Cats are lovable pets, their antics entertaining and deeply memeable–but they can also be real jerks when they want to be. Scratching the furniture is one thing our feline friends often have a particularly infuriating penchant for, and it might not surprise you to learn that there’s no foolproof way to stop them from scratching entirely. The good news is that you can definitely minimize the damage, and encourage less destructive behaviors.
Offer your cat an alternative
The first thing to do if your cat is scratching the furniture is to give them an alternative they will enjoy more. Cats will often choose something they like better than your couch if it’s offered, so take notice of their scratching preferences to figure out what they might be attracted to. If they tend to scratch up and down, getting a vertical scratching post makes the most sense. If they tend to go for the carpet, a mat-shaped scratcher is more appropriate. Some cats will do both, in which case, a scratcher with multiple sides or levels will work best.
Place your scratcher strategically
Just getting a scratching post isn’t necessarily going to be enough—you have to put it somewhere the cats like to hang out. Cats tend to scratch to stretch, relieve stress, and leave their scent behind. If they have a favorite windowsill or spot to nap, putting the scratcher in an area they already consider to be “their” territory will help attract them to the toy instead of the furniture. Making sure that the scratcher is stable and comfortable for the cat to get to is also a requirement for a successful transition from household destruction.
Use chemical persuasion
If your cat needs more convincing, use catnip (in the form of a spray or as dried leaves) to help redirect a cat with its heart set on ripping up an armchair. The smell will attract them, and the catnip itself can help them feel calmer, which will encourage their scratching behavior. Silvervine is another option to attract and calm a cat while stimulating a play response. Making the cat as comfortable with their new scratcher as possible will deliver the best results.
Don’t punish your cat
As you might have gathered from your own experience, cats don’t respond to punishment. They often don’t connect commands, yelling, or noise with the act of scratching. Instead, this can do is make them more anxious, and anxious cats may scratch more, creating a race to the bottom.
Use a barrier
You can deter cats from scratching using strategically placed blankets, towels, or other fabric draped over their favorite scratching spot. Some cats will give up and go after something else when they realize it’s too much trouble to get at their usual spot, or if the surface they’re used to is suddenly too soft. (This can save the problem areas, but it won’t work with indiscriminate shredders.)
Dull those nails
For cats seemingly determined to rip up all the exposed fabric they can access, nail caps might help you save at least some of your furniture. These are slippery caps that slide on over your cat’s natural nails, sort of like fake nails for humans, dulling their tips and preventing them from doing too much damage. Perhaps you are already laughing at the thought of getting your cat to sit still long enough to get apply some fake nails, so I’ll point out that this solution isn’t for everyone.
Don’t declaw your cat
Sometimes, it might make the most sense to simply sacrifice a piece of furniture for the greater good, allowing the cat to get out all its destructive energy in one spot. Many cats will scratch less as they age, or be slowly persuaded away from furniture with a scratcher they can really fall in love with. But whatever you do, don’t have your cat declawed. The procedure is painful for your feline companion, and has negative impacts for their health long-term. Cats have evolved to scratch, and if you own one, they will eventually scratch something you don’t want them to. Enticing a cat to scratch something better than the couch is your best bet.