Hello Dr. Neely,
My girlfriend is moving in with me and she has two cats. I have read about waterguns, electric deterrents, sofa covers, citrus scents, double sided tape, etc. but wanted to ask the expert:
What is the best way to protect my leather sofas/couches?
There are many things I would recommend trying to protect your leather sofas from cat scratching. First, both you and your girlfriend should learn to trim their nails at home and keep the cats' nails trimmed at all times. They should be trimmed once a week, or once every two weeks at most. You could also try applying nail caps, such as SoftPaws, to protect the sofas.
Another great tool is keeping scratching posts or climbing trees and other things that are acceptable for the cats to scratch around the house. If they do go for the sofas, putting scratching posts near the sofas, sprayed or sprinkled with catnip, to entice them to use these instead.
I have heard of some individuals having success with bitter sprays/citrus scents, spray bottles filled with water, and double-sided tape, but would say that even in the presence of all of these other tools, you may still want to cover your sofas with a fabric slipcover. Scratch the idea of electric deterrents (no pun intended), as they are very cruel to cats.
Trial and error will be the only way to know what works best for your girlfriend's cats in particular, and you may ultimately need to use some combination of all of the above tools. Keep in mind that some cats like to scratch horizontally, while others vertically, and some prefer carpet while others prefer cardboard or wood. For even more information on alternatives to declawing cats but still preventing damage to furniture and other valuables in your home, please see this page.