FirstVet
cat scratching furniture

Help! Why is my cat destroying my house?!

Many cats live in perfect harmony with their surroundings. Unfortunately, others can claw sofas, climb drapes, and even spray urine on the furniture. It’s important to understand that your cat is not acting out of spite but displaying normal (though misdirected) feline behaviors. How can you stop your cat from destroying your house?

FirstVet is the #1 online video veterinary service.

FirstVet offers video calls with experienced veterinarians for just $35. You can get a consultation within minutes by downloading the FirstVet app for free from the Apple App Store or Google Play Store. Over 500,000 users trust FirstVet to care for their animals.

Why does my cat claw at the furniture?

Cats need their claws for hunting and climbing. Though most domestic cats don’t need to hunt, it’s an instinct they can’t shake. Also, cats scent-mark their territory while clawing, using little scent glands on the back of their legs.

Cats scratch with their front claws by dragging them downward, either on a horizontal or vertical surface. This action, referred to as stropping, loosens and removes the outer husk of the claw, revealing a sharp new surface underneath.

The back of a sofa or carpet on the stairs seems to be a popular choice by some cats. Sadly, it doesn’t take long for the sofa to look ruined so it’s important to provide an appropriate alternative from day one! A good scratching post is ideal.

How to Pick the Right Scratching Post for Your Cat

  • Provide different scratching options (woven rope, carpet, sisal) is ideal.
  • Keep in mind that cats are pretty tall when stretching up. The post should be at least 4 feet but taller is better.
  • Some cat scratching posts look more like trees with lots of different options to sleep and play. These are a good investment.
  • Pick a post with vertical and horizontal scratching options.
  • Place the post in a warm cozy area or near a window with a view outside.
  • The post must be sturdy enough to withstand a cat launching themselves at it!
  • There are products to encourage the use of a scratching post - CatNip works well for some and FeliScratch for others.
  • Home-made scratching posts can be just as effective. See these tips on how to make your own: DIY Scratching Posts

You can discourage your cat from clawing inappropriately by a disapproving hiss and gently removing them from the item. Another alternative is to use double-sided adhesive to the area they’re scratching. This is unpleasant and should discourage them, but remember to provide an alternative option.

Nail Trims

You can get your cat’s nails cut regularly, approximately every 1 month. This will blunt them and minimize the damage they can cause. The surgery to remove the cat's nails is extensive, painful, and considered by many to be a mutilation. It should not be used to stop your cat clawing - they are only displaying normal behavior. If you can’t face damage to certain items of furniture, it’s sometimes best to keep your cat out of the room completely.

Check out our article for tips on trimming your cat's nails!

Outdoor Environment

Whether to let your cat outdoors can be a controversial subject. They have lots of opportunities to explore and express their natural behaviors outdoors, making them less likely to need to play indoors. A cat run or cat-proof garden is ideal. This article provides more information on how to fence your garden appropriately: icatcare: Fencing Your Garden

Why does my cat pee on my furniture and floors?

Inappropriate urination can take two forms. One is spraying, which is for scent-marking territory. Cats often choose vertical surfaces to spray on, and it’s a natural behavior displayed by uncastrated male tomcats. Castration usually resolves this, but it can be a learned behavior that is employed if your cat feels stressed or threatened. If they continue to spray after castration, using methods to secure the environment from other cats and using calming pheromones like Feliway can help

The other form of inappropriate urination is choosing not to use the litter box. This may be for many reasons including stress, not enough litter choice, or even a bout of cystitis or other urinary tract disease. Please read our article about cystitis for further information.

If you have more than one cat it’s important to supply enough litter boxes in the house (think the number of cats plus 1) and ensure the boxes are a good size with appropriate choices of litter. See our article for more information about litter box choice.

Ensure the inappropriate area being used as a litter box is cleaned thoroughly. Ideally, limit access to this area while your cat readjusts to the correct place to urinate.

Enriching the Environment

Ensuring your house is a pleasant place for felines means providing safe secure places to sleep. Cats like to feel secure and often choose a high vantage point to nap. Make sure there are a couple of options, more if you have multiple cats. Your cat will also need appropriate areas for scratching and stimulation with toys to help them play. Check out our article on choosing appropriate toys for your cat and consider investing in a puzzle feeder. If a cat is bored in their environment, they’ll make their own fun! This can involve swinging from light fittings or drapes!

Read more:

Separation Anxiety in Cats

Adopting a New Kitten

Have more questions about your cat’s behavior?

Schedule a video consult to chat with one of our vets.

FirstVet is the #1 online video veterinary service.

FirstVet offers video calls with experienced veterinarians for just $35. You can get a consultation within minutes by downloading the FirstVet app for free from the Apple App Store or Google Play Store. Over 500,000 users trust FirstVet to care for their animals.

Download App
  • Low-cost video vet consultations, 24 hours a day
  • Experienced, licensed vets
  • Over 500,000 satisfied pet owners

More articles about Cat