If you own a cat, you’re likely to own at least one scratching post. But gone are the days of one small, lonely, frayed, or bare post, hidden from view by some strategically placed furniture. Nowadays the selection of scratching posts and activity trees available is vast and there’s something to suit all spaces and budgets. But do cats really need one? And which type of scratching post will your cat enjoy the most?
The origins of scratching
Have you got a cat that scratches furniture or carpets regularly? While frustrating for you, it’s a type of behavior that comes naturally to almost all cats. Biologists name three reasons for scratching to have evolved:
- Mark territory
- Sharpen the nails
A very important one is marking: scratching leaves a scent on the surface, which enables cats to recognize their own territory. Since scratching also sharpens the nails, it is a form of self-grooming: it allows your cat to keep her claws in tip-top condition! Finally, you should be able to observe your cat stretch during scratch time.
Since scratching is such a functional behavior, you would be smart to accommodate your cat’s needs by placing a scratch tree somewhere inside your house. Else, they might satisfy their urges by destroying your couch or other costly furniture!
What kind of scratching post do cats prefer?
Well, this very much depends on your cat. The first thing to work out is whether your cat likes scratching horizontally, vertically, or both. Cats scratch to stretch, so the next most important thing is to choose a post that’s tall enough, or long enough, for your cat- at least 90 cm (or 35 inches) for most cats.
It should also be stable, with a wide base, to avoid it toppling over. Some cats prefer different materials, but most enjoy a sisal fabric or tightly wound sisal rope.
Additional reading: How to pick the right scratch post for your cat
Do cats like cat trees?
Cat trees are often a good option as they contain several levels with different scratching areas, perfect for finicky cats. In fact, one study showed that cats with cat trees were less likely to scratch elsewhere than those with other types of scratching posts! A young, active cat would likely prefer a tall, multi-level activity tree with various platforms, scratch surfaces, and hunting target toys.
On the other hand, an older cat with reduced mobility would prefer something lower to the ground, without very high platforms or anything requiring too much agility. That being said, an older cat still needs stimulation and would still enjoy some dangling mice, balls, or bells to play with.
Another thing to consider is whether your cat remains indoors or goes outside. If your cat goes outside, they will likely get a fair amount of stimulation, fun, and exercise in their outdoor environment, so there isn’t so much demand for an ‘all-singing, all-dancing’ cat tree as there would be for an indoor cat.
Some cats like to hide or survey their surroundings from a high vantage point, away from the hustle and bustle of human life. Take this into consideration when choosing a scratch post or tree, since there are many available that have hideyholes and high platforms.
The best places in your home for a cat tree
Generally speaking, giving your cat their own allocated space in a room of the house is often appreciated. This doesn’t mean you can’t approach them and play or interact with them if they seem keen, but it means they can retreat to their own space if they choose to.
However, cats also like to scratch as a way to stretch after waking, so providing a post near their favorite sleeping spot may be helpful. Don’t forget, a scratching post is a key resource for cats. That means you’ll need one for each cat, plus one spare. They don’t all have to be huge but making sure there’s a few posts dotted around the house increases the chance that they will use them.
There is a type of cat tree that has multiple components like shelves, tunnels, or hides that fix onto the wall. This can be a great space-saving way to allow your cat to exhibit their natural behaviors whilst indoors, without compromising floor space in your home interior.
How do you attract a cat to a cat tree?
Leaving some treats dotted around the tree will also help to turn it into their new favorite spot. You can also praise and reward them for scratching in the correct area!
Indoor cats technically do not really need a cat tree, but if you don’t provide them with a place to scratch, they’ll probably start tearing up other things in your house. Since scratching posts are important for the physical and mental health of your cat, we highly recommend adding one to your home. If you happen to have a young, energetic cat, choose as large a tree as you have space for – they’ll thank you for it!
While declawing is a painful and unnecessary procedure that we do not support, there are plenty of declawed cats around the world who can still benefit from scratchable objects in their environment. In fact, the extra verticality is something most cats thoroughly enjoy! If you own a declawed cat, consider buying a tree with a ramp at the bottom, that way your cat can start the climb without having to rely on their absent nails for the initial pull.
If you have a single cat, make sure the post is at least 100 cm / 40 inches tall to provide plenty of space to scratch and stretch.
If you have multiple cats, go even bigger. Cats don’t like to share, so ideally you would have to buy a scratching post with multiple hangouts and hiding spots.