- Cats scratch furniture for a variety of reasons, including a lack of alternatives.
- We tested a range of products to prevent and redirect a cat's claws, including scratching posts, furniture guards, scratch tape, and nail caps.
- The best overall product to protect your furniture from cat scratching is the Sofa Scratcher Squared, which simultaneously protects furniture and gives cats an ideal place to scratch.
- This article was medically reviewed by Dr. Karie Johnson, veterinarian and co-founder of VIP Vet Visit, a mobile vet service in the south suburbs of Chicago.
Cats scratch. They scratch to communicate and claim their possessions. They scratch to stretch and condition their claws. They scratch because it's a natural, instinctual behavior — not because they have secret plans to destroy your furniture.
There are a variety of reasons why a cat might be attracted to scratching furniture. Some don't have healthy alternative scratching posts or pads, or don't have them in the right locations. Others enjoy the furniture's height or the feeling of scratching a couch or carpet. Whatever the reason, preventing your cat from practicing the undesirable behavior while simultaneously offering them more attractive scratching alternatives is the intervention your damaged furniture needs.
To come up with the best products to protect furniture from cat scratching, we spoke to three feline experts: veterinarian Dr. Andrea Sanchez of Banfield Pet Hospital in Vancouver, Washington, veterinary behaviorist Dr. Christine Calder, director of behavior services at Midcoast Humane in Brunswick, Maine, and cat behavior specialist Daniel "DQ" Quagliozzi, owner of Go Cat Go! in San Francisco, California.
I then tested 11 different products for a minimum of three weeks, with the exception of the nail caps, which my cats refused to try. Read more about our testing process at the end of this guide. All of the products were provided as editorial review samples by their manufacturers with the exception of the nail caps and Furniture Defender Cat Scratching Guard, which Insider Reviews purchased.
Here are the best products to protect your furniture from cat scratching:
- Best way to protect furniture overall: Sofa Scratcher Squared
- Best scratching post: On2Pets Skyline Sisal Cat Scratching Post (temporarily out of stock)
- Best furniture guard: Clawguard Furniture Shields
- Best scratch tape: Sticky Paws on a Roll Furniture Strips
- Best cat claw covers: Soft Claws Cat Nail Caps
Prices and links are current as of 11/17/20. We rewrote this guide and selected new products based on extensive research, expert interviews, and testing.
The best way to protect furniture overall
Part furniture guard, part scratching post, the Sofa Scratcher does double duty to protect furniture from destruction.
Pros: Combination scratcher/furniture guard, fits snugly against a couch or chair corner or leg; held in place by the weight of furniture instead of tape or pins, made of toxin-free sisal, available in seven colors
Cons: More expensive than furniture guards and most standalone scratching posts, light assembly required
The genius of the Sofa Scratcher Squared and its half-moon shaped cousin the Sofa Scratcher is that its sisal-covered edges fit snugly against a couch or chair, providing a cat with a "legal" place to scratch right at the center of the room. Because it lines up flush against furniture, the wood core of the Sofa Scratcher prevents your cat from sinking their claws into the upholstery.
Because cats like to mark their territory visually and with the scent glands in their paws, they often gravitate toward scratching items at the center of the room, according to Calder. But because most guardians don't want a scratcher in the way, they often get pushed to less desirable places at the edge of the room. The farther from the action a scratcher is, the less likely a cat is to use it.
My furniture-scratching cat seemed to enjoy flexing his claws on the Sofa Scratcher Squared — the style that best fit my square-cornered furniture — as much as he enjoyed using them on the couch, itself. He tore at the sisal guard every time he jumped onto the furniture to settle in for a nap, and but after several weeks, it still looks brand new.
Unlike shields and tape, both styles of Sofa Scratcher have a rectangular polycarbonate base that slips under the leg of a couch or chair, using its weight to keep it in place. Felt backing on the scratcher keeps it from rubbing. The 24-inch tall square scratcher and its two 5.5-inch wide panels perfectly covered both the chair and couch I tested it on.
Those with taller furniture may need to find another solution such as scratch tape or a furniture guard to protect the remaining inches of furniture that stick out beyond the scratcher. Because it didn't match the shape of my furniture, the half-moon shaped scratcher left gaps large enough for a determined cat to still reach the upholstery.
