Scratching is an essential maintenance routine for your cat. It removes claw husks, exercises muscles and marks territory. If you don’t provide the right sort of scratching posts in the correct locations, your furniture, wallpaper or carpets will undoubtedly suffer.
Cat scratching posts come in many different shapes and sizes. They may simply be upright wooden posts covered with thick sisal twine or carpet, or they may also include platforms, beds, hiding boxes and dangling toys for the more energetic individuals. Before you choose one for your cat you may want to consider these criteria:
- The post must be rigid; cats when they scratch need resistance to do the best job.
- The post should be tall enough for cat to scratch at full stretch. If you buy one for your kitten, you will need to change it when he grows up.
- The post should offer opportunities for your cat to scratch both horizontal and vertical surfaces.
- If it is a tall modular scratching post with various platforms and bed attachments, it must be stable. There is nothing worse than a tall scratching post that falls over when your cat launches himself at it at full speed.
You don’t have to spend a fortune on a scratching post. Some of the most popular ones are ingenious designs using only corrugated cardboard. If space is an issue in your home you can always purchase the flat-panel type that can be fixed to your wall at the appropriate height. When you first introduce the scratching post to your cat, there is always a temptation to grab his paws and rub them up and down the post to give him the idea. Try to resist doing this as it’s virtually guaranteed to make him scratch your sofa instead. I prefer allowing the cat to explore in his own good time.
The position of the scratching post is important too; it may be good for you if it’s placed out of sight in a spare bedroom, but your cat will have no particular desire to use it there. I would recommend that you try this instead:
- Place it near a window or radiator in a room your cat particularly favours
- Position at least one scratching post near your cat’s bed for use when he wakes up and has his early morning stretch
- Sprinkle loose catnip over the base
- Play a game with your cat with a fishing-rod toy round the post so that his claws catch in the material; this often promotes a scratching motion
- If it is a tall modular post, put dry food on the top to encourage use
You can of course be adventurous and construct on of your own; some of the best scratching centres I’ve seen have been home-made. Don’t worry that you will inadvertently train your cat to scratch your carpet if you cover the post with a similar material. I certainly wouldn’t use an off-cut of your living room carpet, for example, but if you choose a piece of hard-wearing material recommended for heavy traffic areas, it will be more durable and probably remain the only target of your cat’s claws.
Advice on other practical aspects of owning a cat can be found in Vicky’s books: The Complete Cat and The Secret Life of your Cat.