How to Keep Cats from Scratching Furniture in your RV or Boat

Since the day we started the full-time RV lifestyle, one of our most asked questions is how we keep our cats from scratching furniture in our RV. Trust me, it’s not easy simply because it’s a cat’s natural instinct to use their claws for everything; from grabbing food, snagging their prey, climbing, and self soothing. But, there are useful ways to help prevent them from clawing up your RV furniture without harming them.

Having been a cat owner for almost my entire life, I recognize one of the biggest issues that cats can be destructive little creatures. If you don’t teach them that scratching furniture is unacceptable behavior while your cat is very young, you may have to just deal with it.

Why Do Cats Scratch?

Cats use their claws to defend themselves, climb, play, catch their prey, and scratch an itch. Kitty cats also scratch to express their emotions; whether it’s releasing stressing, stretching, showing happiness or even anger (better that scratch pad than your leg!). They will deploy their claws and dig in deep of whatever they can to shed their old nails to expose the new ones.

Felines also use their claws to also mark their territory. See, cats have scent glands on the bottom of their paws. So when cats scratch, like dogs peeing on fire hydrants, they are marking their territory or letting others know, “this is mine”.

Keep Cats from Scratching Furniture in Your RV - Cat Claws

Declawing Your Cat?

Before we go on with our suggested ways to keep your cats from scratching furniture, we want to make it perfectly clear that we are not proponents of declawing cats. Surgically removing cat’s claws is painful upon healing and can lead to a life of debilitating pain and stress. And, cats who are declawed cannot defend themselves. So, if they get outside, they are defenseless and may be harmed or worse.

Declawing a cat is like chopping ripping out all of your fingernails and never having them grow back. The tissue where they used to be will always be sensitive scar tissue. But also, declawing cats induces stress. Cats will seek other destructive ways to do as nature has intended them to or worse, to be defiant.

In other words, please do not declaw your cats just to save your furniture, carpet or walls. We agree with the Humane Society, there are other more productive, safer and healthier methods to train or keep cats from tearing up your furniture at home, in your RV home, or even onboard your boat. Speaking of boats, did you know that sailing with a cat, just like Georgie, or RVing with Krissie and Kandi is good luck!

Keep Cats from Scratching Furniture in Your RV - Sad Cat

Rehoming Your Cat?

I have seen RVers rehome cats because they can’t handle their cat’s behavior or take time to train them properly. And to be honest with you, it breaks my heart for the cat. I mean, how can anyone just throw away a kitty just because it may ruin a sofa or claw a hole in the carpet?

Rehoming cats is not fair to the cat who’s only doing what nature is telling them. And worse, just booting the cat out the door to fend for themselves after being domesticated will shorten their lifespan. By tossing them outside subjects felines to disease, danger or worse. And, expecting someone else to deal with cat training shortcomings isn’t fair either.

So, if you are thinking about getting a cat or kitten, know that when you bring them home, you accept full responsibility of your new feline friend. Kitties aren’t a commodity that you can just take back to the store because you think is defective. Cats are living, breathing animals with hearts and souls. Rehoming a kitty could put them into unnecessary stress which can lead to health issues.

Now, that we’ve learned about why cats scratch and why rehoming your cat or declawing your cat is a bad idea, let’s serve up some proven ways how to keep cats from scratching furniture in your RV.

How to Keep Cats from Scratching Furniture in Your RV

Always On Liberty - Cats Scratching Furniture-2

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Train and positively enforce your cat to scratch in certain places

Yes, you can teach a cat tricks; especially when they’re young kittens or even juvenile cats under one or two years of age. Constant reinforcement by showing them where scratching is appropriate is the ticket to keeping your furniture looking nice as well as keeping your cat happy.

Though we’ve never used this method, others claim you can use aluminum foil or two-sided tape to cover places you don’t want your cat to scratch, some claim it works.

Provide your cats with appropriate scratching places

Cardboard Kitty Hideout Scratcher

Cats seemingly gravitate towards anything made of cardboard. This is why you see cardboard scratch boxes of every shape and size. In fact, our two Maine Coon cats prefer the cardboard cat scratchers. And we like them too since they are recycled corrugated cardboard that’s earth friendly and biodegradable.

So, when it’s time to get a new cardboard cat scratcher, their worn out scratch box can be thrown right into the fire pit or be tossed in cardboard recycling containers.

But cats are also champion climbers. So providing a tall cat scratching post  or cat condo may keep them from climbing all over your expensive furniture. Scratching posts and cat towers are fantastic to keep in big rig motorhomes, fifth wheels and toy haulers to set near a window or out of the way in a corner.

That said, just be conscious of the fact that those cat condos and cat towers are typically covered in carpet. So, if you’re trying to deter your cat from scratching your floor carpet, you may want to seek a different construction material for them to scratch on. Because they can’t really differentiate between carpet for kitties and carpet NOT for kitties.

Keep Cats from Scratching Furniture in Your RV - Cat Tower

But say you find a cat condo that Little Miss Purrfect really loves, you can rewrap the posts with sisal rope and a glue gun and when it needs refurbished.

But, if your RV, boat or even your home or apartment doesn’t have floor carpeting, then game on! Get Mr. Whiskers that cool kitty condo so they can nap for hours without being under foot or vie for the same seat or bed as you.

