Thanks for your question, it’s quite a common one. Here are some strategies on how to stop a cat from scratching furniture:
- Start working on nail trimming immediately. Take time to massage and probe the toes and paws so your cat gets used to you handling them. Then get some good clippers and clip one nail. That’s it. Do one nail a day only. If you clip all the nails in one day it can be a stressful episode and they can be turned off of it for good. Use treats and give lots of love after each trim. Gradually make the nail trimming episodes longer and clip more nails. You’ll find that they turn into a cat that barely even struggles when they receive a nail trim. I just did my cat’s nails and without a word of a lie, it took 2 minutes and there was no struggling.
- Get appropriate toys and products that they are allowed to scratch. Feline scratching posts are a great option and you can focus their attention on it by sprinkling catnip or placing it with treats. This will give them an outlet for the behavior that is appropriate and tolerable. There are great resources for this. You can even buy corrugated cardboard boxes that you can sprinkle catnip into which really draws their attention.
- Avoid punishment if you can. If you do find that your new cat is scratching the couch, you could discipline or punish it in the moment. I strongly recommend not to do this but I am guilty of it in a minimal way. My wife and I have made a short simple hiss noise to shoo them away from doing it when we see them scratch the couch. Getting serious with this can make the home a scary place and create other problems due to anxiety.
- Consider other products. There are cat nail caps that you can apply to the nails to ‘cap’ them so that they aren’t sharp. They can be difficult to apply but your veterinarian and the Registered Veterinary Technicians can certainly help you with this.
- Engage them as much as possible. By providing your cat with environmental enrichment and consistent stimulation, they may not develop the habit of scratching at all. You can give them lots of interaction and activity to avoid them having to entertain themselves by engaging with your furniture. Use laser pointers, treats, scavenging games, cat toys, and automated cat toys to keep them as busy as possible.
- Anti-anxiety supplements such as a cat calming spray, which you mention in your question. You could speak to your veterinarian about the various products and try them, but this behavior is not always associated with stress. These could help the issue but it’s not guaranteed. Since they have no negative effect, I see no harm in trying them and you may get lucky.
I hope these ideas help. If you are consistent and persistent, I’m certain you’ll be successful.
Dr. Clayton Greenway
What are some tips on how to stop a cat from scratching furniture?
This could be a very frustrating situation. It's important that you address it immediately because the longer it persists, the more ingrained the behavior becomes and the harder it will be to resolve. Here are some strategies on how to stop a cat from scratching furniture.
Dr. Clayton Greenway, B.Sc., DVM
Healthcare for Pets