How to stop your pets from damaging your furniture

According to the PDSA and their animal wellbeing report, the UK is a nation of pet lovers, with 53% of us sharing our homes with our furry friends. That’s 10.2 million dogs, 11.1 million cats and 1 million rabbits.

As much as we love them, we know how frustrating it can be if they start scratching and chewing on our furniture and possessions. Whether it’s your favourite pair of slippers, the staircase, the skirting boards or your new sofa.

So how do you stop a dog from chewing furniture? Is there such a thing as cat scratch protection for your sofa? Let’s find out!

Why is my pet ruining my furniture?

Before we dive into how to stop your pets from damaging your furniture, it's essential to understand why they do it in the first place. Here are some common reasons why pets damage furniture:

  • Boredom - Pets can quickly become bored if they don't have anything else to do. This can lead them to chew, scratch or dig into your furniture.
  • Anxiety - If your pets suffer from anxiety, they may resort to destructive behaviour, such as chewing on furniture, to relieve their stress.
  • Lack of exercise - Pets that don't get enough exercise can become restless and anxious, which can cause them to act out - on your furniture.
  • Teething - Puppies and kittens go through a teething phase, which can cause them to chew on anything they can get their teeth on.
  • Territorial marking - Some pets may scratch, chew or urinate on furniture to mark their territory, especially if they're feeling anxious or stressed.

Fortunately, there are ways to dampen the appeal of chewing, scratching and urinating around the home, so let’s go over some tips and tricks on how to stop your pets from damaging your furniture.

1. Provide them with alternatives

One of the easiest ways to protect your furniture from cat scratches and dog chewing is to provide them with alternatives. This means giving them toys, scratching posts, or other items to play with.

If your pets have something else to focus on, they're less likely to go after your furniture. Make sure you choose items that are safe for your pets and that they actually enjoy playing with.

2. Keep them entertained

Boredom is one of the main reasons pets start damaging furniture. If they don't have anything else to do, they'll start looking for something to play with, which could be your furniture.

Make sure your pets have plenty of toys and playtime to keep them entertained. Interactive toys, such as puzzle feeders or treat dispensers, can keep your pets occupied for longer periods.

3. Provide them with a comfortable space

Another reason why pets damage furniture is they might be uncomfortable in their current space. Make sure your pets have a comfortable and cosy place to sleep and relax.

This could be a designated bed or crate, or simply a comfortable corner of the room. If your pets feel relaxed and at ease, they'll be less likely to start damaging your furniture.

4. Train them

While it's not impossible to train a cat, it usually takes longer and is a more difficult process. Dogs however are much easier to train. You can teach them basic commands, such as "sit," "stay," and "leave it."

This will help you control their behaviour and prevent them from chewing or scratching on your furniture.

You can also train them to use scratching posts instead of your furniture.

5. Use repellents

Another way to prevent your pets from damaging your furniture is by using a cat scratch repellent or dog chewing deterrent. There are many commercial sprays and repellents available.

Alternatively, you can make your own repellents using natural ingredients, such as vinegar or citrus. Spray the repellent on your furniture to keep your pets away.

Whether you buy or make your own, do make sure that the ingredients are not toxic to your pets - you don’t want to make them ill!

6. Cover your furniture

If all else fails, you can always cover your furniture. Use slipcovers, throws, or blankets to protect your furniture from your pets' claws and teeth.

You can even buy special plastic sheets or covers for key areas of your furniture, like the sides of a sofa. They deter your cat or dog from clawing or chewing because it's too slippery for them to grip.

Tips to prevent future furniture damage

Here are  some ways to help future-proof so the pet damage  doesn’t become a constant issue.

1. Choose pet-friendly furniture

If you're a pet owner, you can  choose furniture that can withstand some wear and tear. Look for materials that are durable and easy to clean, such as leather or microfibre.

2. Keep your pets groomed

Regular grooming can help reduce the amount of pet hair and dander that accumulates on your furniture. Brush your pets regularly to remove loose hair and dander and make sure  they have flea and tick treatments too. A regular checkup with the vet will help keep them in tip-top shape.

3. Trim your pets' claws

Trimming your pets' claws can help prevent scratches on your furniture. Make sure you use proper tools and techniques to avoid hurting your pets. Walking your dog regularly can help to keep its claws from becoming overgrown, but if you have a house cat, you’ll definitely need to trim yourself.

4. Supervise your pets

If you're unable to keep your pets away from your furniture, supervise them when they're in the room. This way, you can stop them from going to town on your new curtains.

5. Use positive reinforcement

Reward your pets when they behave well around your furniture. This’ll encourage them to continue their good behaviour.

6. Address underlying issues

If your pets continue to damage your furniture despite your efforts, there may be underlying issues that need to be addressed. Consider speaking to your vet or an animal behaviourist for guidance.

7. Make sure you are covered with your contents insurance

Pet damage can sometimes be covered by contents insurance.  Depending on your insurance provider, it could be included under ‘accidental damage’ or under a ‘pet cover’ add-on. If you need to review or renew your contents insurance, you can get a quote from us. Select ‘Domestic Pet Owner Cover’ as an add-on when taking out your policy and get covered in minutes!  

