How to Fix Cat Scratches on Leather Furniture

If your cat has damaged your leather goods, don't fret. Try these tips.
By: Valerie Trumps
Cat sitting on leather sofa

Unless kitty is constantly wearing nail tips, cats and leather typically don’t mix. If your feline has made your expensive furniture into her scratching post, it may not be completely beyond repair. Try to salvage your leather chair or sofa with some tips from the experts.

What You’ll Need

  • Leather cleaner
  • Scissors
  • Sponge
  • Paintbrush
  • Leather binding glue
  • Sandpaper
  • Leather putty
  • Leather colorant
  • Leather sealant
  • Leather finish

Fixing Damage Caused by Cat Kneading

Not all cat scratch damage is created equal. The area of furniture that Fluffy has clawed will determine your best approach to the fix. If kitty is on her hind legs and digging her nails into the sides of the chair or sofa, part of her claw action involves extending and retracting her talons. By doing so, says Harry Kahn of Expert Leather Care in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., Kitty is essentially plucking out the hairs (also called fibers) from the leather. The result is an area that looks like a pilled-up sweater, with little thread balls roughening up the surface.

Fixing Cat Scratches on Furniture

  1. Prepare the damaged area by thoroughly cleaning any grime or dirt off with a cleaning product specifically designed for cleaning leather. Any professional leather care service can recommend a quality brand, often sold in their stores.

  2. Trim the loose fibers by clipping with scissors as close to the base of the pilling as possible, being careful not to cut, puncture or cause further damage. Any shorter hairs left behind will not affect the feel and look of the end result, nor the quality of the repair.

  3. Apply glue specifically made for binding leather by putting a small amount onto a sponge and rubbing it right into the damaged area. Allow time for the first coat to dry, and re-apply 7 to 9 times (with sufficient drying time between each application) to ensure a long-lasting, strong repair.

  4. Use fine sandpaper (1200 grit) to lightly smooth the area treated with the leather glue. Take your time and use a gentle touch to avoid roughing up the repair. A proper sanding job will produce an even, smooth surface to provide the base for the rest of the repair process.

  5. Remove any sandpaper residue to prepare for the heavy filler, a sort of leather putty, application. Using a palette knife, spread the filler in a thin layer on top of the scratches. Allow the filler to dry for 20 to 25 minutes, inspect your work, and reapply an additional layer if needed to fill in gouges, deep scratches, and holes.

  6. Once the heavy filler has dried, take your sandpaper out again and smooth out the repaired area. After it’s sufficiently sanded, wipe down the leather with the special leather cleaning solution to remove any sandpaper residue or dirt. The repaired area must be clean in order for the colorant to adhere to the leather.

  7. After the leather cleaner has dried, put a small amount of the colorant on a fresh, clean sponge and apply a thin layer to the repaired area. Besides putting the color back into your leather, sometimes it also reveals spots that need some extra repair. If so, reapply more filler, sand it down after it has dried, and reapply the colorant again.

  8. Once the first coat of colorant has been applied and dried, a spray-on colorant that comes with an airbrush should be swept over your repair in single layers. Let each application dry before applying the next. Apply as many thin layers of colorant as needed to completely blend in the repaired area with the intact area and to hide the repair.

  9. Apply leather lacquer (also called leather sealant) to seal the color in and prevent rub-off or fading. Using a clean sponge or airbrush, apply the sealant in 3 or 4 layers to enhance the repaired leather’s flexibility and sturdiness. Let each layer dry thoroughly before applying the next.

  10. The final step is to apply a leather finish product, again in thin layers with sufficient drying time in between each one. The finish should be applied with an airbrush or clean sponge in 4 to 5 layers. This seals in the work you’ve done and protects it from ordinary wear, but unfortunately, your cat’s nails can ruin it again.

Fixing Damage Caused by Swiping

Repairing damage done by kitty scratching across the surface of your leather, rather than kneading it with her claws, is a much simpler, quicker process. Provided the scratches are strictly on the surface and have not cut the leather apart, the lighter shade of discoloration can be hidden with a leather re-coloring balm. Simply apply the balm to hide the scratches and blend it in with the rest of the leather on the piece. Kahn advises that if the scratches have cut through the leather, no do-it-yourself fix will be adequate; it’s best left to the professionals.

Although the repair process is long and tedious, your leather can be restored so well that only you and Kitty know about the damage.

Image: Sarah Fields Photography via Shutterstock.