Why You and Your Kitty Need a Cat Scratching Post

Cat on scratching post

The cat scratching post is a staple in the arsenal of feline care products and a must have item in every home (get at least two). Your couch will thank you and so will your cat.

Speaking of couches, if you want to train your cat out of scratching the sofa, position one of the scratching posts near it.

Place some double-sided tape on the sofa in the spots where your cat wants to scratch.

There's a product for this you get at Amazon. If you haven't seen it, it's called...

Sticky Paws Furniture Strips

Eventually, you should be able to remove the tape. You can't train your cat out of scratching, but you can offer a better alternative (for both of you) than carpeting or furniture.

Why Do Cats Scratch?

Scratching is an instinctive cat behavior that has several benefits to your cat:

Scent Marking. Your cat has scent glands in her feet, so scratching is a way of scent marking. Scent marking is very important in order for your cat to feel secure. Even cats who have been declawed will express this behavior.

Stretching. Your cat can stretch and get a bit of exercise from the experience. This is why it's important to get a scratching post that is large enough for your cat to stretch out on. Your cat needs to stretch!

Sharpening. Your cat will sharpen her claws through scratching. Well, it's not actually sharpening like you'd sharpen a blade. You'll notice that your cat will have a new growth of claw that will sometimes push through the old sheath.

They often bite at the old growth in order to get it off, especially on the back claws. The scratching action helps to remove this sheath from the front claws, exposing the new sharp claw.

Stress Relief. Since scratching is a natural, instinctive behavior, some say that it's a stress reliever for your kitty and it feels good. We also know that cats feel more secure, and therefore more relaxed, if their scent is well distributed.

Some cats will scratch as a stress response. Repeated, excessive scratching behavior over a period of time may indicate that your cat is suffering from chronic stress.

Appropriate Scratching

If your cat is scratching your furniture, then you absolutely need to set up an area for "appropriate scratching," and include a scratching post or board.

As I briefly touched on above with respect to your couch, you also need to discourage your cat from scratching the furniture. There are a number of things that you can use as a cat repellent for your furniture. These include a number of commercial products, as well as some plants, such as lavender, Coleus canina, and rosemary.

Sisal is one of the best materials for a scratching post, but many cats seem to like the carpeted ones as well. Sisal will hold up for a long time, and I'm not sure the same can be said of the carpeted versions.

It's also possible that the feel of carpet associated with scratching may encourage your kitty to scratch other carpeted or upholstered surfaces in the house.

Scratching boards, rather than posts, can work well also. Some can be hung from door handles so your cat can get that vertical stretch.

That reminds me... you should provide both vertical and horizontal surfaces for your cat to scratch on.

What if your cat doesn't scratch inappropriately, do you still need a cat scratching post?

Yes. Even if your cat isn't scratching the furniture, setting up appropriate areas for your cat to scratch will make your cat happier and healthier. Given all the benefits to your feline friend, it's a no brainer.

Placement and Quantity

You'll want enough scratching surfaces to go around, and you don't want them off in the corner of a dungeon that your cat rarely visits. If you're style obsessed, they make really cool, stylized scratching products that look more like modern furniture than cat furniture.

How many should you get and where should you place them to make your cat happiest?

Get at least two, and follow the one-plus-one-rule that we follow for litter boxes. That means that ideally, you'll have one scratcher for each cat in the house, plus at least one more.

You can usually let your cat tell you where to place them... near where your cat is scratching or likely to scratch.

This offers you a training opportunity... when you see your cat go for the couch, redirect her attention to the nearby scratching post. She'll eventually get the idea.

If you make the couch less attractive to scratch (using double-sided tape, as mentioned above, for example), and then offer an attractive alternative right next to it, you'll be on your way to harmonious coexistance with your kitty.

Horizontal or Vertical?

Some cats seem to prefer to scratch vertical surfaces, others horizontal. Not surprisingly, there are various types of scratching products to meet these needs.

How do you choose?

Observe your cat. If your cat does both horizontal and vertical scratching, or you have multiple cats, you'll want both types (I would get both types anyway just to cover all the bases).

Remember that some cats are tree toppers and other cats are bush dwellers.

For cats that like to climb up high (tree toppers), a tall scratching post or a cat tree with a built in scratching area is great. For kitties that prefer to hunt on the ground (bush dwellers), a flat scratching board or low post placed in favorite areas works well.

Product Options

There are a number of different solutions available...

The Scratch Lounge

One option for bush dwellers is the Scratch Lounge, a cardboard-based scratcher/bed.

Watch on YouTube

The PetFusion Ultimate Cat Scratcher Lounge

For a more stylish look that provides both vertical and horizontal motion, try this PetFusion beauty. Jazzy the cat and I got a free one of these to try out. If you want to see what Jazzy thought of this particular scratcher, click here.

The SmartCat Ultimate Scratching Post is a tall, sturdy post, allowing your cat to get a nice full stretch or climb a bit. You can even stuff treats in the seams for extra fun!

Setting Up a Cat Sanctuary

Siamese cat builds kittehpult

Image credit: ICHC

I highly recommend you set up a sanctuary area in your home for your kitty. No matter how small your home, you need to give your cat some space that s/he can call his/her own.

This area should have a cat scratching post (obviously!), plenty of light, and a nice comfortable place to sleep. A cat tree or kitty condo is a great idea since it can give both some hiding areas as well as some climbing space and sometimes, a scratching surface as well.

Most kitties really enjoy being up high, and many cat parents do not make good use of vertical space in their homes. A cat tree that combines an appropriate scratching area with a comfortable perch high above the floor is like kitty heaven.

If you can place your cat tree near a window so your cat has a nice view of the outdoors, that's even better.

This type of sanctuary area is especially important to have if you have other pets and your cat feels threatened in any way, or simply just needs to get away, undisturbed.

I hear from far too many people who tell me their cats are acting out, but don't have a good safe place to retreat to so they can get away from the dog or the kids.

Where to Buy

Amazon has a wide selection of scratchers.

Catsplay has a number of options that work well, including a number of scratching post products that have built-in toys. They even offer red cedar products, so your cat can be like its wild cousins who scratch on wood.

Red cedar scratching post

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