Cat sleeping on a scratch post

What kind of scratching post do cats prefer?

If you build your cat a beautiful scratch post, you expect her to use it. But what if she doesn’t even bother to look at it? Here are five key tips for picking the right scratch post and putting it in a location that makes sense to your cat.

It’s a problem many cat owners get to deal with at some point: feline friends who seem to think their owners’ furniture is the perfect nail sharpener. Not good. But what if I told you that the way you set up your scratch post is totally wrong?

Indeed, most people have no idea what kind of scratching post cats prefer. So today, I will lift the mystery on this topic forever by sharing my ultimate tips for setting up the perfect scratch post!

1. Horizontal or vertical?

Let’s start with one of the biggest secrets: not all cats scratch alike. Some specimens will only scratch in a horizontal motion, while others prefer a vertical surface like walls, posts, or trees. Despite your best intentions, a cat that prefers to scratch in a horizontal motion will rarely put her nails on a vertical surface.

Observe your own pet carefuly. It shouldn’t take too long to discover her preference, which will help you pick the right type of tree for your cat.

2. Scratch posts need a sturdy base

If there is one key feature that all the best scratch posts share, it is a decently sturdy base. Cats can get very excited when they are in a playful mood, sometimes hanging from ledges with their full body weight before pulling up.

You definitely don’t want the entire structure to tip over, so be sure to pick up an item that heavy enough and stands firmly on the ground.

Tip: If you have a kitten, make sure to plan for the future. She might not have the strength of Arnold Schwarzenegger now, but she will be many times stronger just a few short months from now.

3. Choice of materials

Two cats hanging from a cactus-shaped scratching post
This cactus-shaped post is covered in horizontal sisal rope, but many cats actually prefer the strands to run vertical
  • Sisal rope is the most frequently used material on scratchables. Lots of furniture designed for cats contains horizontally twisted sisal rope. This is unfortunate because many cats actually prefer the wires to run vertically. So that could be a possible reason why your cat is not using your pretty new post!
  • Other cats prefer the feel of cardboard and/or wood. There is a lot of variety on the market nowadays, so have a good look around,
  • If you’re feeling extra ambitious, you could try to make something yourself!

Our advice: experiment! The only way to discover what your cat wants is by introducing new things and seeing how she responds.


Is your cat too anxious? Have a look at the best ways to build trust with a shy cat.


4. Pay attention to hotspots

Many people opt to buy one big scratcher and place it in a corner of the room. But from a cat’s perspective, this is actually not very enticing at all. Instead of walking towards it as if it were an end goal destination, your kitty much prefers to encounter it along the route.

Plus, it is a lot more fun to have multiple items around the house! Make sure there is some variation: there are trees, posts, cardboard scratchers, and plenty of other products. You may even add other interesting items along the route like a puzzle feeder.

A few more things to keep in mind:

  • Ideally, you want scratchable items to be in places where your cat spends most of her time. In most cases, this would be the main living room
  • Also pay extra attention to places where your cat likes to sleep, that way she can stretch out right after waking up
  • Try placing multiple scratchable items and posts along a walking route
  • Don’t forget to place something near the doorways; cats love to mark their territory after walking through one
  • If you have multiple pets, try to ensure each of them has their own item made of the material that he or she prefers. This way you can minimize stress

5. Why not go the extra mile?

A cat sleeping tightly on a scratching tree
Many scratching trees come with one more multiple soft spots for your cat to sleep on

Why would you go with just a plain old scratch tree when there are products with tons of fun extras at almost no additional cost? Scratch posts can come with all kinds of interesting features that will make it even more fun for cats to spend time there.

There are hideouts, little squeaky toys to play with, ladders to climb, and of course an extra soft padded bed to snuggle in on the top. All these extra’s will make a cat tree much more fun. It could easily become a cat’s favorite place to hang out!

Final tips

We hope we’ve answered your question about what kind of scratching post cats really prefer. If you applied all of this and still get no succes, consider spraying some catnip on scratchable surfaces. Catnip has an irresistible scent for some cats, and it’s easy enough to pick some up in your local pet store. Don’t have one near? Have a quick look on eBay; there’s a ton of catnip stuff you can order.

PS: If you are unable to find catnip for whatever reason, valerian is an easy-to-find herb that can also be used to lure cats.

Frequently asked questions

Do cats really need a scratch tree?

Not necessarily, but cats do need some form of verticality in their living area. They love climbing to higher spots, where they can retreat and have an overview of the surroundings. Cats like to seek out places where they can monitor their environment.

If you can’t afford scratchable furniture, try to find something else that your cat can climb and use to sharpen her nails.

Do outdoor cats need a scratching post?

It depends on how much time they spend indoors. A cat that is allowed to roam outside freely will naturally come across many spots in nature that can be climbed and scratched. In these cases, placing a scratch tree in your home may be a waste of your money.

One comment

  1. There was some really good tips in this article. My cat ignores her scratch tree completely, but I’m going to move it to a different spot to see if that works. Thanks for the great read!

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