How to Choose a Scratching Post or Pad for Your Cat
Pet supplies are a huge commercial area and you will have many options to choose from when buying a new post or pad for your cat. To make your selection, start by observing your cat’s scratching behaviors and their preferences. Decide if you want a flat, wall-mounted, horizontal, vertical, or combination scratcher or post. Consider what type of material would work the best. Then, buy a few different scratchers to give your cat a bit of variety.
Selecting a Style
Watch how your cat scratches.Take a few days and observe how your cat scratches the furniture or other objects in your home. Make a note as to whether or not they stay horizontal or prefer to stretch out vertical. Do they favor a particular material, such as your carpet? Do they feel the need to scratch up high, like on the back of your couch?
- If your cat tends to scratch high, then a vertical scratcher will work the best. Look for a hanging or wall-secured model.
- If your cat tends to scratch the carpet or the back of your couch, then a horizontal scratcher that stays flat on the floor will work best.
Pick a post that suits your space.You will want to make sure that the scratcher that you select can comfortably fit into your home. You’ll need free wall space if you are planning on installing a wall-based vertical scratcher. A cat condo can potentially take up a fair amount of floor space. Have a good idea about where you will place the scratchers before you buy them.
Consider a horizontal model.A scratching pad of this type will lay flat on the ground, perhaps with a low ridge. It could be rectangular, round, or another shape entirely. You might be able to attach toys or another small scratcher vertically to one end. These scratchers are often a cheap option.
- Be aware that if your cat scratches very aggressively, they may succeed in flipping this type of scratcher over.
- A horizontal scratcher provides a good back and shoulder exercise for your cat. This movement also mimics the actions of cats marking their territories in the wild.
Consider a flat vertical model.A vertical scratcher can hang from a doorknob, be a stand-alone post, or be secured to a wall. All of these options allow a cat to stretch out and extend their arms fully out and up. Pulling downward can then release any old claws. Be aware that these scratchers need to be a bit sturdier, so they can be more expensive than their horizontal counterparts.
Consider a cat tree.A cat condo is a great way to provide a scratching option and hiding place for your cat, all in one piece of furniture. If you place the cat condo near a window, your cat will enjoy the benefits of extra sunlight and an almost tree-like experience. Some cats even choose to sleep on their condos.
- You might notice that your cat rubs their face all over their condo. This is their way of marking territory via scent glands in their paws and facial area.
Get a piece of faux furniture.These are pieces of traditional human furniture that are miniaturized and then covered in a scratchable material, such as rope or carpet. Cats can enjoy the option of tearing up furniture without actually ruining any of your real pieces. Cat faux furniture also provides a diverse workout for a cat’s varying muscles.
- These are often custom pieces, so they will likely be more expensive than a traditional scratcher. You can buy these pieces via specialty pet stores or online via sites like Etsy.
Buy an appropriate height.Cats prefer a scratcher that allows them to fully extend their arms, paws, and claws. As you watch your cat scratch, try to get an idea as to the size of the scratcher that you’ll need. When in doubt, it is always better to buy a taller, bigger one.
Make your own scratching post or pad.If you just can’t find a scratcher that you prefer, or if you are particularly handy, you might try to make a post or pad for your cat. You can cut out a custom scratcher from a block of corrugated cardboard. You could also cover a hard surface, such as a book, with a rough fabric and batting.
- If you choose to attach carpeting to the post or pad, make sure to choose one that is designed for heavy usage. This will ensure that it lasts awhile before it needs to be replaced.
Stick to your budget.Cat scratchers can vary from quite cheap for cardboard models to rather pricey for custom pieces of furniture. Determine your budget in advance and make sure to comparison shop. Don’t spend too much on a scratcher as it is only temporary and will need replacing in the future.
Evaluating the Construction Quality
Weigh your texture options.When you visit the pet store or look online, you will see a variety of covering options for your scratcher. You will need to choose from rope, fabric, cardboard, natural wood, or a combination. Outdoor cats often prefer more natural surfaces, while cardboard is easier for older cats to scratch.
- Rough sisal rope is probably the most popular option. The sisal captures and removes dead claws as your cat scratches. In contrast, cardboard is less helpful in removing dead claws, but is a gentle way for cats to relieve aggression and mark.
- Think about the type of clean-up that you are willing to do as well. Cardboard scratchers have a tendency to result in tiny pieces of cardboard spread throughout the floor. Sisal rope is less messy overall.
