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My wife recently had a chair reupholstered, after the cats had damaged it to the point it was looking really shabby. When she contacted the restoration company, she found out that the chair is actually quite old, and quite valuable.

She spent a lot on repairing the chair, and understandably does not want all that work to go for naught.

We have scratching posts positioned around the house, and they get some use, but for some reason that one chair is the prefered spot for scratching, even with the new upholstery.

At this point, the chair is covered in tin foil and double-sided tape, to keep the cats from scratching at it, but this is obviously far from ideal.

Is there a better strategy? Preferably one that doesn't leave our furniture looking like a candy waiting to be unwrapped?

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    It's worth noting that cats have scent glands in their feet that are expressed when they scratch: your cats are likely returning to that chair because it still smells like it belongs to them. – cimmanon Nov 30 '13 at 23:04
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    That's true. I would try to cover up their scent with citrus since Cat's don't like it.Otherwise I've had pretty good luck with double-sided tape. It'll be annoying for a bit, but it should get the message across. – Spidercat Dec 23 '13 at 21:32
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You say that you have scratching posts around your house, but they may not be the right type. Cats have definite preferences for scratching surfaces, and something about that chair makes it "better" than the posts.

For example, we had a cat who LOVED to scratch on our ottoman. We had plenty of posts, but eventually figured out that we didn't have one tall enough for him - he wanted to get a good long body stretch, so the post had to be about 3 feet tall. Once we added a post of that height, he rarely touched the ottoman again (instead of a daily thing it became something he did once a month or two).

So, some things to consider:

  • Material (cardboard, carpet, sisal rope, sisal material (rope and material have different textures).
  • Size (a post should be tall enough for them to stretch their entire body, at least 3 feet; most pet store posts are NOT tall enough). Horizontal scratchers should be large enough to stand on while scratching (generally).
  • Shape/configuration (post, horizontal, incline, specialty)
  • Location (if your cat is scratching a specific chair, put the posts near the chair; another problem we had with the ottoman was that it was in the middle of the walkway, so it was super convenient, unlike the scratchers we had at the time).
  • Lures (give your cat a reason to hang out with his scratcher; catnip, attached toys, attached lounge pillows, will all increase his feelings of possession to the scratcher and make him more likely to want to scratch (and put his scent on) HIS furniture).

In addition, make sure to keep their claws trimmed. Even if they aren't scratching on your furniture on purpose, running and playing across the furniture can cause damage. An alternative to trimming (which may help while you're figuring out what kind of scratcher he wants) would be to use nail caps. He'll still make scratching motions on the furniture (so you can monitor your progress with finding the right scratcher) but it won't cause damage.

You CAN have nice furniture even with cats! We have 4 cats and leather furniture. We occasionally get accidental scratches from running and playing, but nothing on purpose.

As a last note, declawing is NEVER recommended. Cats generally become more aggressive (especially biting) when you remove their claws because it's painful and you're taking away their defense mechanisms. In addition, as a declawed cat ages it will tend to develop arthritis on the paws which will make using a litter box painful, and cause an aversion to the litterbox. For more on the hazards of declawing, I recommend the Paw Project

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    I have a cat that loved to scratch at the side of a chair when I got home out of excitement. Putting the post right at that corner gave him a way to scratch that itch (to scratch) without being bad. – Oldcat Nov 1 '13 at 22:47
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From my experience, attempts to stop cats from scratching things generally fail. Therefore I believe the best option is trim your cats claws every couple weeks so they don't do much damage:

  • Trimming isn't that hard once you get used to it with most cats. Just wait until they are in a calm state
  • You probably only have to do their front claws ( that is what they scratch things with, and the back ones tend to naturally dull)

Please don't consider declawing your cats - many consider it inhumane and it can result in behavior problems.

