Fabrics that work with cats: do they exist?
September 8, 2013 8:01 AM   Subscribe

We have cats and, unfortunately, love them very much. We keep their nails clipped and have lots of scratching posts, but they still sink their little claws into everything. Are there fabrics, either for rugs or couches, that you've found work better with cat claws? I was told that things like microsuede provide less purchase for their little pointy claws -- is this true? What fabrics should we avoid?
posted by lillygog to Pets & Animals (27 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
The only thing that I've seen that works with cats is leather couches. Suede is a kind of leather, of course, but microsuede is an artificial kind of leather, so I don't know whether it would work as well.
posted by dfriedman at 8:11 AM on September 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

I had chenille couches for 12 years because my ex picked them out. Of course, he did not vacuum then regularly, I did. I would avoid chenille. Likewise corduroy, or anything nubby. There is the hair problem, but there is also the nubby-feel, which seems irresistible to little kat paws. Suede and microsuede have a similar, although reduced feel, so think about that.

I recently just purchased leather couches. My two boys thus far have not shown any real desire to scratch them, but should they start, I will begin a bitter apple routine. I also keep their nails short and they have plenty of places for scratching elsewhere.

I have mostly given up on rugs-- not that I don't have them, but that I have cheaper wool ones from Target that get swapped out every two years or so. I have heard braided rugs are actually the best for cats and dogs. I love their look, but some people think that they make the place look a bit like a summer camp.
posted by oflinkey at 8:13 AM on September 8, 2013

Best answer: Microfiber/microsuede has worked best for me. Leather will also work, but the cats can pierce it with their claws unless you keep the pointy ends short. Anything with a raised texture--corduroy, tweed, etc.--will be cat-scratching paradise.
posted by thomas j wise at 8:17 AM on September 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

Even though our cats are pretty good about scratching, our little girl will still scratch in one particular area of one rug. We had switched to all synthetic rugs (polypropylene) because of moth problem, and found that they are very resistant to cat scratching. You can't even tell where she scratches.
posted by kimdog at 8:26 AM on September 8, 2013

Velvet. In my experience cats just ignore the heck out of it, I think because the weave of it is too tight for them to get their claws into.
posted by zarah at 8:27 AM on September 8, 2013 [2 favorites]

We have one leather chair that the cats have unintentionally destroyed just walking on it. One startled leap off a leather couch and it's ruined. We also have one chair that they are intentionally destroying because the upholstery has a raised texture. The rest of the furniture is fine.

Of course, we have a very sturdy sisal scratching post in every room and we clip everyone's claws (front and back) every couple of days.
posted by crush-onastick at 8:28 AM on September 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

I have friends with four cats, all with claws, and they have a leather sofa the cats don't mess with. They bought a couple of sheepskins to distribute on the sofa for the cats' comfort and no damage appears to have taken place.
posted by zadcat at 8:32 AM on September 8, 2013

The only thing that I've seen that works with cats is leather couches.

That goes against my experience. The cats I've had over the years never scratched at the leather couch we once had. Rather, they dug-in with their rears whenever they wanted to launch themselves from the couch, resulting in oodles of punctures and short scratches.

I'm afraid kevlar is the only "fabric" that can withstand cat ownership.
posted by Thorzdad at 8:42 AM on September 8, 2013 [2 favorites]

Our cats love to lick our microfiber chairs, leaving wet spots. A go at the spots with a brush after they dry disguises them, but it's sort of disconcerting.

We haven't had a problem with the leather couch yet, which is as pristine as the day we got it, but ironically I like leather furniture to be older and beat up and our cats are not obliging!
posted by telophase at 8:51 AM on September 8, 2013

There's a leather chair at my parent's house that my sister's cat preferred as an indoor scratching post. Completely destroyed it. Which is by way of saying there are general rules--that cats prefer a texture that catches at their claws--but cats are animals with no concept of the human purpose of furniture and will stretch up and scratch whatever is convenient when they feel like it.

