Muddy paws and shed hair are among the joys of cat ownership. So are scratched table legs and furniture backs. It’s all well and good until you get a new sofa or bed, and suddenly you’re fighting to keep your cats off the furniture! In this article, I thought I’d explore some ways you can stop your cats from scratching the furniture and other ways to keep the expensive things in your house cat-free.
The reason cats destroy furniture
While scratch marks on your couch may not be very fun, scratching is actually very normal and functional behavior for cats. They use it as a way of keeping their claws sharp and healthy, and to mark their territory. Not only does scratching provide visual clues to other cats that the territory is taken, but cats also have scent glands on their feet to reinforce the point that it’s a no-go-zone for other felines.
Great, but how can I keep them from scratching my stuff?
We get it, watching your new leather sofa being turned into a scratching post is not fun, and you might be tempted to tell your cat off. But remember: while we may not always like it, scratching is a normal and healthy part of cat life. It’s therefore important not to punish this behavior, as it will probably only cause confusion. We encourage you to try some of these tips instead:
1. Redirect the behaviour
Cats need to scratch to stay healthy and happy. Instead of trying to prevent scratching altogether, why not give your cat more options and places where scratching is allowed? Cats often enjoy using a scratching post, but it needs to be the right size, shape, sturdiness, and material for each individual. If you need help with that, we’ve written a blog about choosing and using the right scratching post. Our vet Hannah has discussed whether cats actually need a cat tree.
2. Remove sources of anxiety
As we mentioned earlier, scratching tends to get worse whenever cats are anxious. They try to make their home safer by leaving extra messages on their scratch posts to warn off strangers. So, getting to the bottom of your cat’s anxiety can make an impact.
If there have been changes in the house recently, it’s likely these have upset your cat – reverse what you can, and keep changes to a minimum in the future. If not, talking to a veterinarian or a feline behaviorist may help you to identify what’s making your cat anxious.
3. Protective scratch pads
One simple but highly effective solution is to buy adhesives that protect any surface against scratching. Miloona has a great product for this type of thing, they sell sheets of transparent vinyl that you can use to cover pretty much anything and prevent it from getting destroyed. Miloona’s scratch pads don’t need gluing and leave virtually no residue, which is why they’re my absolute favorite furniture protectors.
4. Try calming supplements and pheromones
Looking at the source of anxiety should always be the first step. But in some cases, you just can’t remove the changes that are upsetting your cat. One thing that can really help cats cope with a stressful environment is the use of calming supplements and pheromones. Have a talk with your vet about which supplements are best, as there are lots of options available. You may want to consider a combination of:
- Feliway classic or Comfort Zone (to help the home feel less scary)
- FeliScratch (to help redirect your cat’s scratching behavior towards something else)
- Calming aids such as Zylkene, Calex, Kalmaid or similar (these are supplements that provide important nutrients for calm brain signals)
- Pet Remedy (a valerian-based essential oil mix to help calm stressed cats)
5. Use kitty nail covers
Whilst kitty nail covers aren’t a long-term solution, they can provide short-term protection for your precious sofa whilst you work to reduce anxiety and redirect the behavior. Usually made from silicone, the caps are attached over the claws to provide a non-harmful rubber surface. Not a lot is known about the long-term safety of these covers and vets — myself included — have concerns that the claw covers may prevent the claw from retracting properly. This could cause abnormal weight-bearing and eventually arthritis.
6. Trim nails
While not a real solution, sharp claws will inflict a lot more damage to your furniture than neatly trimmed ones. Make it a habit to trim the nails of your cat with a good clipper at least once a month.
A note about declawing
In some countries, owners remove their cat’s claws in order to stop them from damaging the furniture. This is done with an operation to remove the last bone of the toe and the claw bed with it – essentially amputating the end of each toe. This procedure is painful and provides no health benefits to the cat. Apart from causing chronic pain, declawing can also cause abnormal load-bearing and increase the chance of arthritis developing.
Thankfully, many countries agree that this is unnecessary mutilation and have made it illegal to declaw a cat. Even if it’s not illegal in your country/state, many vets will refuse to do this operation for ethical reasons.
How to reduce shedding on furniture
Whilst scratching is the most common furniture-related cat problem, some people just want to avoid having cat hair all over their new suite. So what to do?
Provide a better option
Yes, the sofa or guest bed is comfortable – that’s why your cat wants to sleep there. Try to provide a more comfortable option your cat will prefer. A heated bed or radiator bed are often favorite options, but some cats will want igloo beds, or even a simple cardboard box! Some beds should be at a height so your cat has a choice – after all, the sofa provides an excellent vantage point! Make sure you have enough beds for all your cats – you don’t want to cause arguments over the radiator bed!
Discourage sofa use
If your cat still isn’t getting the hint that they’re not wanted on the sofa anymore, make the sofa gradually less comfortable. Remove cushions and blankets that they like to snuggle up with, or place something onto the cushions that mean there’s no room for the cat. They’ll soon realize there are comfier options elsewhere!
There’s no point trying your hardest to get your cat off the furniture if someone else in the house is inviting them on for a snuggle. Get the whole family together to set the ground rules, and make sure you’re consistent.
Teach an ‘off’ command
I’m not crazy, cats can be trained! Whenever you spot your cat about to leave the sofa of their own accord, use a clicker to mark the jump and say ‘off!’. Immediately give them a treat. They’ll soon associate the word ‘off’ with the action of jumping down, and you’ll be able to use this to encourage them off the sofa in a positive way.
Find ways to work around it
Cats will be cats. Whilst they’re trainable, intelligent, and generally great, sometimes they can be independent, determined, and inconsiderate. If you aren’t winning this argument with your cat, it’s ok to back out. Consider using a blanket to protect your sofa from all that fur!
Whether you’ve got guests coming or a new armchair, you might be wondering how to keep your cats off the furniture. Hopefully, these tips will help you to protect your house from those paws and claws – and all the shed hair! Good luck at keeping the peace in the house – cat and all!