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Imagine this… You have just brought yourself a beautiful new leather couch that you had to save up for a while to be able to afford.
You come down one morning with a cup of coffee, smiling to yourself and ready to sink into your new chair. That’s when you see it: scratch marks down the side of your brand new couch.
Does this story sound all too familiar? Cats, as wonderful as they are, love to dig their claws into our furniture, and leather is one of their favorite materials to claw at.
To stop your cat from scratching leather furniture, you can provide a feline scratching post or cat tree, or use a cat deterrent to discourage them from using your couch to sharpen their claws. You should also think about why your cat is scratching your leather furniture in the first place. Is it boredom? Are they trying to mark their territory? Are they stressed?
In this article, we will run through how to stop cats from scratching leather furniture and why they could be acting this way so that you can have a scratch mark-free home and a happy cat.
Thankfully, there are several ways you can deter cats from scratching leather furniture. You can use one of these methods or a combination of several until you find a solution that works for you.
1. Provide Alternative Scratching Options
The first thing you can do is purchase a scratching post or a cat tree that has an area for your cat to claw. If there is an alternative scratching option for your cat to scratch at, they will likely prefer it to your leather couch. This will break the fascination that they have with your furniture.
What Scratch Post Should I Use?
Sisal scratch posts are a great option as this material is durable and mimics tree trunks, which would be where a cat would scratch in the wild. You can also get cheaper cardboard scratching posts which cats will love, but these are not as durable as sisal scratching posts. Wood is another suitable alternative.
If you notice that your cat always goes for your leather couch over your wooden bookcase, it may be that they prefer scratching leather. If this is the case, you could also invest in a small piece of leather that is similar to the material of your sofa and attach this to their scratching post to encourage them to use it.
You will also need to choose a scratching post that is the correct size for your cat. Kittens will only need a small post, whereas fully grown cats and bigger breeds will need larger and more stable ones. Ideally, the scratching post should be tall enough so that your cat and stretch fully when using it.
How Can I Train My Cat to Use Their Scratch Post?
Before even starting to train your cat to use their new scratching post, you need to think about where you place it. If your cat is frequently scratching your couch or any other piece of furniture in your home, try placing their scratching post directly in front of it. This can help them see this as a better alternative.
You can also encourage your cat to use their scratching post by using catnip. This is not a fool-proof method and some cats respond more to catnip than others. However, sprinkling catnip on the base of the scratch post can encourage some cats to start using it. Treats also work well and you can reward your cat with a treat each time they claw at their scratching post.
Play can also help your cats realize that their new scratching post is actually a lot of fun, way more fun than your couch! Try using a wand cat toy. Wave the toy on the post to motivate your cat to reach up and place her paws on the scratch post.
2. Use Furniture Protectors
If you want to know how to protect a leather couch from cats, you’ll be pleased to know that you can buy products designed specifically for this, such as a cat scratch guard for leather couches. Therefore, if your cat does still go for your favorite couch, they will dig their claws into the protector rather than damaging the piece of furniture.
What Type of Couch Protectors Can I Buy?
Some owners don’t like to use a leather couch protector for cats as they do need to be placed over your furniture, hiding your lovely couch. However, you can get couch protectors of all shapes and sizes, from small guards that are placed along the arm of your sofa, to protectors that cover your entire couch.
Because of the range of different options out there, there is something for everyone! So, before you turn your nose up at the idea of covering up your sofa, take a look at some of the options available:
- Plastic Couch Covers: These are transparent covers that cover your entire couch, protecting it from everything from cat scratches to cat vomit and toilet accidents. You can purchase plastic couch protectors that are designed especially to protect from clawing which are extra-thick.
- Fabric Slip Covers: These are waterproof covers made from a fabric material that generally covers the seating area, front, and back of your couch much like a normal couch blanket. These are great at protecting against claw marks and accidents and can make an old couch look homely and comforting again.
- Adhesive Furniture Protectors: If your cat only scratches the sides of your couch, you may be best opting for a transparent adhesive cat scratch guard which can be stuck onto the side or back of your sofa, or wherever it is they scratch. You can get these in a range of sizes.
If you are really against using a cat scratch guard for leather couches, you could try draping a blanket over your sofa. Even this could get in the way of your cat and deter them from using your furniture as their scratching post.
Which Couch Protector is Right For Me?
