Destructive cat behaviour problems

Your cat probably has lots of quirky habits, which is one of the many reasons they’re so much fun to be with. But sometimes their behaviour can surprise you – maybe yours has been scratching and clawing things you don’t want them to, for example, or shredding an innocent pair of curtains. We often associate chewed-up furnishings and general mayhem with mischievous or anxious dogs, but a destructive pet with cat behaviour problems can do their fair share of damage too.
Cat looking into distance
Cat looking into distance
Cat looking into distance

Cats’ claws are very effective at their job, and they can be used to shred furniture, stereo speakers, doorways, cabinets, clothes, or just about anything else lying about the house. Don’t underestimate what they can do – mischievous cats can get just about anywhere if they want to! But what makes them act destructively?

Scratching with their claws helps cats shed their claw sheaths. In some ways this means they’re helping you take care of them, as their claws will need less trimming – they’re just not doing it in the way you’d necessarily want! Scratching things also leaves a visible and chemical scent marker that identifies their territory.

Sometimes a misbehaving cat will also chew certain materials such as leather, fabric, and cardboard – anything is game.

How to stop a cat scratching furniture

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To stop a destructive cat ripping their way through your cushions, carpet or anything else they’ve got their claws on, provide satisfying alternatives for them. Try fabric offcuts, bark-covered logs, softwood remnants or sisal fibre. Once your cat has discovered these fun, easy-to-scratch objects, they’re less likely to go back to your furniture.

Try out various locations for your cat’s new scratching toys, experimenting with both vertical and horizontal scratching posts. Until your cat discovers these satisfying new options, cover the areas you don't want damaged with smooth plastic.

To prevent your cat scratching furniture and from chewing or ingesting cardboard, ribbons, telephone cords, fabrics, sewing thread, needles and other irresistible items, the easiest thing to do it to keep them all out of reach so your cat won’t be tempted.

If you are worried that your cat is a little bit too destructive, contact your vet – they’ll always be happy to help.

The information contained in this article is not a substitute for individual veterinary or behavioural advice and is for information purposes only. You should always consult a veterinary surgeon if you have any concerns about cat behaviour problems or your pet’s health. He or she will be able to take a complete medical history and physically examine your pet, to then recommend appropriate individual advice or treatment options. For detailed behavioural advice tailored specifically for your pet, we recommend that you contact a qualified pet behaviourist. For further details of local canine and feline behaviourists practising in your area and how they offer help for with problem pets, please contact The Coape Association of Pet Behaviourists and Trainers at, Pet behaviourists will always require a referral from your veterinary surgeon

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If you’d like more information on destructive behaviour in cats or have any other queries, contact our PETCARE EXPERT TEAM.