Casco Bay Furniture – Those Dastardly Cats and Upholstered Furniture

At Casco Bay Furniture we recently had a customer call us. Their new leather sofas had just been delivered and they were afraid to uncover it because of their cat.

I had a chuckle, but I do understand the dilemma, as I also have a cat. The cat’s name is Max and he’s a tuxedo cat. My wife and daughter love that cat. I would say on average the cat gets about a hundred kisses a day (and yes, I do get jealous!) His blankets are fluffed, his food is carefully selected, and he is constantly entertained by an array of toys and distractions.

I like cats, but I didn’t like what Max did to our last sofa. Despite of all my efforts, Max had dug a network of secret tunnels in our old sofa. Once he entered his lair, you really never knew where he was until his little head emerged from one of his lookout posts.

Rule # 1. (The Good News) Cats don’t like leather furniture, as it doesn’t feel good on their paws.

Rule #2. (The Bad News) Even if they don’t like leather furniture, they can ruin your sofa in one afternoon.

Rule #3. (The Even Worse News) Pretty much every cat loves upholstered furniture and especially the arms.

I tried everything I heard of or could think of to keep that cat off our upholstered furniture and the leather sofa in my study.

My first attempt was to spray “Cataway” on our fabric sofas. I cut strips of cloth and sprayed them with Cataway and pinned them to the welts of my leather sofa. This seemed to work for a while, that is until Max acquired a taste for Cataway, like caviar.

My next attempt came about when someone suggested that I take tea bags and fill them with powdered pepper. We had no tea in the house, so I dutifully went to Whole Foods Market and purchased a box of Earl Grey tea and (at the insistence of the Wife) “organic” pepper. I returned home, sat at the kitchen table, and carefully removed the tea from the bags and filled them with the organic pepper. I then attached the bags to a 10 inch piece of string and carefully pinned the bags to the arms of our sofas.

Max had intently observed everything I was doing. It was then my turn to observe him. After batting the tea bags around and getting a few whiffs of pepper and a few sneezes, he for a time stayed clear of the bags. In the end, however, my tea bags became a game and seemed to be actually attracting Max to the sofas. He would sit up on the arms and bat down at the bags so as to avoid the pepper.

At this point, I was at my wits end. I even considered getting plastic covers, like the ones my grandmother had, but the Wife said “absolutely not.” I then ended up covering our sofas with throws, which always seem to fall off.

I then tried a variety of scratching posts with varying success. The only trouble with these is that they seemed to encourage Max to scratch up, training him to reach up to the arm of the sofa.


Then one day, while shopping at Trader Joes, I noticed something called a scratching pad. These pads are approximately 10 inches by 18 inches and about 2 inches high. They are filled with corrugated cardboard and come with cat nip. I purchased one for each arm of every sofa in our house and one for every chair. At about $6 each, and being in the furniture business and having a lot of furniture, this was an investment. (I did find them later online at Amazon.)

I took these pads home and placed one beside every arm and then sprinkled each with cat nip. Initially I left some throws on the arms. The cat never scratched our sofas again. Gradually the cat was trained to the pads and instead of the two pads for each sofa and one for each chair we had one pad in the room. Eventually, we even removed the throws.

This worked for our cat and hopefully it will work for yours. It’s at least worth a try. Good luck!

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  1. Hi Richard,

    Thanks for the details of the process you followed.

    The scratch pads you used? Do they have a ‘box’ surround of any sort? Do you how large they are? How do they use it.. ie..sit on it? Soo, no ‘tunnel’ making or diving either for your new sofa? Maybe she has a new ‘dark,close’ place?

    I have a maybe 6-7″ (corr cdboard) wide one, about 14″L, no box (clearance for a dollar). My Amber has used it a few times a bit only if catnip is on it. She’s an indoor cat (now) and never has really scratched anywhere (in or out) that I know of. I cut her nails or she pulls them out. She will occas scratch/stretch a bit on the sofa when she wakes up but that’s it.

    She did not have the normal cat teaches cat upbringing so I’ve had to teach her a lot of things. We’re still working on ‘covering’ in the litter box. LOL

    Thanks much, Joyce 😉

    • Richard

      Joyce we have a link on the page showing the particular scratching pad that we have had good luck with. It does have a box around the pad which is made of cardboard. If my memory is correct it is about 10″ wide and 14″ long. They also sell these at Traders Joe’s for a nominal amount. The last time I checked they were about $6.

  2. Nancy

    Thanks for an informative and hilarious article! (I laughed out loud at your description of your cat batting your organic teabags from Whole Foods. I am definitely going to try this.

  3. Eric Haubert

    Cats and furniture especially sofas are not something get along well. In past 2 years three of our sofas were almost damaged by our cat. At first we tried to protect them by purchasing a scratching post. To an extend it worked. But our leather sofas still suffered as sometimes cat still goes and scratch it. Now we moved the leather sofas to a room where cat is not permitted. Other furniture are not perfectly safe but doing good now.

  4. LaNell Barrett

    I think declawing is the only option I’d consider.

    • Richard

      LaNell I guess that is an option everyone would have to decide on their own.

    • Declawing has moved from commonplace to being considered cruel by most animal care professionals to the point that many vets simply refuse to do the procedure at all. And they have a real point- declawing isn’t like pulling off a fingernail, it’s literally cutting off the last joint of each toe, and removing the tendons that operate it.

      The option that’s worked best for our cat-loving household is to simply not have furniture with upholstered arms or backs. There are a lot of great looks in many styles from ultra-traditional to cutting edge.

      It’s not much of a sacrifice for us to choose furniture that’s impossible to damage in this very foreseeable way- especially when the alternative is to surgically alter our supposed friends for our convenience.

      • Good point about declawing. I can see what you are saying about not having upholstered sofas which would be a matter of personal tastes. Although I would say that a cat can scratch a wooden arm as well. I know this as I do have a cat and a chair with a wooden arm. In any event thank you for your contribution to this topic.

        Actually the suggestion noted in the article with the use a few of the scratching pads noted in the article has worked well for me in my own home.

  5. Theresa

    When cats are given a stable cat tree to scratch that is taller than they are when fully stretched out, they generally leave the furniture alone. It needs a big base so it won’t tip and scare them. The taller, the better! As a side benefit, they tend to sleep on their cat trees so the fur stays there and not on the cushions.

    Please thoroughly research declawing before considering this as an option. The procedure is being outlawed in many places.

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