We also thought it would be handy to answer some of the most frequently asked questions about protecting your furniture from pet damage - we asked clinical animal behaviourist Rachel Rodgers from Nose To Trail, to help us out.

Frequently asked questions

How do I stop cats from scratching my furniture and carpets?

Just like dogs, cats naturally scratch things. Rachel from Nose To Trail points out, scratching by both cats and dogs is an instinctive behaviour. She says, “With cats this is part of sorting their nails - their claw sheaths shed and they often scratch to help this process.”

“The best thing people can do to stop cats from scratching their furniture is to provide a safe, appropriate outlet for them to scratch. Lots of cat toys and cat trees involve scratch post options. This gives them a safe and appropriate place to scratch and perform this behaviour.”

Rachel goes on to add that if you have more than 1 cat, you may want to look at providing multiple options, as cats are typically solitary and may not want to access and use a post that another cat is in close proximity to.

You can also use repellents to deter them or cover your furniture with a protective coating. Cats don’t like the feel of tin foil or sticky substances, so if there’s a particular area they keep scratching, you can try placing a sheet of tin foil or double-sided sticky tape on it.

What scents deter cats from scratching?

Cats dislike citrus smells and strong scents, so orange and lemon as well as some essential oils can be mixed with water in a spray bottle. Just be careful that you choose an oil that’s still safe for cats as you don’t want to make your pet ill or damage the furniture.

Can I train my dog not to chew on furniture?

Yes, you can train your dog not to chew on furniture by teaching them the basic commands, such as "leave it" and "drop it." You can also provide them with toys and other chewable items to redirect their attention.

For dogs chewing is a normal behaviour at all stages in life and so just telling them off probably won’t work. Rachel from Nose To Trail advises, “When trying to stop a dog from chewing furniture, owners will have more success if they match the texture of what the dog is chewing. For example, if your dog is chewing soft furnishings, offer them a soft plush dog toy instead. Sometimes owners are reluctant to do this as the toy gets destroyed - but that's the whole point! That's what the dog needs to do to fulfil this instinctive drive.”

Rachel goes on to say, that if chewing is happening when the owners are not in the home the dog may be suffering from separation-related behaviour problems. “The owners should look to set up a dog cam to see their dog's behaviour and seek support from an appropriate professional to help their dog to overcome this very sad condition.”

How do I stop my dog from chewing the skirting boards?

If a dog is chewing wooden furniture then swapping them for a soft dog toy to chew is unlikely to meet what they are trying to achieve. Rachel says, “Instead, they will do better to use things like olive tree or anco tree roots, similar in wooden texture with a similar amount of "give" to what the dog has been originally chewing. This is safer than giving wood or sticks from the garden as not all plants are safe for dogs, some will be toxic and others could splinter and hurt them!

If your dog is chewing the skirting boards or wood, they may also be bored and need more walks, more playtime and more entertainment. If you think they may be feeling anxious or stressed, try to figure out why  that might be. You can try a deterrent spray as well. A homemade version consists of 1 part white vinegar and 2 parts apple cider vinegar. Mix into a spray bottle. Shake well and spray onto the area affected.

What should I do if my pet leaves urine stains on my furniture?

Clean the urine stain as soon as possible to prevent it from setting in. Use an enzymatic cleaner designed specifically for pet urine stains and follow the instructions carefully. If the stain is still visible, consider hiring a professional upholstery cleaner.

Can I use citronella spray to deter my pets from damaging my furniture?

Citronella spray may help deter pets from damaging furniture, but it's not always effective. Additionally, the scent of citronella may be unpleasant for some pets, so it's important to use it with caution.

Are cat scratching deterrents and repellents any good?

When cats scratch their paws have glands that leave behind a scent, making this another way cats mark their territory. Deterrent and repellent sprays counter this scent, discouraging your cat from repeating the scratching behaviour.

What should I do if my pet continues to damage my furniture despite my efforts?

Rachel at Nose To Trail says that owners may worry they are reinforcing bad behaviour by offering chewing alternatives, but the aim of these solutions is to provide a safe appropriate outlet for a naturally occurring behaviour. They can be given preemptively throughout the day as enrichment to ensure your pet’s natural behaviours are met.

If your pet continues to damage your furniture, there may be underlying issues, such as anxiety or boredom, that need to be addressed. Consider speaking to your vet or an animal behaviourist for guidance.

Does house insurance cover pet damage?

Most home insurance policies don’t include cover against pet damage as standard, but you may be able to  add it to your buildings and contents insurance as an optional add-on for an additional fee. It’s a good idea to check your policy wording to make sure you’re happy with the cover offered before buying. You can read more about our home insurance here.

A few final tips

Some form of furniture damage is likely when you own a cat or dog, but as we’ve shown, there are lots of things you can do to minimise it.

  • Provide alternatives because chewing is an instinctual behaviour you'll never be able to fully train out of your pet.
  • Buy your furniture with your household in mind. Whether it’s kids, a pet or a small space, buy for the household you’re living in. Your furniture should be practical as well as pleasing to the eye.
  • Make sure your pets are kept well groomed, not left alone for long periods of time and if you do suspect there may be underlying stress or a medical condition, check with a specialist.

Urban Jungle is not a financial advisor and information in this article should not be taken as advice or recommendation.