You must choose the right leather couch protector for your cat. If they always claw at the back of the sofa, a protector that fits over the seats is not going to be effective, and vice versa. Matching the cat scratch guard with where your cat scratches is key to its success.
If your cat only scratches the sides and back of the sofa, then an adhesive furniture protector could be a good choice. The majority of your couch will still be on display while the back and side and protected.
Conversely, if your cat claws on the seats or at various locations on your leather couch, a plastic couch cover that encapsulates the entire sofa is a better option. These also have the benefit of protecting your couch from spills and bathroom accidents, which is great if your cat vomits a lot, sprays on your couch, or has other toilet troubles.
3. Use Scents as a Deterrent
Cats have a sense of smell that is 15 times as strong as humans, and therefore many scents are too overpowering for cats. You can use cat deterrent sprays to stop cats from scratching furniture that smell of these odors that they dislike.
What Smells Do Cats Hate?
There are many surprising smells that cats hate that are too strong for cats. Commonly disliked smells include citrus, lavender, cinnamon, mint, and rosemary. Cats also dislike spicy smells such as chili, pepper, and mustard, and most cats will turn their noses up at the scent of banana and coffee too.
Many people love these smells, especially citrus which is used in cleaning products, and cinnamon which reminds us of freshly baked cookies. However, these scents are all too overpowering for cats. If they can catch a whiff of any of these odors, they will likely steer clear of the area.
How Can These Smells Stop My Cat Scratching the Couch?
By spraying these scents where your cat likes to scratch, they can be repelled and deterred from scratching your furniture. However, leather can easily be damaged and so you must use a cat repellent for leather furniture. You can find out if the spray is safe for use on leather by checking the bottle.
If you are worried about using chemical products on your furniture, you can also make homemade cat deterrent sprays using mainly water that are safe for your leather couch. For example:
- Rosemary Deterrent Spray: Fill a spray bottle three-quarters of the way with water and add a few drops of washing up liquid and ten drops of rosemary essential oil. Put the lid on and shake, then spray on your leather couch.
- Citrus Deterrent Spray: Fill a spray bottle three-quarters of the way with water and add ten drops of lemongrass, bergamot, or any other citrus-scented essential oil. Return the lid to the bottle, shake the contents, and spray on your sofa.
It is also important that the deterrent spray is safe for cats, as you don’t want to cause them any harm or distress while saving your sofa. For this reason, I would opt for products made from natural ingredients as these are less likely to have any detrimental effects. Also, only spray in moderation so that your cat does not get stressed. Small quantities will still be effective while keeping your cat happy.
4. Clean Your Couch
Each time a cat scratches, they deposit pheromones which marks their territory. As a cat’s sense of smell is so powerful, they may also be returning to scratch the same spot on your couch as they can smell themselves on the furniture. They will then assume that this sofa is theirs to scratch as they think it is their territory.
If this is why your cat is scratching your leather sofa, you will need to remove their scent by cleaning your couch daily. This may seem like hard work to start with, but it is important to stay on top of it. Otherwise, your cat’s scent could make it deep into the leather, making it hard to break their scratching habit.
Any leather cleaner can be used to remove your cat’s scent from your couch. If you can, try using a citrus-scented cleaning product as this will hit two birds with one stone, removing their cat odor while adding a repellent citrus scent.
If your cat’s scent is already embedded deeply into your leather couch, try using baking soda. Baking soda is known for its ability to capture and absorb odors. Simply rub baking soda over your couch and leave it there for 1-2 hours. After the time is up, wipe it off and vacuum up any loose powder from the floor.
5. Create a Vinegar Deterrent
As well as scents, vinegar can also be used as a natural cat repellent to stop your cat from scratching your leather furniture. White vinegar works best, but you should always dilute this down with one part vinegar to two parts water so that the odor is not too overwhelming and it doesn’t damage your furniture.
Before spraying vinegar all over your leather couch, always test a small patch first to check that it will not bleach or stain. If it is fine and does not cause damage, you can then spray white vinegar on your couch once a week.
If you notice that the vinegar does appear to damage your furniture, you can instead soak cotton wool or a sponge in the white vinegar. Place this in a container and slide it under the side of your couch. The vinegar should still deter your cat while not even touching your couch, completely removing the risk of damage to your leather furniture.