Personally, I dislike leather furniture and don't have enough trouble with the cats scratching on furniture to go with a fabric I dislike. Our cats generally avoid the microsuede sofa and the velveteen because, as noted above, there's noting to hook the claws into. On the other hand, we have one cat who is systematically ripping up all the carpet in the house (I approve, actually) because even though it's not looped, it's dense enough to catch his claws even when they are very short indeed.
posted by crush-onastick at 8:57 AM on September 8, 2013

My cats utterly destroyed a leather chair -- but YMMV.

I've had good luck with slipcovers -- loose or stretchy like jersey are good. Their claws get tangled in it rather than provide purchase for good scratching.

Tightly tufted low-pile pugs (like real Turkish carpets or good quality similar things) seem to resist scratching pretty well.
posted by pantarei70 at 9:04 AM on September 8, 2013

We have become a slipcover family for our cats. That, and cheap rugs in certain areas where Old Lady Cat loves to claw. I know this is weird, but we got an old couch reupholstered to look gorgeous and new, so being afraid for its life expectancy, we put a scratching post in the immediate vicinity of where the old fucked-up yes-this-is-a-scratching-post-why-are-you-looking-at-us-funny couch used to be, and our cats have made some sort of great mental switch where they will claw the crap out of it because it's in the same space.
posted by Kitteh at 9:23 AM on September 8, 2013

The cats I've had over the years never scratched at the leather couch we once had. Rather, they dug-in with their rears whenever they wanted to launch themselves from the couch, resulting in oodles of punctures and short scratches.

This is my experience, too, but I prefer it to completely shredded fabric. I really think, in the end, you have to accept slightly damaged furniture as a cost of business when it comes to having cats. They are such annoyingly individualistic little things that if you buy something on the advice that cats hardly ever scratch it, it's pretty much guaranteed your specific cat will start ripping it to shreds instantly.

That said, I always buy leather.
posted by something something at 9:34 AM on September 8, 2013

Best answer: I have used sisal and wool flatwoven rugs with no problems. Jute, hemp and similar materials would possibly work as well. I also don't buy really pricy ones, though, just in case.
posted by backwards compatible at 9:36 AM on September 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

Among my four current cats, who each display different preferences for their target of fabric destruction, the two things that go unscathed are a microfiber chaise lounge and a wool kilim rug*. The chaise lounge is also their favorite sleeping spot, so it's not like they are avoiding it entirely.

*This rug has lived under 9 cats over the ~25 years I've owned it. Long ago, a cat ate off all of its tassels but it still looks pretty good.
posted by jamaro at 9:50 AM on September 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

Microsuede is not at all, in our experience, cat-resistant. There are tiny holes in the fabric of our recently reupholstered couch. Trimming our cats' claws does help, because they are not very dedicated scratchers, but we did not figure this out in time to prevent damage. This bums me out because the last upholstery job on this couch (with an somewhat unpleasantly scratchy fabric) lasted at least four decades.
posted by Ery at 9:57 AM on September 8, 2013

Our current couch is a crazy print that's embroidered on the fabric, which is heavy cotton or broadcloth (or something along those lines). The cat pretty much ignores it, but the few places that have little snags fade away with the business of the fabric. Before this we had a hand-me-down couch with a stretch 2-piece microfiber couch cover. When the cover was off, he would scratch, but on he wouldn't.
posted by bizzyb at 10:24 AM on September 8, 2013

My microfiber couch is about the only thing my 3 cats haven't successfully marked up. There might be a few puncture marks, but it blends in to the overall fabric pretty well. My cloth chairs, rugs, couch, bedding, mattress and wooden furniture have not faired nearly as well.
posted by cgg at 10:25 AM on September 8, 2013

I bought a microsuede-covered couch on the understanding that it is not attractive to cats. This is not necessarily true, though I think it is less attractive than other fabrics. The cat hair does come off easily, and it's very easy to spot clean, though, so I am not unhappy with it. I have just come to the inevitable realization that any couch I buy will serve double duty - seating for me, a scratching post for my cats.

