Keep Your Cat Off the Furniture! Use This Simple Spray


Cats scratching and damaging furniture is a common issue for cat owners. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, 38.4% of U.S. households own a cat, which equates to over 48 million households with nearly 77 million pet cats [1]. With so many cats living indoors, inappropriate scratching is one of the most common behavior problems reported by cat owners. When a cat scratches furniture, it can ruin the appearance by tearing fabric, removing varnish, and creating unsightly marks. Excessive scratching can even damage the structure and stability of furniture.

Aside from ruining furniture, improper scratching can pose other problems. It may indicate that the cat is stressed or anxious. Persistent scratching can also damage the cat’s nails or lead to infections. Therefore, it’s important for cat owners to understand why cats scratch and how to properly redirect the behavior.

Why Cats Scratch Furniture

Cats have a natural instinct to scratch objects in their environment. Scratching serves several purposes for cats:

Scratching allows cats to remove the dead outer layer from their claws and mark their territory [1]. When a cat scratches an object, it leaves behind a visual mark as well as a scent mark from the glands in its paws. These marks enable a cat to establish its territory, both inside and outside the home.

Scratching also serves as a form of stress relief or boredom buster for cats. The act of scratching stretches and exercises their body and paws. It provides an outlet for energy and territorial desires. This is why cats often scratch furniture when they feel bored, anxious, or stressed [2].

Negative Reinforcement

Negative reinforcement involves using unpleasant sensations to discourage a cat from scratching furniture. Some examples include:

Using textures cats dislike – Covering furniture with plastic, sticky tape, aluminum foil, or upside-down vinyl carpet runner can discourage scratching. The textures are unpleasant on cats’ paws. However, cats may simply damage the surfaces or move to scratch untreated areas instead. Some experts do not recommend this method as it does not address the root cause of the behavior.

Using scents cats dislike – Spraying furniture with citrus, mint, lavender or eucalyptus oils creates scents cats dislike. However, the effects wear off quickly and require frequent reapplication. Some cats may become accustomed or even attracted to the smells over time.

Punishment – Hitting, yelling at or physically harming a cat should never be used as punishment. This will only make the cat fearful. Punishment is ineffective at changing behavior long term.

While negative reinforcement may temporarily stop scratching, it does not address a cat’s innate need to scratch. More effective alternatives involve providing acceptable scratching posts and using positive reinforcement to encourage desired behaviors.

Positive Reinforcement

Positive reinforcement is an effective method to train cats to scratch acceptable surfaces instead of furniture. The goal is to reward desired scratching behavior to reinforce it. Cat owners can achieve this by providing enticing scratching posts around the home and offering treats or praise when the cat uses them.

Scratching posts should be made of materials cats enjoy, like sisal, cardboard, or wood. Place them near furniture the cat scratches to provide an appealing alternative. Make sure posts are tall enough for the cat to fully stretch and stable so they don’t wobble. Multiple scratching posts around the home are ideal.

Every time the cat scratches a designated post, immediately reward them with a treat, petting, or verbal praise. This reinforces the desired behavior. Continue rewarding consistently each time. It may take repetition and patience before the cat learns which surfaces are acceptable to scratch. Eventually the cat will prefer their scratching posts over furniture.

With positive reinforcement, cats learn where and what to scratch. This gentle training method avoids punishment and encourages good behavior. By providing appropriate scratching surfaces and rewards, cat owners can protect their furniture.

Repellent Sprays

Repellent sprays are a common deterrent designed to keep cats away from furniture using scents they dislike. Many commercial products contain citrus scents like lemon, orange, or grapefruit, as cats tend to avoid citrus smells. The strong citrus odor overpowers their sense of smell and creates an unpleasant sensation, driving them away. Some popular commercial spray brands using citrus oils include Nature’s Miracle and Sentry Stop That!

Synthetic feline pheromones are another option for repellent sprays. Feliway is a popular brand that mimics cats’ natural facial pheromones to trigger avoidance behavior. When sprayed on surfaces, it signals that another cat has marked the territory, prompting them to stay away.

Some cat owners opt to make their own DIY repellent sprays using essential oils like citronella, lavender, peppermint or eucalyptus. These can be effective but properly diluting the oils is important. Commercial products are tested for safety at effective concentrations.