6. Use Special Cat Scratch Tape
You can also use special deterrent tape to stop your cat from scratching your leather couch. This cat scratch tape is a double-sided tape. One side sticks to your leather furniture and the other will be where your cat’s paws land if they try to scratch your couch, giving them sticky paws.
For obvious reasons, cats prefer not to have sticky paws. They may still make an attempt to scratch your furniture, but once they realize their paws are getting sticky, they will likely walk away and find a new spot to scratch.
Although being unpleasant, this is not dangerous or harmful for cats and so is a safe way to deter cats from scratching. However, always use special anti-scratch tape for cats, otherwise it could be too sticky and cause damage both to their paws and your furniture.
You will need to replace the tape regularly as fluff and dirt will get stuck to its surface, removing its stickiness and therefore its cat repelling power. Also, if you notice the tape coming loose, remove it immediately and replace it with a fresh piece. Your cat could pull any loose tape off which could act as a choking hazard.
7. Provide Other Stimulation & Attention
Often, cats can misbehave as they are bored and need something to stimulate them both mentally and physically. They could also be clawing your furniture as a way of seeking attention, knowing that you’ll come over to stop them if you notice them scratching your couch.
You can provide stimulation in a variety of ways, but making sure your cat has lots of toys and playing together with them regularly can help to keep your cat entertained, mentally stimulated, and active, while giving them some one-on-one attention. There are heaps of cat toys available on the market, so try a few different options to see what your cat likes best.
If your cat is alone for long periods such as when you’re out at work each day, having the radio on in the background will provide them will some stimulation while you’re not there. Motorized and motion-sensor toys are also great for cats who are home alone as they can play with these themselves.
If you don’t have money to buy new toys, you can make some using common household items. Cardboard boxes are great for cats and they love to hide inside them. Ping-pong balls are also a great and inexpensive option or even tie some thick string to a stick to drag around the floor.
8. Trim Their Claws
You can also trim your cat’s claw to keep them from scratching your leather furniture, or anywhere else around your home. Cats don’t like to have claws that are too long, and often they scratch objects as they are trying to file their claws down and keep them trim.
By trimming your cat’s claws from them, you are removing the need for them to scratch your furniture. And if they do still scratch your couch, their short and filed claws are unlikely to cause any major damage.
How Do I Trim My Cat’s Claws?
You may be nervous about trimming your cat’s claws, but clipping their nails can be calm and enjoyable. Ideally, you want to get your cat used to having their claws trimmed from a young age, but even older cats can happily sit and have their claws clipped if you follow these steps:
- Set the mood by sitting down comfortably in a quiet room with your cat on your lap, with no toys, distractions, or other pets around. Your cat will be most sleepy and relaxed after a meal, so this is the ideal time.
- Start massaging your cat’s paws gently for up to three seconds. If they retract, keep trying slowly until they are comfortable with you touching their paws.
- Gently push on their paw pads so that the claws extend outwards and let go straight away. Each time, give your cat a treat afterward so that they associate this with good behavior. Repeat slowly and calmly for all their toes.
- Get you cat used to the sound of the clippers by cutting a piece of spaghetti with them each time you press on their to pad, followed by a treat. This will help them link the sound to the motion so when you trim their claws they won’t be frightened.
- Once your cat is content and happy, you can trim their claws by pushing down on their pads gently and cutting the end of their claws. Never cut the pink part of their nails as this will hurt them. Only ever cut the white part at the end and, if not certain, it is better to err on the side of caution than risk hurting them.
- Start by trimming two of your cat’s claws at first, and try trimming two more the next day and so forth until all their claws have been trimmed. As they get more accustomed to the motion, they will happily sit and let you trim all their claws at once.
Should I Get My Cat Declawed?
You may be wondering if you can permanently remove your cat’s claws as a quick fix for unwanted scratching. This is called declawing, and to do so the last bone of each of your cat’s toes has to be removed, similar to cutting off your finger at its last knuckle.
As you’ve probably guessed, this is not a good idea. This is detrimental to cats’ physical health and can lead to severe pain in their paws, tissue damage, back pain, and infection. Sometimes cats’ claws can also grow back if they have not been properly removed, which can lead to nerve damage.
Cats that have been declawed can also have many behavioral issues. They can become more likely to bite as they do not have their claws for protection and are less likely to use their litter box due to the issues with the nerves in their paws.
No matter how much you wish your cat would stop scratching your leather furniture, never get them declawed.
