Why Does My Cat Love to Scratch Furniture?

Being a cat parent is so rewarding. Until they pull out their claws! No matter how much you love your cat, you don’t want them scratching up your furniture.

Mar 4, 2024By Abigail Gould
why does my cat love to scratch furniture

It’s no secret that cats and humans have very different viewpoints on the whole concept of furniture. For a cat, the thinking would be something like: “Oh look a shabby rug, torn to ribbons, how smartly done!”

It’s as if cats think they are doing you a favor by providing their personal signature on your nicest stuff. Jokes aside, what is the best way to address this difference in opinion?

Why Do Cats Scratch Furniture?

kitten rolling playing

Cats live according to their own set of biological laws. This includes the need to define their territory, communicate, protect themselves, and their need to play. That cats are house pets doesn’t change the fact that they have a primal language different from our own.

First and foremost, scratching is territorial behavior. Cats have scent glands on their paws so the clawing action releases pheromones onto surfaces as they scratch. Moreover, marking like this serves as a visual cue for other cats.

Scratching also has certain health benefits. It cleans and sharpens their claws. It helps them stretch. It even allows them to express themselves when they’re feeling threatened, stressed, or excited.

Scratching is a natural, instinctive action and there is no kind way to stop a cat from doing it completely.

Can a Cat Be Trained Not to Claw Furniture?

ginger kitten playing scratching post

Yes, cats can be trained not to scratch your furniture!

Here’s a quick made-up scenario: Your cat loves keeping you company every morning by having a good old scratch on your patio rug while you drink your coffee. You might correct this habit by providing a cat-friendly, scratchable surface next to your bespoke jute. Additionally, you would temporarily cover the rug with an old bed sheet so that your cat’s claws won’t work on it.

There are two key principles here.

The first is to provide something else that your cat will want to scratch. This must be placed in the right location for your cat. Yes, convenience is everything. So, if your cat favors the leg of a desk, the arm of a lounge suite, a rug, whatever, then that’s where you put the alternative - right in your cat’s preferred realm of activity.

The second principle is to make your things undesirable so that they stay that way - your things. Do this by covering up your furniture and belongings so that your cat literally can’t get his or her claws into them. Some options here are double-sided sticky tape, aluminum foil, sandpaper, fabric, or plastic.

alert tabby cat lying on belly

Thus, the best way to train a cat not to scratch your furniture is to provide other areas for scratching that are appropriate. These areas must be presented as extremely desirable to the feline sensibility. At the same time, your own furniture should be rendered unworthy for the purpose.

Once your cat has tried out their new scratching places and figured out that they like using them, you can consider removing the covers from your furniture. A word of caution here: don’t rush this process, you don’t want a relapse after all that effort!

An Insightful Approach to Training Your Cat

kitten playing next to boots

Since cats don’t like to be told what to do, you need to put an opportunity in front of them in a way they will want it. Remember, all training must be positive and reward-based to reinforce good behavior.

Punishment will only foster confusion in your cat, ultimately stressing them out. This may actually make the situation worse. In moments of conflict, some cats increase their defensive marking behaviors. It goes back to that instinct thing we mentioned earlier: scratching fulfills an innate need to demonstrate when something is going on with them.

Human wisdom says that since little children can be taught directly, cats should learn in the same way. So, it’s sometimes very easy to want to take your kitty’s little toe beans and gently rub them over the scratching post to ‘teach’ them. Don’t do it!

If anything, placing your cat's paws on the designated scratching post will only discourage your cat because they won’t understand the whole interaction associated with it.

Is Declawing an Option?

cat paws whiskers closeup

No, it’s not. It never is. According to the ASPCA, declawing is an unnecessary procedure that is extremely painful and results in further, often worse behavioral problems.

When a cat is declawed, a portion of the last toe digit including the nail bed and claw are all amputated together. This exposes your cat to the possibility of postoperative infection along with a variety of other medical complications down the line. This is beside the pain.

As an alternative to declawing, some pet owners opt to trim their cat's nails. This is a much safer option and less painful option.

What to Look for in a Good Scratching Post?

cat sleeping on scratching post

Cats love to scratch your furniture because it provides a beautiful combination of textures in all sorts of grains and thread counts. Not to mention interesting surface areas and fun levels!

This means you might need more than one single scratching post. Plus, you will need something of a substantial size that will hold a cat’s body weight. Maine Coon owners… good luck!

Fortunately, there are plenty to choose from online and at pet stores. Or, if you’re a handy sort of person you could even build your own DIY scratching post according to your cat’s specifications (thank you Pinterest).

You can encourage your cat to use their new scratching post by playing with them around it. Make it enticing with treats and hanging toys from it. And, if your cat enjoys catnip, give it a little spritz for good measure!

grey tabby kitten biting toy

One last thing, when a cat really loves a scratching post it will start to look pretty tatty. Don’t give in to the urge to replace it! If your cat loves it, keep it! A new one may look better to you, but will your feline baby agree?

The best way to approach a habitual furniture scratcher is with understanding. Working with your cat's innate behavior rather than against it will ensure the best outcome for both of you!

Meeting your cat’s needs is what being a pet parent is all about. At the end of the day, you want your home to be a happy place where you get along together just fine!

Did you find this article helpful? Check out more on the blog!

Abigail Gould
By Abigail Gould

Abigail’s experience with animals comes from growing up on a farm. She has been fortunate enough to look after cats, dogs, ducks, geese, chickens, and guinea pigs. Of all the pets she’s cared for, guinea pigs have been the most entertaining, dogs the most rewarding, and cats the most essential!