Set up for scratching success.

While some kitties may be content with a single scratcher, we can and should do more to set up success. Success for who? For everyone! Our kitties succeed when we enrich the environment in ways that go beyond the bare minimum to provide a fulfilling experience. We succeed when undesired scratching is managed in a way that protects the people and items that matter to us. By offering choice and accessibility, we increase successful outcomes. Whether you are considering dipping your toe in the pool or are ready to cannonball into the deep end, let your cat’s preferences guide you. 

There are endless options for you and your cat.

Each cat is an individual with personal preferences. You may be wondering what the best cat scratching post is. For the answer, we have to ask your cat. By offering a variety of scratching options to choose from, we can identify those preferences and better cater to your cat’s individual needs. Offering choice has been found to reduce stress in zoo animals and may also reduce stress for your tiny tiger. Scratching options are plentiful, with varying sizes, surface textures, and orientations. 

Choose a variety of materials and textures.

Of commonly available materials, sisal leads the pack. Cats seem to prefer its tough but shreddable texture. Its durability makes it an excellent choice for long-lasting use. Sisal scratching posts are widely commercially accessible, with rolls of sisal rope available at most hardware stores for DIY projects or to refresh a favorite post. 

Carpet is often used to upholster cat trees and scratching posts. Carpet may be less durable than sisal, but provides a satisfying substrate to shred and a softer surface for tender toes. Faux fur and other fabrics offer an even softer choice. Cats who have shown a preference for scratching couches or other furniture may enjoy an approved fabric offering, but be sure to keep their options open. 

Cardboard scratchers are a popular choice that also present an excellent activity for those interested in recycling and DIY projects. They are a great addition to any home, aiding in rapidly increasing scratching surface availability without blowing the budget. 

For those looking to get back to their kitty’s roots, natural wood offers an uncommon alternative. Bringing the outdoors inside can bring challenges, so it is important to know the wood that you are working with and screen for hitchhikers like insects. On-the-go natural scratching can be provided on walks, with appropriate harness training, but is not a replacement for scratching availability in the home.

From xxs to XXL, find your perfect fit.

Whether you and your kitty are sharing a studio apartment or a three story house, there are options to fit your space. There are even scratching solutions for cats in rescue, boarding, and veterinary environments. No space is too small to enrich with scratching support. When using smaller options, it is important to secure them so that they still offer a full, satisfying stretch. Keep the size of your kitty in mind when looking at posts, as a standard scratcher may be too cramped for a larger cat to use comfortably. Tall and multilevel scratching options maximize use of floor space and also support kitty confidence. Height gives cats an increased sense of security while climbing opportunities aid physical fitness.  Keep your kitten from climbing the curtains by offering a more exciting mountain to climb. Larger cat trees may also have the benefit of multiple types of scratching surface in a variety of orientations. 

Try another angle or maybe three.

Scratchers come in positions ranging from vertical to horizontal, and every angle in between. Curved surfaces are also available. Scratching often occurs following rest, making scratchers with flatter orientations excellent multifunction furniture. Vertical posts can facilitate peek-a-boo play, which is an excellent way to encourage use. Regardless of position, security is important to prevent shifting during scratching. A wobbly post or a slippery scratch pad can ruin a good stretch and even sabotage training. Ensure that vertical options have a sturdy base, anchor large trees as needed, and consider horizontal options that allow your cat to sit securely during use. 

Make desired scratching convenient with accessibility.

A conveniently placed scratcher is more likely to be used than one that requires a field trip to reach. Even if your home does not seem large to you, it can represent an expansive territory to someone walking around on little kitten legs. Larger homes require more scratching options to maintain availability throughout. Placement should allow full use, without posts being blocked by other furniture. If floorspace is at a premium, going vertical with taller trees and shelves can provide access without dominating entire rooms.

Anticipate needs in order to prevent problems.

Consider when and where your cat may like to scratch. Cats tend to start their day with a morning stretch and scratch. This routine is repeated through the day following each catnap. Make options available near preferred resting areas to meet this need. Cat trees with built-in beds, hammocks, or hideaways help by accommodating the need to scratch while also increasing resting resources. 

Scratching serves an important role in communication, leaving behind chemical messages called pheromones. These pheromones can be used to mark territory as well as make cats feel more secure in their own home. Place appropriate scratching surfaces near doors or windows to give your kitty a healthy outlet for setting boundaries. Establish a kitty bulletin board by placing scratchers in socially important areas, such as the living room or where your family tends to gather. 

Overstimulated cats will often scratch in order to release tension. Strategically placed “frustration stations” can ensure that cats who need to release energy have an appropriate outlet. Watching body language can clue you in to when and where these stations should be placed. If tensions are high around other kitties in the household or shared resources, there may be more underlying issues to address. Talk to your veterinarian or schedule a behavioral consultation to get to the root of potential issues. 

Outcompete unwanted behaviors with better options.

If you are currently working to resolve undesired scratching, make a list of targeted areas and make sure that there are desirable alternatives in each location. Rather than punishing unwanted scratching, focus on offering the right alternatives and establishing humane training techniques. Consider what makes the target such a desirable option from your cat’s perspective and offer something even better right next to it. 

If human scratching is an issue, keep strategic stashes of toys in areas where sneak attacks occur. Small toys such as mice, crinkle balls, and feather wands are helpful for creating distance between you and your kitty. Larger stuffed toys are an excellent distraction for cats who like to grapple and bunny-kick. Use catnip with caution; though it can help make toys more interesting it also acts as a stimulant and may increase the intensity of play related aggression. 

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Feeling overwhelmed?

Do not be afraid to ask for help. There are many feline behavior professionals who are more than happy to help you get started. Consider scheduling a behavior consultation to talk about your individual cat’s needs and how to meet them within your home. Contact us for details on remote consultation services. 

Background photo Contentment by gaijinbiker via Flickr.