Cat Scratching Post

Now, for smaller RVs, motorhomes and campers, you may have to resort to getting your cat a smaller cat scratch posts. We created our own scratch posts for our fifth wheel using thick cardboard mailing tubes and sisal rope.

While some cats love vertical cat scratchers or slanted cat scratching posts, other cats may prefer scratching horizontally. So, pay particular attention to which position your feline friend prefers to scratch. Because remember, if kitty isn’t happy with her scratching location, he’ll go elsewhere. And that elsewhere may be your furniture or carpet!

CAT OWNER TIP: A great way to attract cats to scratch on new cat scratcher, cat condo or even the kitty litter box area is to sprinkle catnip or spray a couple sprizes of honeysuckle attractant made exclusively for cats.

Cover furniture or areas where cats may scratch

Those places in your motorhome or camper, boat or home where your kitty is allowed, your furniture may still get a few claw marks without intention such as jumping up or getting down.

In our RV, our dinette seating cushions are prone to them jumping up to look out the window or to come see us. So, instead of deterring them all together (because cats don’t listen), we just cover the seat cushions instead.

We found thin rubber-bottom floor runners to keep on our dinette seats. We also put one up on the cab over bunk where they like to slumber for the night or take naps. They are easy to cut into smaller sections to secure over the arms or backrests of your chairs, RV sofas and recliners. 

Dinette Cushion Covers

And guess what? They work perfectly because being rubber-backed, they’re less apt to slip which will help kitty from slipping while jumping up. Another great thing is they are machine washable. Because, when you have cats, you know they’re going to hurl up a big ole hairball right on them or get a smudge or two on them.

Cat Scratching Deterrent Citrus Sprays

Some professional cat behavioralists may recommend spraying citrus-scented sprays to deter cats from scratching furniture and carpets.

To make your own cat scratching deterrent citrus spray, simply fill a new 16 ounce spray bottle with distilled water and mix in two teaspoons of lemon juice. Shake well and spray only surfaces that may be inviting places that your cat may want to scratch or claw. 

However, it’s wise to test the citrus spray on an inconspicuous area on your furniture or carpet to make certain it doesn’t discolor or damage the surface, furniture or carpet. This applies to the pleather (fake leather) furniture covering as well.

Just be aware though, spraying in enclosed and small spaces can be harmful to your cat. As well, do NOT ever use essential oils in any spray as cats cannot metabolize some essential oils; especially in the citrus family (orange, lemon, tangerine, lime, etc.)Whatever you do, DO NOT SPRAY YOUR CAT!! That is not positive behavior training nor is it positive reinforcement to teach them not to scratch.

Keep Cats from Scratching Furniture in Your RV - Trimming Cat Claws

Trim your cat’s nails

Trimming your cat’s nails with cat nail clippers may be more than what you’re bargaining for. Both you and your cat may come out the losers; especially if your cat is older. Cats are easier to train to get their claws trimmed if started when they are kittens or very young juveniles.

If you feel you’re not up for the task, leave the nail trimming to the professionals. And yes, there are professional cat groomers who know how to properly trim kitty claws without becoming a human pin cushion. And Fluffy will be happier too!

So, as traveling RVers, you may want to research the interweb for local cat groomers or Veterinarian in the area where you’re parked. Always read their customer reviews! You don’t want a careless groomer who’s going to man-handle and scare your cat.

That said, you’ll need to trim your kitty’s nails about every 2-3 weeks, so that in itself could prove costly. So, you may want to learn how to do it yourself or  seek other measures to protect your furniture from your cat. By  gives a great step by step guide and important information in her expert guide to trimming your cat’s nails.

Cats Scratching Furniture - Soft Paws Cat Claw Caps

Feline Paw-dicures

If you don’t want to deal with clipping your cat’s claws, you may want to look  into giving them a feline paw-dicure.

What the heck is a feline paw-dicure? Well, they are actually soft rubbery cat claw covers that are glued onto each of your cat’s claws. They come in a whole bunch of different colors or you can get clear. Before deciding if this anti-scratching method is a good choice, you may want to read Animal Path‘s article about the pros and cons of the nail covers first.

However, this is another one of those chores you may also want to leave to the professional cat groomers instead of trying this yourself. But, if you you and and your cat have trust in each other, make it date! And lastly, always reward and praise your cat with lots of love and some tasty cat treats!

Lastly, we’d like to share what Cat Whisperer, Jackson Galaxy, recommends as well on how to stop your cats from scratching the furniture. Also, you may to check out his video:

Final thoughts on how to keep cats from scratching furniture in your RV

Cat Scratch Marks on Furniture

That wraps up our helpful recommendations on how to keep cats from scratching your furniture or carpet. We appreciate that your RV furniture and carpet may not be easily replaceable or cheap. But, by taking applying these simple steps to keep your sofas, chairs and dinettes claw-free, you and your cat can both live harmoniously in your motorhome or camper without having to replace either of them.

Always On Liberty - Cats Scratching Furniture

More articles on RVing with cats and pets

How to Make a Cat Scratch Post for RVs and Small Spaces

How to Survive RVing with Cats

Why Cats Make Great RV Companions

Cool Camping Gear for Dogs and Cats

Campground Pet Etiquette: Camping Rules for Dogs and Cats

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