Cats scratch at tree trunks, fence posts and furniture as a way of leaving territorial marks in prominent places where they feel most vulnerable. When they do this they leave scent as well as physical marks and the action makes a sound that can also have a communication function. Once the area is roughened, the cat is attracted back to renew his 'ownership' and so it goes on. Cats also scratch to sharpen up their claws and remove the old outer claw when a new one underneath is ready. This is known as 'stropping'.
If your cat scratches your furniture, you need to provide an alternative marking/scratching facility. Look for a sturdy scratch post which is tall enough to allow the cat to stretch upwards. Alternatively, some cats prefer to scratch a level surface such as your carpets, so a horizontal scratch pad is more suitable for them. There is a wide range of scratch posts on the market, including some that form structures for your cat to climb on, with numerous levels.
You can enhance your pet's sense of ownership in the home by rubbing gently around his face with a cloth to pick up his own reassuring scents and then apply them to the area he has been scratching.
Never punish your cat for scratching your furniture. If you find him in the act of scratching, distract him with a toy, perhaps something you can throw for him to chase and give him praise every time he uses his scratch post. Catnip can also be useful for encouraging cats to scratch their post.
As for your sofa, trim the ragged edges and wipe with a damp cloth to remove the scent your cat has left behind. You could also change the sofa by covering it with a throw to change the perception of this piece of furniture for your cat.
Cat scratching posts
If you buy a scratch post you could save your sofa, curtains - and even your wallpaper - from a life of certain shredding. Scratching is a natural part of cats' natural behaviour and helps to keep claws trim, so if you don't invest in a suitable scratch post he will turn to other sources.
Ideally, he will have been trained to use a post from a young age to help prevent him from developing any bad habits. However, if he's tearing through your home leaving behind a trail of pulled threads and torn leather, place him near a post, encourage him to claw at the surface and he'll soon pick it up. A few squirts of catnip could help!
Whether you're buying a scratch post for the first time, or you think your existing one is looking a bit ropey and it's time for a change, you'll be amazed at what's available.