Other Deterrents

In addition to repellent sprays, there are some other effective deterrents that can be used to keep cats off furniture:

Double-sided tape – Placing strips of double-sided tape on furniture where cats like to scratch or climb can deter them from jumping up. Cats dislike the sticky feeling on their paws. Sources suggest replacing the tape every 2-4 weeks as it loses effectiveness over time [1].

Aluminum foil – Covering surfaces with aluminum foil is another option, as cats generally don’t like walking on it. The foil makes a crinkling sound when touched which startles cats. It’s important to periodically replace the foil as cats can get used to it [2].

Motion-activated devices – Devices that emit an unpleasant sound, puff of air, or ultrasonic frequency when motion is detected can deter cats from jumping on furniture. They provide a harmless scare to teach cats to avoid the area [3].

Protecting Furniture

One of the most effective ways to protect your furniture is to provide your cat with suitable alternative scratching surfaces. Cats have an instinctual need to scratch, so giving them appropriate outlets for this behavior is key.

Scratching posts and cat trees allow cats to satisfy their scratching urges without damaging your belongings. Place scratching posts next to furniture that your cat tries to scratch. This will redirect their scratching to the post instead. Make sure the post is tall and sturdy enough for your cat to use fully stretched out. Cover it with sisal rope or cardboard that cats can sink their claws into [1].

Cat trees with platforms, perches, and scratching surfaces are another excellent option. Place cat trees in areas your cat frequents and make sure they are tall enough for climbing and scratching. Position them near windows for added cat-watching opportunities. Multi-level cat trees with a variety of surfaces will keep your cat entertained.

If your cat is scratching a specific piece of furniture, cover it with clear plastic sheets or furniture protectors. There are scratch guards, furniture shields, and scratch tape available to protect your belongings. Look for Cat Scratching Deterrent brands with adhesive backing to apply directly to furniture [2].

Trimming Claws

Regularly trimming your cat’s claws can help reduce damage to furniture from scratching. Cat claws continuously grow and shed layers, so they need regular maintenance. According to PetPlay, trimming your cat’s claws every 2-3 weeks is recommended.

Trimming only the sharp tip of each claw reduces your cat’s ability to damage furniture and other household items. Use special cat claw trimmers or small animal nail clippers to carefully snip off the pointed ends. Make sure not to clip too far down where you hit the quick, which will be painful and cause bleeding. Go slowly and only take off small amounts.

Trimming claws regularly will keep them blunt and reduce scratches. However, it’s important to also provide other outlets for your cat’s natural scratching instinct, like scratching posts. Used along with trimming, these can help protect your furniture.

When to Seek Help

If your cat’s scratching behavior becomes excessive or leads to territory marking, you may need to seek help from a veterinarian or cat behaviorist. Excessive scratching that goes beyond normal grooming can be a sign of stress or anxiety. It can also damage furniture, carpet, doors, and other household items. Territory marking refers to when cats scratch objects or urinate around the house to mark their domain. This is typically triggered by stress, changes in environment, or the presence of new pets.

According to Healthline, you should also seek medical treatment if you’ve been scratched or bitten by a cat and the wound becomes infected. Signs of infection include redness, swelling, pus, tenderness, and fever. Cat scratches can contain bacteria that cause infections like cat scratch disease. Treatment may involve cleaning the wound, antibiotics, and a tetanus shot. Consult your doctor as soon as possible if the scratch site appears infected.

The Johns Hopkins Medicine website recommends seeing your doctor for any cat bite since they have a high risk of infection. Cat bites often penetrate deep into the skin and can injure bones, joints, and tendons. It’s important to promptly clean cat bites with soap and water and use antibiotic ointment. Seek medical care if the bite area becomes increasingly painful, swollen, warm, or red.

According to, you should call your doctor if you were scratched by a cat and develop a fever, headache, poor appetite, rash, or swollen glands near the injury over the next couple weeks. These may be symptoms of cat scratch disease, which is caused by a bacterial infection spread by cats.


To summarize, keeping cats away from scratching furniture is an important issue for many pet owners. There are several effective options including sprays, deterrents like aluminum foil or double-sided tape, trimming your cat’s claws regularly, and reinforcing positive scratching behaviors. Focus on providing acceptable scratching surfaces like cat trees and scratching posts. Use positive reinforcement like treats and praise when they use those acceptable areas. Negative reinforcement like squirting water can also help discourage unwanted scratching. As a last resort, covers and soft caps for claws may be an option if other methods fail. By staying patient and consistent, you can protect your furniture while keeping your cat happy and healthy.

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