We’ve all been in the scratching post aisle at the pet store (or online) and been overwhelmed with choices. After much care, you purchase one and take it home, only to have your cat turn up her nose, walk over to the couch, and go to town. Scratching is an important behavior that helps cats maintain healthy nails, and mark their territory. Scratching may be more frequent in households with multiple pets, or recent changes (think new family members, rearranged furniture, new smells). It is an important activity for indoor cats especially, who use it to help stretch and condition their muscles.
So how do you choose a scratching post your cat actually wants to use?
First things first, you’ll need to decide what kind of scratcher your cat is. Does he prefer vertical or horizontal surfaces? Does he gravitate toward the sisal rugs or the carpets? Does he like the corner of objects or secluded areas of the house? In general, cats tend to fall into one of two categories: (1) Rakers, or cats who like to drag nails along horizontal surfaces, often preferring natural fiber rugs and corrugated cardboard, and (2) Vertical scratchers, or cats who prefer to stand up and scratch.
Second, decide what type of scratching set up you want in the house. There are some flexible surfaces that can be hung directly over a favorite scratching zone, cat trees with built in scratchers, and cardboard scratching posts, board, and lounges that can all be implemented.
Between these two sets of information, you can venture to your pet store or online with a better plan of attack. Pick out a few options that fit your pet’s preferences and try them out. Make sure vertical surfaces are tall enough for your cat to stand up and stretch out while scratching, or else they won’t be appealing. Generally, it’s worth trying a disposable or inexpensive option initially to make sure you’ve correctly guessed your cat’s scratching desires before investing in more expensive options. Adding catnip to the surface can also help get your cat interested in the new additions.
More companies have designed attractive scratching post (and cat tree) options in recent years, so don’t worry if a neon carpet stand doesn’t exactly fit into your home’s decor. This is especially helpful when considering where these posts will be — they need to be where your cat likes to spend time and scratch! Putting them in a far away corner won’t encourage her to use them.
If, despite all your hard work, your cat is still scratching objects you hold dear, you may need to consider alternatives. Synthetic pheromone diffusers and sprays (brand name Feliway) can help reduce the urge to mark territory and reduce scratching. Regular nail trims can also help. Watch Cornell veterinary school’s video on how to safely trim nails at home.
If you are frustrated with scratching, you can also try soft rubber nail covers. If you’ve been to our hospital, you’ve probably seen the hospital cats, Jimmy (featured in the photo above) and Eva, sporting their orange Soft Paws. These disposable covers are easily glued onto the nails and prevent damage from scratching. Make sure to continue regular nail trims if you are using nail covers to prevent ingrown nails. You can always schedule a technician appointment at our office to have your cat’s nails trimmed and Soft Paws applied (be sure to bring your Soft Paws with you — they are easy to order online and come in really fun colors!).
We hope this helps next time you are purchasing a scratching post. If you have more questions or concerns about your cat’s nails and health, please contact us!