Let me start by saying that I have three cats. That doesn’t make me an authority when it comes to cat behavior — I certainly have some furniture damage thanks to my fuzzy little feline friends (I’m looking at a frazzled chair right now) — but I have found some methods that work better than others over the years, and I’ve enlisted the help of veterinarians in order to come up with solutions.
The bottom line with cats clawing at furniture is that you’ll never stop it completely unless you remove their claws, which most veterinarians will no longer do. That’s because it is potentially unsafe for cats who get outside and can’t defend themselves, and because it’s now considered somewhat inhumane (more on that later).
Scratching is an instinctive behavior that helps cats shed the outer layers of their claws, mark their territory (they have scent glands around their pads), exercise and stretch, and, as in the case of my orange tabby, Fred, to get attention. Bad kitty! Bad!
Here are six methods you can use to help limit the damage your cat or cats can do to your furniture.
1. Get scratching posts. Lots of them
Yes, you’re going to look like a crazy cat lady or guy with cat towers, posts and lounges sprinkled around your home, but giving cats an alternative to your furniture is one of the best ways to keep them from ripping apart your sofa. You’ll want to have two or three in each room you have scratchable furniture, positioned near the pieces they like to scratch the most.
2. Buy heavy-duty, double-sided tape
Cats hate sticky things, especially on their paws, so adhering double-sided tape to the areas they like to scratch the most can help keep them away from your prized possessions. But they’re going to need an alternative, so you’re inevitably going to buy those scratching posts mentioned above. Bonus: The tape helps trap fur.
3. Use deterrent sprays
I honestly haven’t had much luck with these. There are lots of products on the market, however, so if you’re really opposed to covering your armchair sides and back in sticky tape, you may want to try several and see what works. There are also plenty of recipes online for making your own if you want to keep your costs down.
4. Trim their claws
If your cat is docile enough to let you hold them while extending and trimming their claws, have at it. Trimmers are available online and at most vets. Personally, it sounds about as manageable with my cats as giving them a bath in the tub. Not gonna happen. Most vets also offer claw trimming services, but since it needs to be done roughly once per week, the time and money spent can add up pretty quickly.
5. Get cat nail caps
I’ve known people who’ve had tremendous luck with applying glue-on, rubber cat claw caps to their cats’ nails, but it’s really only feasible for cats who stay indoors. Like declawing, tips can severely limit your cat’s ability to defend himself, and cat claw covers are a controversial solution.
6. Buy tough leather, wood and metal furniture
Cats typically only scratch on fabrics and carpet, though some will go to town on your wooden table legs if they don’t have other options. If you want furniture that is virtually indestructible when it comes to cat scratching, avoid fabrics and soft leathers throughout your home.
A few don’ts
You have a lot of options when it comes to keeping your cat from scratching furniture. Whichever you decided on, though, stay away from these three choices.
While a lot of people use water bottles to spray their cats when they do something destructive, most veterinarians urge cat parents to avoid their use. As cat behaviorist Pam Johnson-Bennett writes, spray bottles can quickly diminish your relationship with your cat. It frustrates your cat, causes him or her to become afraid of you, and, because cats are so smart, just makes them avoid you and wait until you aren’t around to do the thing they want to do. Like scratching up your furniture.
As we mentioned earlier, most veterinarians no longer offer this procedure, and some state legislatures have even floated bills outlawing it.
If your cat is simply wreaking havoc on your home, you may be tempted to just give up and take him or her to the pound. Try to remember that you made the choice to bring this companion into your home, and by so doing, made a pact that you would care for them as best as you can. You may have to alter your lifestyle or furnishings a bit to do that. Talk to your vet or to a cat behaviorist (your vet can probably hook you up) about solutions before you say goodbye.