Both Sofa Scratcher styles require very little assembly (just three screws attach the base to the scratcher) and come in seven colors. They are made in the United States and their sisal fabric is toxin-free.
The best scratching post
The On2Pets Skyline Sisal Cat Scratching Post has three poles and a wide, turf-covered base for happy vertical and horizontal scratching.
This product is temporarily out of stock. If you're looking for a good cat scratcher in the meantime, read more about the Max & Marlow Tall Scratch Post in the What else we considered slide at the end of this guide.
Pros: Three horizontal scratching posts of different heights, sisal-covered posts, broad base covered in scratchable artificial turf, holds up to 32 pounds, made in the United States
Cons: Pricey, requires light assembly
To stop a cat from scratching furniture, the goal is not to punish the behavior but to redirect it. Every cat has their own personal scratching preference. If your cat is scratching vertically on your furniture, it's likely they will prefer a vertical scratcher, said Quagliozzi. If they scratch carpets or rugs, a horizontal scratch pad is more likely to satisfy their desire. Some, like my cat Osito, enjoy both. Whatever they like, Calder said it's important to have multiple scratchers.
For this guide, we focused on scratching posts, and of the four we tested, the On2Pets Skyline Sisal Cat Scratching Post was the clear favorite. Both cats returned to the scratcher multiple times a day during testing.
Resembling a city skyline, this scratcher has three sisal-covered vertical posts at heights of 30.5 inches, 22 inches, and 16.5 inches bunched together at the center of a wide rectangular base. The base is covered in scratchable artificial turf. After more than two months, it still looks brand new.
Made in the United States, the Skyline Scratcher is sturdy and can withstand up to 32 pounds of cat. It requires some light assembly upon arrival. At just under $50, this scratcher was also the second most expensive we tested, with the exception of the hybrid Sofa Scratcher products, but based on how frequently my cats used it versus its competitors, it's well worth the additional cost.
The best furniture guard
Clawguard Furniture Shields are an easy-to-install, semipermanent fix to protect furniture and carpet from a cat's claws.
Pros: Clear and flexible, made from durable marine-grade vinyl, withstands sharp claws, installs quickly with upholstery twist pins, waterproof, comes in four sizes, can be cut down to smaller sizes, made in the United States, long-lasting
Cons: Visible on furniture and carpeting, upholstery pins may leave marks on delicate materials
One way to prevent a cat from destroying furniture is to make the locations they enjoy scratching less desirable, according to Sanchez. Covering an area with something slick and tacky like plastic can discourage destructive tendencies.
Of the two plastic guards I tested, the Clawguard Furniture Shields offered the most protection from scratching. The shields are made from marine grade vinyl that is impenetrable by cat claws. The clear, flexible material attaches to upholstery or carpeting with twist pins inserted through holes that line the length of the border. When the shield is screwed tight, the clear plastic caps on the pins look like small buttons. It took me less than five minutes to completely install one shield.
These shields are waterproof and made in the United States. Each package of two shields comes in four sizes with six to eight pins (we tested the 7.5-by-18.5-inch extra-large version), and the shields can be cut down as needed with scissors. The best thing about Clawguard Furniture Shields, aside from the protection they offer, is that they will last for months, if not years, without needing to be replaced.
Despite being made of clear vinyl, which the company claims will not cloud or yellow over time, Clawguard Furniture Shields are easily visible. And while my upholstery did not show signs of having been embedded with pins when I removed the guard after testing, it is possible that more delicate materials will.
All in all, Clawguard Furniture Shields are a quick fix for making an ugly problem disappear, as long as your cat has attractive, alternative locations for carrying out their natural scratching instincts. After figuring out the vinyl was unpleasant to scratch on his first attempt, my furniture-scratching cat did not touch it again, preferring instead to use the nearby posts and pads.
The best scratch tape
Sticky Paws On a Roll temporarily deters a cat from destruction by making furniture scratching too sticky to be enjoyable.
Pros: Adheres to a variety of surfaces to prevent scratching, transparent, comes in multiple sizes including a tape roll, adhered well to furniture throughout three-week testing period, easy to remove, leaves no residue behind, not too aversive for cats
Cons: Debris clings to sticky exterior of tape, visible on furniture
Like furniture guards, scratch tape takes the fun out of scratching a couch leg or the edge of a carpet by covering it in a material that prevents a cat's claws from finding satisfaction. Although scratch tape is more temporary and less durable than furniture guards, it is easier to use and requires no upholstery pins to stay put.
