Scratching posts are great for cats, but what if you built your furry buddy one and he or she just flat-out refuses to use it? Are you pulling your hair out every time you catch your cat scratching the walls or your costly furniture? Good news! Here are five things you may have failed to consider.
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?
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. Scratching posts need a sturdy base
One key feature that all great scratching posts share is a decently sturdy base. Cats can get very excited when they are in a playful mood, even hanging from ledges with their full body weight before pulling up.
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 Arnold Schwarzenegger yet, but she will be many times stronger in just a few short months from now.
3. Choose the right post and materials
- 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.
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. Make it more fun
One other thing you can do to encourage your cat is replace that plain old scratch tree with one that has a few extra features like toys and hangouts. Scratching posts can come with all kinds of interesting features 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 to play with, 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 bird-eye view of the surroundings.
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? Have a quick look in your local pet store; there’s a ton of catnip items you can order. 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
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
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.
The scratching motion will indeed sharpen your cat’s nails, making it less likely that they have to be trimmed manually.