If you have a cat, then you should have a scratching post or a scratcher — it’s really that simple! After all, scratching is a perfectly normal — and healthy — feline behavior that usually begins when a kitten is about two months old, and it’s something you want to encourage, not eradicate. For cats, scratching is a way for them to mark their territory, as they have lots of scent glands in their paws, and it also helps them shed the dead, outer layer of their claws. Plus, it can be a healthy way for them to express their emotions, whether they’re feeling anxious, excited, or agitated.
However, most people — understandably — don’t want their cats sharpening their claws on their furniture or carpets, which is why it’s so important to offer your kitty something you actually want them to scratch. Picking the right scratcher or scratching post for your cat can be very overwhelming, especially because there are seemingly countless designs and styles to choose from. As a cat fosterer, cat mom, cat sitter, and certified feline behaviorist, I’ve cared for lots of kitties over the past decade, so I have a few tips to help you choose the perfect scratcher for your feline friend.
Choose a scratcher or scratching post that mimics what they’re already scratching
If your cat is shredding cardboard boxes with their claws, then they would probably like a low profile scratcher made from compressed cardboard instead of a tall scratching post wrapped in sisal rope. However, if your cat likes to standing on their hind legs and stretching while they claw the side of your sofa, then the best option might be a traditional post wrapped in fabric.
Choose a stable scratcher or scratching post
Thankfully, most scratchers are pretty stable by design, but scratching posts aren’t always super sturdy. Consequently, you want to make sure you pick one your kitty can use without the risk of it falling over on them. You should look for a post with a wide, weighted base, and be aware that the taller a cat tree is, the more likely it is to fall over. As a result, you should choose a scratching post that is only a little taller than your cat when they’re standing on their hind legs and stretching their front limbs. Any taller than that is probably unnecessary and will only make it more likely to tip over.
Choose a versatile scratcher or scratching post
While your cat might be happy crouching while they scratch your sisal rug, it’s possible they might actually prefer something they can claw while standing on their back limbs. Consequently, I think it’s best to start with a tall scratching post, especially one that is made using a number of different materials. After all, not only will it give your kitty lots of different textures to scratch, you can actually lay it on its side if you find your cat doesn’t like to stand on their hind legs while they sharpen their claws.
Choose a scratcher or scratching post that doesn’t take up a lot of room
We live in a one bedroom apartment, so we don’t have lots of floor space for scratching posts or scratchers. However, there are still lots of options available for small spaces, including scratching posts and scratchers than can be wall-mounted. If you have a senior or special needs cat who uses a ramp to get on and off of your furniture, you can actually replace it with one that doubles as a scratcher, allowing you to make the most of your home’s square footage. Another option is to choose a scratcher that is also a lounger or bed, letting it do two jobs at once, or an adjustable post that is designed to fit under a table.
Choose a scratcher or scratcher posts that matches your decor
While there are lots of unattractive scratchers and scratching posts on the market, making some cat parents reluctant to buy one, that has definitely been changing, especially recently. Today, there are so many cool designs to choose from, so whether you like flowers, animals, cacti, rainbows, leopard print, unicorns, mid-century modern, or outer space, you should be able to find a scratcher or scratching post that works well with your home’s existing decor.
Choose enough scratchers and scratching posts for your household
If you have multiple cats, then you have to have multiple scratchers or scratching posts. Ideally, you should have at least one for each of your kitties, especially if you have cats who are particularly territorial or prone to aggression. While you might not have the space for several freestanding scratching posts, wall-mounted options can be perfect for homes with a large number of cats.
Choose an eco-friendly scratcher or scratching post
If you pick the right scratching post or scratcher, it will definitely start to show signs of wear and tear. Instead of picking a post or scratcher that you’ll have to throw out after a year, purchase one that allows you to replace various elements. Several companies sell replacement parts for scratching posts, while some scratchers are designed to be refreshed with refill pads made from corrugated cardboard. Yet another option is to remove the old hemp, jute, or sisal rope from the scratching post and replace it, giving it a whole new life.
Once you’ve chosen the right post or scratcher for your cat, you now have to get them to use it! While this might sound simple, it can be surprisingly tricky. If your cat doesn’t immediately gravitate towards the scratcher or post, don’t give up! Simply place it in the spot where they were scratching, such as in front of the couch or on top of the rug, and if your cat responds to catnip, you can sprinkle a bit on the post or scratcher to draw them to it. If your cat prefers treats to catnip, you can put a few on the post or scratcher, and every time they scratch it, you can reward them with a treat.
Over time, your cat should start using their scratcher or post, but if they’re still clawing in unwanted areas, be sure to clip their nails regularly as this will lessen the damage they’re able to inflict and may also dampen their need to scratch. You can also cover the item you don’t want them to claw, or you can place double-sided sticky tape on the area, which should help deter your kitty. Yet another option is to glue plastic nail caps to your feline friend’s claws, although be aware that they have to be replaced about every six weeks. If you don’t feel comfortable gluing the plastic nail caps to your cat’s claws yourself, contact your vet to find out if they or a member of their staff will do it for you.
However, no matter what you do, please don’t even consider declawing your cat. While it might sound like a simple procedure, it actually involves amputating the last toe bone on each of a cat’s digits, which would be the equivalent of cutting off each of a person’s fingers at the last knuckle.
Not only can declawing — which is banned in many countries throughout the world and in a number of states in the US — result in pain, tissue death, infection, lameness, nerve damage, and bone spurs, it can cause some cats to develop litter box issues. Some declawed cats may also start biting people and other pets because they no longer have claws to help them defend themselves.
I hope these tips will help you find the right scratching post or scratcher for your cat, but please feel free to leave a comment with any questions you might have. Also, do you have a tip for choosing a scratcher or post? Share it in the comments!