Of the two versions we tested, we found the one recommended by Quagliozzi, Sticky Paws, best at deterring scratching without causing unnecessary fear, pain, or discomfort. "Sticky tape is not too aversive for cats," said Calder. It may be unpleasant to scratch but doing so doesn't cause discomfort or fear.
Sticky Paws is a transparent, double-sided tape. One sticky side adheres to upholstery, carpeting, and other household materials while the other sticky side faces out toward the cat. When they scratch, the tape briefly grips their nails and paws, preventing them from digging in.
Sticky Paws comes in different shapes and sizes, but my favorite was the Sticky Paws On a Roll, which works like a packing tape dispenser to easily cut the tape to size. Like the furniture guards, after my furniture-scratching cat got his paws on the tape just once, he chose not to focus any more energy on it, turning instead to nearby posts and pads.
The biggest problem with using Sticky Paws is the reason it works in the first place: Stuff sticks to it. Dust and hair are attracted to the sticky outer layer, although I was surprised to find that after three weeks on my furniture, it had collected less debris than expected. While the interior of the tape adhered well throughout the testing period, it is more temporary than furniture guards and requires regular replacement. The tape left no residue behind after removal.
It's also worth mentioning that, aesthetically, Sticky Paws does leave something to be desired. "It's effective," said Quagliozzi. "But it's ugly and unpleasant to live around."
The best cat claw covers
Soft Claws Cat Nail Caps allow your cat to scratch and use their paws naturally without causing damage to your furniture.
Pros: Flexible vinyl, fits medium-size cat claws well, variety of colors, last four to six weeks, comes with 40 caps plus nontoxic adhesive and six applicators, affordable, doesn't interfere with natural scratching and claw extension
Cons: May be difficult to get on, may fall off before four to six weeks are up, many cats will not tolerate them
Nail caps prevent your cat's claws from scratching your furniture. Calder likes Soft Claws (also called Soft Paws), and out of the two nail cap brands we considered, we found the medium-size Soft Claws nail caps to be better sized for a 9- to 13-pound cat's claws.
Soft Claws are made of a durable, flexible vinyl that slips over the nail. The caps don't interfere with a cat's ability to extend or retract their claws and come in a wide variety of colors. Super strong nontoxic adhesive keeps each cap secure for four to six weeks. Each package comes with 40 nail caps, two bottles of adhesive, and six applicators.
According to Calder and Sanchez, nail caps can be a good solution for preventing damage without taking away a cat's ability to practice the innate behavior of scratching. While it's important to teach a cat to focus their scratching on posts and pads, in the short term "these nail caps may be just the relief your furniture needs," Sanchez said.
The biggest drawback of nail caps is that many cats, including mine, will not tolerate them. Even those whose cats are okay with their claws being handled may find getting them on and situated correctly is a challenge. It's also not uncommon for caps to fall off before their four- to six-week lifespan is up.
What else we considered
All of the products we tested for this guide to protect furniture from cat scratching are high-quality enough to get the job done. Here are the ones that didn't quite make the cut but may work for your needs.
- Max & Marlow Tall Scratch Post ($24): At 26 inches, this was the shortest of the scratching posts we tested. But, with a soft bird toy attached to the top by an elastic cord and another on a spring on the base, it also has the most bells and whistles. We've owned this post for three years and the sisal has held up well, but ultimately, unlike the On2Pets Skyline Scratcher, it only offers one way to scratch — a single vertical post. The On2Pets Scratcher has three vertical posts at different heights as well as a turf-covered base for horizontal scratching.
- Smartcat Ultimate Scratching Post ($43): The most expensive of the scratching posts we tested, the Smartcat Ultimate is tall enough to accommodate a full body stretch and has a sturdy wooden base. My cats showed no interest in using either this scratcher or the similarly shaped Frisco Sisal Scratching Post, which seems to be due to do its imposing column shape.
- Frisco 33.5" Sisal Scratching Post ($34): This scratching post is similar to the Smartcat Ultimate, but with a cream-color faux-fur covered base and top, it's less aesthetically pleasing. Like the SmartCat Ultimate Post, my cats did not use the Frisco scratcher, apparently because of its imposing column shape.
