’s easy to lose your temper but try to avoid doing this. You should never do the following:
- Punish your Cat – Do not shout at your cat or spray water at them if you catch them in the act. Instead, pick your cat up and take them to their scratching post. Do not tell them off after the incident either because this will be perceived as threatening behavior. The more stressed and anxious your cat becomes, the more likely they are to scratch.
- Do Not Declaw Your Cat – It is unnecessary and will stop your cat from expressing their natural behavior.
- Never Use Cat Claw Covers – Claw covers are cruel. According to Battersea, these should never be applied to cats as they will cause discomfort and may lead to injury.
Can You Repair Cat Scratches on Leather Furniture?
If your cat has torn up the couch, you needn’t worry too much because leather can be fixed. It can be fixed with at-home repair products. The process usually involves:
- Trimming the damage
- Binding the area using a leather binder
- Sanding the area down and applying a heavy filler
- Sanding it down again and applying colorant (several coats are required)
Repairs can be done relatively easily at home, especially If your leather is a standard color. Once you’ve got your leather looking brand new again, be sure to follow the tips mentioned in this article.
Furniture that Cats Won’t Scratch
When it comes to renewing your couch, you may consider a more cat-friendly material. While leather is easy to keep clean, it is very satisfying for cats to claw, so it can become easily damaged. Cats will claw all sorts of different fabrics, but you might have better luck with the following:
- Micro-suede & Ultrasuede – These are types of microfiber that are very popular for home furnishings. Because they are ultra-soft, these materials aren’t that desirable for cats to claw.
- Velvet – Claw marks don’t seem to show up very clearly in velvet. So, even if your cat does claw the velvet, it stays looking new for longer.
How to Stop Cats from Clawing the Couch
We’ve reviewed the various causes of scratching and how to minimize damage to your furniture. As mentioned, you shouldn’t be trying to stop scratching altogether. Instead, you should be re-directing the scratching elsewhere and reducing stress and boredom. To recap:
- Wash all leather furniture to remove scent marks.
- Purchase at least 1 scratching post per cat; these must be sturdy and at least 90cm tall.
- If your cat doesn’t take to the scratching post immediately, experiment with scent marking, positive reinforcement, and catnip but do not resort to telling off.
- To ensure your cat is relaxed and not too bored, play with them regularly and rotate their toys.
- If the scratching becomes very destructive and you have seen no improvements despite these interventions, your cat may be stressed or sick. If no sources of stress can be identified, take your cat to the vet for a checkup.
Be gentle with your cat and try to encourage rather than force change. If you do this, you’re less likely to cause further issues such as spraying, aggression, or social isolation.