If you live with a cat, one of the most important things you will need besides a litter box and food bowls, is a good scratching post. So, what makes a good scratching post? Is it your couch, your chair, your drapes, maybe your prized collection of LPs? I’ve had them all used over the years before I truly understood the need that cats have to scratch.
Cats have retractable claws that act like finger tips. Scratching has two purposes for cats. They need to scratch to remove the outer sheath as their claws grow. Outside, they would find a nice tree or other rough surface to scratch. Cats also use scratching to mark their territory. They have scent glands on their paws and scratching lets other cats know that they were there. It’s kind of like cat tagging.
Without the proper outlet, cats will find whatever is handy to scratch. Usually it’s the arms of your couch or chair.
What Makes A Good Post?
I’ve noticed that cats seem to love rough, nubby fabric textures. The most coveted furniture to scratch in my house has always been the one with the nubby texture. This is why most scratching posts are made of carpet, sisal rope or cardboard. We now have a microfiber couch that they mostly leave alone.
Many scratching posts are made of carpet. However, this may confuse your cat. He may not understand why it’s okay to scratch the carpet on his post but not outside your bedroom door when you so ungraciously closed him outside when he woke you up again at 4 am. We currently have two homemade posts that are wrapped in sisal rope. One of the posts has survived 15 years of daily use. We had to replace part of the rope at year 12 when they finally wore it out in one spot. We also have a few horizontal corrugated cardboard box type scratchers so they can scratch on the floor and roll around in the dried catnip.
Such Great Heights
Many commercial cat scratching posts are great for kittens, but are really too short for a full grown cat – especially a large tom like Wayne. He stretches 34 inches from toes to nose. Many large cat trees incorporate scratching posts in longer lengths. The Ultimate Scratching Post shown in the photo to the left is a nice looking post covered in sisal fabric. It’s 34 inches in length, so it is long enough for a good stretch.
If your cat is already in the bad habit of using your furniture as a post, all hope is not lost. With some patience and tricks you can re-direct him to his proper outlet. Some things to keep in mind:
- The scratching post needs to be located where it is convenient for your cat to use it. Keep it near where he has been scratching now. It helps to get a decent looking post that fits with your decor. We have one at the top of the stairs that overlooks the courtyard (see photo of Liv on the stairs) and the other is by the sofa.
- If he likes catnip, try sprinkling some on the post to encourage scratching.
- Try scratching the post yourself to give him a visual clue what the post is for.
- If he scratches the furniture, carry him over to the post to scratch. Give him praise and treats if he complies.
- Cover the area of the furniture where he scratches with double sided tape. They hate the feel of it. Once he’s stopped scratching your furniture in preference of his cool new post, you can take the tape off.
So, what about declawing?
If all of this sounds like too much trouble and you are considering declawing, please don’t. De-clawing is cruel. It would be like cutting the tips off your fingers. Declawed cats are defenseless if they ever get outside. Declawed cats can also be more aggressive without the use of their claws. The Humane Society has a great article on the subject and another one on why declawing is a bad idea. It’s easy with practice. The younger the cat is when you start the easier it will be. My three cats associate a drawer with treats. I keep the cat claw trimmer there, too. When I open the drawer the three usually come running and wait their turn for a trim and a treat.
Update: September 2014
If you have Netflix streaming, there is an excellent documentary called “The Paw Project” which shares one veterinarian’s quest to educate the public and to help stop the cruel practice of declawing. I was against it before, but when I saw the pain and disfigurement that happens when a cat is declawed, I was sickened. The behavior problems that arise from declawing are far worse than a few scratches on your furniture. Biting and litter box issues are very common with declawed cats as they are in constant pain. More cats are sent to shelters for these issues than scratching.
Please try to trim your cat’s claws or use Soft Paws, and use training methods to help correct unwanted behavior. If your landlord will only allow a cat who has been declawed, find another home if you can or share with him or her the realities of declawing. Here’s a great FAQ on declawing.
With ample scratching posts and training, your cat can scratch as needed and save your furniture from damage. If this is too much, please reconsider sharing a home with a cat. You are sharing the home and need to adjust your behavior, too. You wouldn’t pull a puppy’s teeth out just because he was chewing.