Cat sleeping on a scratch post

Why does my cat not use the scratching post? Five things you missed!

It’s a problem many cat owners get to deal with at some point: cats who seem to think their owner’s furniture is the perfect object to practice their demolition skills on. Are you pulling your hair out every time you catch your cat scratching a wall or your costly furniture? Here are five things you may have failed to consider:

1. Horizontal or vertical rope

Let’s start with one of the most important ones: not all cats scratch alike. Certain specimens prefer to scratch in a horizontal motion, whereas 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 (if ever) attempt to sharpen those nails on a vertical surface.

Next time you catch your cat in the act, observe carefully. You should be able to discern where her preference lies, which will provide you with the first major clue towards picking the right type of scratching post for your cat.

2. A sturdy base

One thing every cat wants is to feel safe. If your scratcher looks like it could tip over any second, I can guarantee that your furry friend won’t go near it. Cats can get very excited when they are in a playful mood, even hanging from ledges with their full body weight before pulling up. So they need a scratching post with a sturdy base.

You definitely don’t want the entire structure to tip over, so it’s vital that the structure is heavy enough and stands firmly on the ground.

Tip: If you have a kitten, don’t forget to plan for the future. She might not have the strength of a tiger yet, but she will be much stronger just a few short months from now.

3. Choose the right 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 the surface of scratchers. 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 another possible reason why your cat is not using your pretty new scratching 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 observing 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 position it in some corner of their house. 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 their route.

It is also a lot more fun if your cat has multiple things to climb. There are cat trees, posts, cardboard scratchers, and plenty of other products out there. You could even add something like a puzzle feeder to shake things up.

A few more things to keep in mind:

  • Ideally, you want scratch items to be in those 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. Make it more fun

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

Scratching posts can come with all kinds of interesting extra’s that will make it all the more appealing for your cat to spend more time there.

Possible extra features include hideouts, little squeaky toys on a string, ladders to climb, and of course an extra soft padded bed to snuggle in on the top. The bed could easily become your cat’s favorite place to hang out because it provides a birds-eye view of the surroundings.

Final tips

If you applied all of the above but still have no success, then you have one stubborn kitty! Consider spraying some catnip on scratchable surfaces. The stuff is irresistible to most cats, and it’s easy enough to pick some up in your local pet store. Don’t have one near? 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 scratching post?

Not necessarily, but cats do like to have some form of verticality in their territory. Higher places allow them to safely retreat and observe their surroundings. Cats instinctively seek out places where they can monitor the environment.

If you can’t afford scratch furniture, try to find something else that your cat can climb on or use to sharpen her nails.
Further reading: For more information, read this article from Hannah

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.

Do scratching posts trim nails?

The scratching motion will indeed sharpen your cat’s nails, making it less likely that they have to be trimmed manually.

2 comments

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  2. 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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