Be wary of carpet coverings.Carpet covered scratchers can be visually appealing, but they are not as useful in keeping your cat’s claws healthy. They also make it more difficult for your cat to really dig in their paws. If the carpet is too loopy, your cat may also get stuck as they scratch, which can turn them off the post entirely.
- Carpet covered scratchers can also pose a problem as cats begin to fail to distinguish between their designated post and other areas of carpet. They may, therefore, start scratching in hallways or at other parts of the floor.
Check the sturdiness.A good scratcher is a sturdy and stable scratcher. Your cat will stop using it if they feel it wobbling too much or if they are afraid to knock it over on themselves. You need a post that can withstand your cat launching itself at it or pulling on it during a sustained scratching period. Test this by applying pressure to the post and mimicking your cat’s movements.
- You will also want to check the various attached parts that come with the scratcher to make sure that they are not loose. For example, sometimes the toys attached can come off too easily and will only cause your cat to be frustrated and distracted.
- A good rule to follow is that a tall post requires a wide base. The taller the post, the more secure and wide the base needs to be.
Check the attachments with wall-mounted models.If you have free wall space and plan to attach the scratcher to it, then spend a bit of extra time looking over the mounting brackets and hardware. These items need to be able to bear the full weight of the scratcher and your cat. For extra security, you may want to replace standard screws with drywall mounts.
- Feel free to add extra brackets to make your cat’s vertical or wall scratcher even more secure. It is best to do the installation right the first time.
Look at product reviews.Before you make your final purchase, do a bit of online research to see if a particular brand gets excellent reviews. Pay particular attention to those reviews that talk about long term usage and the quality of customer service. If you have any issues, you want a responsive seller.
Encouraging Your Cat to Scratch Appropriately
Put the post in a central location.Don’t hide away the scratcher. Find a spot in the middle of the action and place it there. You want it in a place that your cat frequents as they will not usually go out of their way to find their post or pad.
- It is also a good idea to block off pieces of furniture that your cat targets by placing new posts or pads right before them. After a while, you can move the post away to a more preferred location. Just go slowly and don’t move the post more than half a foot per week.
Provide multiple posts.If you have multiple cats, you will need to get them at least one post each. This will allow each cat to have their own territory. If you have a multi-story house, then you will need at least one post per floor. It is also a good idea to vary the type of posts or pads, so that your cat can exercise a variety of muscles.
- Position a post near your cat's bed, as they like to scratch when they wake up. Consider placing other posts near door frames, as cats like to mark entrances and exits.
- If you move, make sure to take along the old scratchers while providing new ones as well. This will help your cat to feel less anxiety and claim the new space.
Use catnip or treats to peak your cat’s interest.You can get a sachet of catnip and rub it all over the post or pad. You could also sprinkle catnip directly on the scratcher. This will help to lure your cat in. You could place a few treats around the perimeter of the scratcher as well.
Use toys or accessories to peak your cat’s interest.If the scratcher has a spot for you to attach a toy or feathers, make sure to do so. This will increase your cat’s positive association with the scratcher. You can also incorporate the scratcher into play sessions by hiding toys on top of it or dragging a feather over it.
Offer praise.If your cat tries to scratch furniture, distract them from this behavior by clapping your hands or making other loud noises. Then, point them in the direction of the scratcher. After your cat uses the scratcher successfully, you might give them a treat or a quick rub.
QuestionWhy do cats need cat scratchers?
Doctor of Veterinary MedicineDoctor of Veterinary MedicineExpert AnswerScratchers help a cat to exercise their toes, paws and legs and help keep the claws healthy. They also can save your furniture and walls from the cat scratching them.Thanks!
QuestionWhat is the best material to use for a cat scratching post?
Doctor of Veterinary MedicineDoctor of Veterinary MedicineExpert AnswerA coarse material that isn't easily frayed. This protects the cat and the post.Thanks!
QuestionHow do I get my cat to scratch the scratching post?
Doctor of Veterinary MedicineDoctor of Veterinary MedicineExpert AnswerYou can attract a cat to a scratching post by putting it in a desirable area (sunny window or in a quiet area) and you can also sprinkle some dried catnip on it.Thanks!
QuestionAre scratching posts good for cats?
Doctor of Veterinary MedicineDoctor of Veterinary MedicineExpert AnswerYes they are very good for cats as it lets them exercise their claws, toes, feet and legs.Thanks!
- Make sure to groom your cat’s nails regularly. Talk to your vet about a nail clipping schedule.
- Don’t replace a used, ratty scratching post right away. Cats often enjoy their scent on used posts.
Video: how to choose a good scratching post
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