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Anyone who has spent any time with cats knows they love to scratch. Not only do they like to, it's actually a necessary activity for a healthy cat. Cats of all ages want to scratch, even kittens. Scratching is a form of self-grooming, but of course, you don't want your cats scratching on the couch or the carpet.
It might seem like all scratching posts are basically the same. Or, it might seem like there are so many options for scratching posts that you don't know where to start in picking one. In fact, there is a great deal of variety (they are not all posts, for one thing!) and you can pick a good scratching post by noticing some things about your cat's scratching style.
Why do cats scratch?
Cats scratch for many reasons, so it's not an activity that should be discouraged. They scratch to groom their claws, which occasionally lose their nail sheaths as the claws grow. Scratching helps keep nails sharp.
And cats scratch as a form of communication. Cats have scent glands on their paws, so when they scratch, they're telling another cat "this is my territory," particular if they are outside cats. Some cats will also scratch for fun, or as a stress reliever.
Choose a quality scratch object
Whatever style you choose, select a scratch object that has a wide base, so that it does not wobble or flip over while your cat is using it. One reason why there are so many different scratching posts to choose from is that cats have different scratching styles and different cats prefer different types of material. If you observe where your cat naturally likes to scratch vertically or horizontally, that will give you a big clue as to what type of scratching post to buy.
Basic scratching posts, like this carpet-covered scratching post from PetSmart, are just upright posts. Other rough fibers, like sisal rope or jute-covered scratching posts are also available. If you search online for "scratching post," you will typically find results for the post types. However, if you search for "scratchers," you'll find perfect horizontal scratchers for cats who love to stretch their paws out straight while they scratch. These can also be made of carpet, cardboard, or some other inviting material. Within that possibility of being upright or horizontal are many different shapes, colors, and materials. There is a lot of whimsy available in pet furniture, as well as functionality. DIY makers on Etsy have taken form and function to a new level, such as this wall-mounted cat hammock with sisal steps that a cat can scratch on as they go up or down!
Many cat scratching posts seem sturdy but aren't. They may tip over when a cat tries to scratch, or they may look fun and appealing but not be covered in the type of material that your cat actually likes. Try to do some observing of your cat's scratching style before you buy. Your purchase will be much more successful if you buy a quality scratch object that works for your cat.
Vertical cat scratchers
Choose scratch objects that match your cat's scratching style. Some cats like to scratch vertically . . . these cats might like to scratch upwards on the leg couch, or on the wooden trim around a door.
The Paws, Whiskers and Claws feline hospital in Marietta, Georgia, says that a vertical post should be at least 30 inches high — tall enough for the cat to scratch while standing on his hind legs with his forelegs extended.
Horizontal cat scratchers
Cats that like to scratch horizontally might like to scratch on the carpet or on the arm of the couch. These cats often like a scratcher covered in carpet or corrugated cardboard that lays flat on the ground. Even a piece of natural wood that lays flat could work for them.
Angle cat scratchers
Some cats like to scratch at an angle. For these cats, a scratch pad that can sit at an angle is often best. Some horizontal scratch pads can be set up that way., Some scratch objects are created at an angle, just for these cats.
Cat scratching texture
Observe not only how your cat scratches, but what texture she prefers. she may like to scratch on carpeting, upholstery, a soft throw rug or pillows, or wood. Try to mimic that texture if you can, in the scratch object that you buy.
Corrugated cardboard scratchers are inexpensive and easily replaced, and come in both vertical and horizontal formats. Not all cats like to scratch on cardboard, though. Consider, though, if your cat loves to scratch on cardboard, you may need to vacuum up the shredded cardboard bits more often than you would like to.
Sisal rope posts last a long time, and have a rough texture that many cats like. Sometimes, the rope that is wrapped around these comes apart. And eventually, they will look "worn." Remember though, that as the surfaces gets more worn down, your cat may actually like it better. Plus, it's well-marked with their scent by then.
Some cats, especially ones that are used to being outdoors, may like to scratch on natural wood. For these cats, the door trim or. a piece of furniture may seem appealing unless you get them used to scratching on something that mimics that texture.
Carpet can be both a good and a bad choice. Many cats like carpet, but the downside may be that your cat can't tell the difference between the carpet it is ok for them to scratch on (the post) and the carpet you would prefer they not scratch on (the actual carpet in your home). That's why some vets don't recommend carpet-covered scratching posts, unless your home does not have carpeting.
Cat scratching post placement
Since a big part of scratching for a cat is scent sharing, they probably want to mark their scent in a part of their "territory" that is shared by humans, other cats, or even other dogs that may be in the home. Therefore, don't place the scratching post in an out-of-the-way part of the house that no one uses.
Cats will like to scratch wherever and whenever they happen to be, so you may consider placing a few different types of scratchers around the house. Cats also like to stretch and scratch after their naps. Consider placing their favorite type of scratcher near their favorite spot for napping.
Cat scratching tips
Cats don't need to be taught how to scratch — it's a natural instinct to know how to do that! But they sometimes do need help figuring out where they can scratch. Whether you're starting out with a young kitten or an older cat you're trying to retrain, redirect her to the scratching object whenever you see her trying to scratch.
Give your cat a reward of some kind when you see him scratching where you want him to. You can also encourage curiosity about the scratching post by sprinkling it with catnip or hanging a toy from it.
If you're concerned about destructive scratching, remember that trimmed nails don't need to scratch as much. If you trim your cat's nails more often, it may reduce or eliminate problem scratching. Place bubble wrap or sticky tape on the surfaces where you are trying to stop your cat from scratching, until she gets used to the new scratcher. If you need to move the location of your cat's scratching posts, do so gradually.