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. 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 ways to help prevent them from clawing up your RV furniture…and the cat gets to stay!

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 accept the consequences of owning a cat and just deal with it.

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Why Do Cats Scratch?

Cats use their claws to defend themselves. They use their sharp little talons to hunt, climb, play, and scratch an itch.

Kitty cats also scratch to express their emotions; whether it’s releasing stress, 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. Cats have scent glands on the bottom of their paws.

So when cats scratch,  they are marking their territory or letting others know, “this is mine” or “I was here and I want you to know it”. It’s kind of like dogs peeing on fire hydrants.

Declawing Your Cat?

Keep Cats from Scratching Furniture in Your RV - Cat Claws

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 ripping out all of your fingernails but never having them grow back. The tissue where they used to be will always be sensitive scar tissue.

But also, declawing cats induces stress. Therefore, declawed cats will seek other destructive ways to do as nature has intended them to. Because as most know, cat’s can be a bit emotionally defiant.

In other words, 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 in your RV, 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 actually good luck? 

Rehoming Your Cat?

Keep Cats from Scratching Furniture in Your RV - Sad Cat

I have seen RVers rehome cats because they can’t handle their cat’s behavior or take time to train them properly.

It breaks my heart for the cat. And, it breaks the cat’s heart and spirit as well. 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. Worse, just booting the cat out the door to fend for themselves after being domesticated will drastically shorten their lifespan.

Even if they dodge getting picked up by a big owl or hungry coyote, they still face dangers outdoors. Tossing them outside subjects felines to disease, motor vehicles, dangerous chemicals and even nasty human beings.

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 especially an older kitty could put them into unnecessary stress that can lead to serious health concerns.

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

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 cat 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. We like them too since they are recycled corrugated cardboard that’s totally earth-friendly and biodegradable.

There are other cat scratching tools out on the market. You just have to find one that they love and will stick to scratching it only.

Since cats are also champion climbers, a cat tower with an attached scratching post is a fantastic to keep in big rig motorhomes, fifth wheels and toy haulers to set near a window.

And, by providing a tall cat scratching post  or cat condo, it may very well keep them from climbing all over your expensive furniture.

Keep Cats from Scratching Furniture in Your RV - Cat Tower

A kitty condo is a huge benefit because not only does it provide them a place to scratch, it’s a great napping perch. And it gives them a place to stay out from under foot and out of your favorite seat or bed in your small living quarters. 

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 have to commit to a little more positive reinforcement. They may not really differentiate between carpet for kitties and carpet NOT for kitties.

But say you do find a cat condo that Little Miss Purrfect really loves, it is possible to refurbish the posts by rewrapping them with sisal rope and a glue gun.

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 actually 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 may go elsewhere to relieve his stress or mark his territory. And that elsewhere may be your furniture or carpet!

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

Cover furniture or areas where cats may scratch

You have to realize that places in your motorhome or camper, boat or home where your kitty is allowed, your furniture may still get a few claw marks. It’s not their fault. It’s a cat’s instinct to dig their claws into whatever it is they are climbing up on to help pull themselves up.

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

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

They work perfectly because being rubber-backed. They’re less apt to slip off when our kitties jump up or down.

They are also machine washable. As we cat owners are well aware, they’re going to hurl up a big ole hairball or get a chocolate starfish smudge on them.

Cat Scratch Deterrent Sprays

Some professional cat behavioralists 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. 

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, never use essential oils in any spray! Cats cannot metabolize some essential oils; especially in the citrus family (orange, lemon, tangerine, lime, etc.)

And seriously, never spray your cat; even with water! Spraying a cat is not positive behavior training to teach them not to scratch or doing what you don’t want him to do.

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

Trim your cat’s nails

Trimming your cat’s nails with special nail clippers may be more than what you’re bargaining for. Unless your cat is older and set in her way or really docile, both of you may come out the losers.

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 cat professionals. There are professional cat groomers who know how to properly trim kitty claws without hurting them or becoming their own personal human pin cushion.

As frequent travelers, you may want to research the interweb for local cat groomers or Veterinarian on the road. Always read their customer reviews! You never want a careless groomer who’s going to manhandle or traumatize your cat.

Aside from that, you need to trim your kitty’s nails about every 2-3 weeks. But that is quite costly. So, you may want to learn how to do it yourself. Or, seek other measures to protect your furniture from your cat.

 lists some important information and provides a great step-by-step expert guide to trimming your cat’s nails.

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Feline Paw-dicures

Cats Scratching Furniture - Soft Paws Cat Claw Caps

If you don’t want to deal with clipping your cat’s claws, you may want to look  into giving them a feline pedicure; also known as a 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.

But, 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 your cat trust each other, make it date! And always reward and praise your cat with lots of love and some tasty cat treats!

PRO TIP: Check out what Cat Whisperer, Jackson Galaxy, recommends on how to stop your cats from scratching the furniture. Also, check out his video:

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

Cat Scratch Marks on Furniture

We hope our tips on how to keep cats from scratching your furniture or carpet help. RV furniture and carpet is typically of cheap quality and may not be easily replaceable. But, by applying these simple tips to keep your sofas, chairs and carpet claw-free, you and your cat can both live harmoniously in your RV or boat without having to replace either of them.

Check out our video on how to RV with Cats:


Also check out our “RVing with Cats” Catalog of Articles:

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

Where to Put the Cat Litter Box in an RV – Storage Tips

Why You Should Leash Your Cat While Camping

Best Cat Carriers for Travel Cats and Adventure Kitties

Best Cat Beds for Travel Cats

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

Always On Liberty - Cats Scratching Furniture

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