That said, the previous rough-textured acrylic-covered couch was utterly destroyed, with stuffing coming out of the arms, in a very few years, while on this one the scratching damage is minimal after seven years.

I have very low-pile berber carpet, and while it does get cat-scratched, it doesn't show. I tell myself the "cat pulls" on the genuine oriental area rug give it character.
posted by caryatid at 10:36 AM on September 8, 2013

After our cats destroyed our couch, we bought a slipcover and they haven't scratched it once. The weird thing is, it's just a regular soft fabric with a tiny bit of texture.
posted by trillian at 11:25 AM on September 8, 2013

Our microfiber couch has arms that are apparently the perfect width for lying on and gently clawing, so the arms have lots of little snags, but on the other hand the couch is now 8 years old and that's the only damage (much to my husband's chagrin, since he hates the couch). I think the only way to make a couch totally cat-impervious is to either be vigilant about slipcovers or to have, like, a park bench instead of a sofa.
posted by The Elusive Architeuthis at 11:39 AM on September 8, 2013

Yeah, I pretty much can't have nice things because of my cats. Upholstered furniture comes from IKEA, as the slipcovers can be replaced every so often. However, we got FLOR carpet tiles several years ago - the model called "House Pet", appropriately enough, and they have held up fantastically, despite our girls' best efforts.
posted by dmvs at 11:40 AM on September 8, 2013 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: I think we'll go for Kevlar and stainless steel, then. Overall, we are resigned to never having nice things, because we love the cats, but jute and braided rugs sound helpful. That way, when the cats inevitably shred little corners, it all looks shabby chic or something.
posted by lillygog at 12:49 PM on September 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

This doesn't recommend the most luxurious of fabrics, but: I have an Ikea Klippan loveseat and a cat that occasionally finds it a great thing to scratch. In nearly four years of catitude, this loveseat hasn't shown a single bit of damage from cat claws. I presume the cover is some kind of canvas (maybe a light canvas? It's softish, not terribly utilitarian feeling). I'm not fond of Ikea textiles in general, but I am continually astounded at how well this couch has stood up to my little monster.
posted by AthenaPolias at 4:20 PM on September 8, 2013

Best answer: Microfiber/suede is what I've got on my couch. My cats don't scratch the couch (see below), but they do tear around the house, which includes couch gymnastics. The damage has been minimal.

However, there really isn't any fabric that is going to be able to survive a cat actively scratching it all the time.

The most impactful thing I did was teach my cats that scratching the post is the source of All The Things. When I first got my clawed cat (the other one arrived declawed), I would only feed her when she scratched the post. Now, she scratches the post pretty much any time she wants anything. I only reinforce the behavior a small fraction of the time anymore.

The result: she scratches the post so damned much, it never seems to occur to her to scratch anything else.

FYI: It's important to use a scratching post that is large enough and sturdy enough to be stable when they scratch it.
posted by nobejen at 4:56 PM on September 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

My car doesn't scratch furniture but she does knead it when she's happy. She doesn't do this on the leather couch - in fact she barely ever sits on that. I think she finds it cold or hard or something.

She mostly sleeps on the microfibre
couch and that seems unharmed by her kneading, but it has these little dark spots from repeated water damage where she drools.

We have two rugs, one is a hard knobbly synthetic low pile carpet, which she sometimes scratches on, but it remains undamaged. The other is a big fluffy shag carpet which she loves to sleep on and "groom" I.e. lick but doesn't scratch. It also shows no signs of wear.
posted by lollusc at 6:39 PM on September 8, 2013

Our tight microfiber cover has worked beautifully, though it can snag a bit if I haven't clipped our cat's claws in a very long while.

We didn't have great luck with leather.

Nthing supplementing with scratchers in areas the cat is likely to scratch.
posted by moira at 8:20 PM on September 8, 2013

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