- Furniture Defender Cat Scratching Guard ($13): Like Clawguard's Furniture Shields, these furniture guards are clear and flexible but with slightly thinner vinyl that may be easier to penetrate than the marine-grade vinyl used in the Clawguard Furniture Shields. The Furniture Defender comes in five sizes and carries a 100% money-back lifetime guarantee.
- Clawguard Protection Tape ($19): Although this tape is high quality and looks nicer on furniture than Sticky Paws, it does not have a sticky exterior. As a result, Clawguard Protection Tape functions more like a temporary furniture shield with an adhesive backing for twice the price of Sticky Paws On a Roll.
- Purrdy Paws ($13): These nail caps were similar in quality to Soft Claws but about 50% longer, which some cats may find awkward.
How we tested
Due to the wide variety of products tested for this guide, we did not use a single testing strategy. Instead, we looked at each product individually to assess its quality, appearance and, most of all, whether or not it worked to prevent or redirect inappropriate scratching.
Assembly and ease of installation: One thing these products had in common is that each required some assembly or installation. Scratch posts needed to be put together, furniture guards needed to be pinned to upholstery, tape needed to be unfurled, and nail caps needed to be filled with adhesive. For each product, I evaluated how quickly and easily it was to set up.
Protection: To evaluate furniture guards and scratch tapes, I tested the protection each product afforded two pieces of furniture that my cat Osito regularly scratches. Using his damage as a guide, I looked at how well a tape or guard covered his preferred scratching spots. Once installed, I left each guard and tape up for a period of three weeks to test whether they did, in fact, deter his scratching, or in the case of the Sofa Scratcher products, whether they provided a desirable alternative.
Shape, material, and quality: With scratching posts, I looked closely at height and stability, two factors that Calder and Quagliozzi said can make a difference in whether a cat will actually use one. I also looked at the scratchers' shape and material as well as how frequently my cats used them. With guards and tapes, I compared features like the thickness of the material and how it held up to three weeks of testing.
Appearance: Since most of these products are intended to conceal or provide an alternative to beloved furniture at the heart of the home, it was important to consider how visible each one was. The aesthetics of the scratching posts, which Calder recommends placing at the center of a room, were also evaluated.
Why didn't we include cat scratching deterrent spray?
Although a previous version of this guide included scratching deterrent spray, our experts confirmed that they are not helpful for redirecting furniture scratching. "They don't really work, and they're an aversive," said Calder.
In animal behavior, an "aversive" is any tool or technique that uses discomfort, pain, fear, or intimidation to force an animal to change their behavior. Deterrent spray is aversive because it assaults a cat's extremely sensitive senses of smell and taste, making them sneeze and cough.
Preventing a cat from practicing inappropriate scratching by using scratch tape or furniture guards combined with training that teaches them to love scratching appropriate toys like scratching posts or pads is a more effective long-term strategy for changing their behavior than aversive tools and techniques. "Our goal is not to scare the cat, it's more about finding out why the behavior is occurring in the first place," said Calder.
Why do cats scratch furniture?
People often ask how to stop cats from scratching furniture. However, scratching is a natural, instinctual behavior in cats, according to Sanchez. "Scratching serves many functions for a cat, including a communication tool that leaves both scent and visual marks at a site, a way to clean and condition the claw beds, and a great way to stretch the muscles of the legs and toes," she said.
Cats who don't have easy to access scratching posts or horizontal scratch pads may turn their claws toward furniture and carpeting. But just owning a scratching post or pad isn't helpful if it's not in a place your cat likes to scratch. Cats need a variety of choices in various locations to be fully satisfied. Sanchez recommends placing them in high-traffic areas and near your cat's favorite resting spots.
Another reason your cat may prefer your furniture to a scratching post or pad? The material it's made from. "Some cats will strictly scratch on softer materials such as cardboard boxes or scratch pads, while other cats will only use carpeted or tall, sturdy posts," said Sanchez. Many cats enjoy scratching a sisal rope or cloth, but some may find other materials more attractive. If your cat is attracted to carpet, for example, Quagliozzi recommends framing a piece of carpet for them to use.
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