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    +1, especially for "please don't consider declawing". I'm very opposed to the practice! We do trim the nails, although not as often as we should (our oldest is VERY opposed to the practice!). – Beofett Oct 9 '13 at 13:54
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    The declawing procedure is really quite disturbing to me. I just accept that if I want cats in my life, which I do, then some furniture damage is a reality... – John Cavan Oct 9 '13 at 13:58
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    @Skippy: Convenience isn't the only reason. My cats like each other, but do play rough frequently. Trimming their claws prevents injury (they end up with cuts on their faces if I don't do it). – Kyle Brandt Oct 9 '13 at 15:33
  • Also, provide something else for them to scratch -- a good tall sisal-wrapped post for example. (The OP mentioned posts, but it might be worth calling out in this answer too.) – Monica Cellio Dec 23 '13 at 19:34
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  • You can always shut the door of the room where the chair is located.
  • A firm/mild (as applicable) rebuke if the cat tries to scratch the chair.
  • You said scratch posts are there everywhere in the house. But I think your cat needs motivation to scratch on them. Use the same old rewarding strategy to make him use the scratch posts.
  • You can also trim the nails of your cat (not unless it is really necessary).
  • Let your cat spend some time outside for example in your garden.

I can't think of anymore trick. These are very common.

  • I agree with all your suggestions except the last one (the first one, which would be most effective, is unfortunately not possible in our situation, as the chair is in the main living room, and there are no doors to it; only hallways). I personally feel that letting pet cats outdoors is a bad idea; even though it may seem a kindness to the cats, it exposes them to a tremendous amount of danger, ranging from animals, to cars, to disease, or even poison or aggression from humans. – Beofett Oct 9 '13 at 13:52
  • Actually, I do not have a cat, but our neighbor who has one, never mind to let it play in the garden. However it is entirely an individual's choice. So, I would not mind if you can't admit this trick. – Mistu4u Oct 9 '13 at 14:01
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I used to crush garlic and put the bits in a small amount of water, letting it stand overnight and then filtering the stuff out leaving only the garlic-smelling water, which I then used in a spray bottle to spray on the furniture I wanted to save from scratching. Sometimes I added vinegar and/or fresh lemon juice in with the garlic. I don't know what did the trick; the garlic, vinegar, lemon, or just the strength of the smell nevermind what it was. After all, it worked and I don't care how.

I love garlic in my own food, and that may explain why I never noticed my furniture might have been smelling like garlic. Or then, perhaps the scent really was so weak that there was nothing for a human nose to notice? On the other hand, a cat's nose is not among the best of animals either.

In my opinion it is a given, when I take cats to live in the same apartment with me, that I simply have to suffer the consequences, but the cat was scratching my favourite leather recliner. The smell of garlic on the leather saved my chair. Later in life another of my cats relieved herself on the chair, and that resulted in a smell I could not cover with garlic - I had to rid the chair, but the cat stayed.

Whatever the case, I would never ever clip a cat's nails. Nor would I ever put any nail-caps on a cat's nails. A cat is very clever with the use of its nails and I see no reason whatsoever not to let a cat use them. If those nails bother you it means you have taken the wrong animal to live with you.

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The technique I have settled on is to drape a "throw" (small blanket) over the chair arms that are the cat's preferred target. Depending on your decorating style, you can make it look like something you did just because it looks pretty. The throw doesn't need to reach the ground, or cover the entire chair, or anything dramatic like that. You just need to notice what height your cat's paws are when it scratches, and make sure that area's covered.

Now, you may be tempted to use the thickest throw you can find, on the theory that it will offer more protection. But I think a thin fabric offers better protection because it won't be satisfying to scratch. If you use a thick fabric, it might still work for scratching, and sometimes the claws will go through it. But a thin fabric discourages all scratching.

Regular nail clipping helps a lot too.

  • I use throws as well. Cloth from a fabric store is good too and there is a wide selection of colors etc. – Beo Jun 6 '14 at 21:07
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We had a similar problem with our cats destroying a pretty expensive couch. After checking with the vet, he recommended we spray the favourite scratching parts of the couch with Feliway, which is a synthetic reproduction of the feline pheromone cats use for territory marking and etc.

We combined spraying the couch daily with the Feliway with spraying a scratcher with catnip.It worked great! The cats are no longer scratching the couch, and they happily use the scratcher.

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