Why Do Cats Scratch Furniture?
You now know how to stop cats from scratching leather couches, but to choose an effective and appropriate method from the ones listed above, you also need to understand why cats scratch. This way, you can be sure to choose a method or methods that work!
The important thing to remember is that scratching is a natural behavior for cats. You should never expect your cat to stop scratching altogether as it is instinctive. Here are all the reasons that your cat could be scratching.
To Mark Their Territory
When a cat scratches any surface, sweat travels from their paws down their claws and into the surface that they are scratching. This sweat contains pheromones that cats’ sensitive noses can smell. By scratching, cats mark their territory as then other cats who smell this scent will know to stay out of this area and find their own space.
While this is a common reason for cats to scratch in the wild, it is less common for domesticated cats. However, if you live in a multi-cat household, your cat may be scratching your leather furniture to tell your other cats to stay away.
Even if you have one cat in your household, your cat may feel like they don’t have their own space. Cats need to have a private area that they feel is theirs and theirs alone. If your cat feels like they don’t have this private space, they could be scratching to mark their territory in an attempt to create an area for themselves.
Also, if your cat has already marked your territory on your couch, you will need to clean this scent away so that they know it isn’t their scratching zone after all.
To Sharpen and Trim Their Claws
In the wild, cats need to have sharp claws. They rely on these claws being sharp to catch their prey, as well as protecting themselves from predators further up the food chain. Therefore, having sharp claws are key to a cat’s survival, providing them both an opportunity to catch food and protection.
Although domesticated cats do not need to hunt for their food nor protect themselves from predators, this survival instinct still persists. This could be the reason why your cat is scratching your couch.
In addition to this, claws that are too long can cause cats pain. They can be difficult to retract when they get too long, and they can curl back into the pads of their paws which makes walking uncomfortable and difficult. Because of this, cats will also scratch to keep their claws short enough so that they remain comfortable. If there is a leather couch nearby, this may become their claw trimming solution.
They Are Curious
You may already have heard the saying “curiosity killed the cat.” In fact, while this is only a metaphor, there is some truth in it: cats are curious. They are naturally inquisitive creatures and love discovering everything they can about the world around them.
Leather furniture or a brand new couch are more likely to be clawed at because they are new and exciting to your cat. Whereas your cat may be used to clawing at their scratching post or the trees outside, leather is a much more interesting fabric that your cat will likely not have come across before.
If this is the reason why your cat is scratching the furniture, look at providing constant new stimuli to keep your cat entertained and to turn their attention away from your couch. Toys and cat trees are a great way to stop a curious cat from scratching your furniture.
They Feel Vulnerable
Cats can also scratch because they feel stressed and vulnerable. It is usually easy to tell if this is why your cat is clawing at your furniture as the claw marks will most likely be close to doorways or open spaces where your cat feels most on edge.
On top of this, your cat may show other signs of stress. Stress can manifest as physical symptoms such as eating less, losing their fur, or sleeping more often. There can also be other behavioral symptoms, including not using their litter tray or acting aggressively.
A huge range of things can cause your cat to feel vulnerable as they are sensitive creatures. This can be anything from there being a new pet or person in your home to them not having a litter tray that they like to use. Moving house can also trigger anxiety in felines, as can competition for resources in a multi-cat household or simply a change in routine.
If your cat’s scratching behavior is new or overly aggressive, try to think of anything that you may have changed. Even if the change is small, you can try reversing it if possible to make your cat feel more at ease again.
You can also make your cat feel more at ease by offering them plenty of places to hide. These places offer them safety and a place to turn if they are feeling overwhelmed. You do not have to spend money on new pet caddies – even an old cardboard box will work a treat. Cat flaps are also a good idea as your cat can enter and leave the house as they wish, helping them to feel secure.
It is important to remember that scratching is a natural behavior for cats. In the wild, it is essential for their survival and their safety, and domesticated cats still carry these instincts. Cats that are extremely curious or feel vulnerable can also scratch more than other felines.
Because scratching is instinctive, we will never eliminate this behavior. However, by providing an alternative place for your cat to scratch and encouraging them to use this instead of your leather couch by using deterrent sprays or other repellents, we can save our furniture! A combination of methods works best, but remember never to get your cat declawed.
Try these different solutions and you’ll have a happier and healthier cat and leather furniture that isn’t ruined by your little furball. Win-win!