Scratching Post

How to Train Your Cat to Use a Scratching Post


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by Lorie Huston, DVM on October 3, 2013

Destructive behavior, including damaging furniture, carpeting, bedding, and other surfaces by scratching, is one of the most common reasons cats end up living outdoors or being abandoned at animal shelters and rescues. The solution is simple; train your cat to use a scratching post.


With some patience and effort, you can teach your cat to use a scratching post and spare your furniture and other personal possessions.  Photo courtesy Mel B./

Why Do Cats Scratch?

Scratching is, for your cat, a perfectly normal behavior. Your cat is marking her territory, sharpening her claws, and/or stretching her muscles when she scratches.

Scratching is not a vindictive behavior. Your cat is not scratching because she is mad at you or because you aren’t spending enough time with her. As a cat owner, you need to realize and accept that your cat is only being a cat when she scratches your furniture, carpeting, and other possessions.

How to Choose a Scratching Post for Your Cat

Each cat is different. Some cats like vertical surfaces on which to scratch. Others prefer horizontal surfaces. Many cats also have texture preferences. Wood, sisal rope, corrugated cardboard, and rough fabrics are all potential scratching materials. You may need to experiment to find out what your cat prefers. However, if your cat has already chosen a favorite but undesirable spot in which to scratch, you may already have some hints as to your cat’s preferences.

Choosing a Location for Your Cat’s Scratching Post

Many cats stretch and scratch when first rising after a nap. Placing a scratching post near your cat’s favorite sleeping spot is one option that may prove successful. Alternately, you can place the post near one of your cat’s favorite hangouts, such as a window or favorite perch.

You can also place the post near your cat’s favorite scratching spot if your cat is already scratching in an undesirable location

Training Your Cat to Use the Scratching Post

Encourage your cat to use the scratching post as soon as you introduce your cat to your home. Also, encourage your cat to visit the post upon awakening.

Entice your cat to use the scratching post by rubbing the post with catnip. Some scratching surfaces are made with areas in which to place catnip. You can also place a favorite treat or toy on the scratching surface to attract your cat or hold the treat or toy halfway up the post to encourage your cat to stretch and scratch. Another trick is to fasten a toy to the top of the post. Feathers work well for this purpose.

Your cat can be offered treats as she approaches the scratching post as well as when she scratches it. Or better yet, treat your cat through the entire process of getting her to approach, investigate, and scratch the post.

What To Do If Your Cat Has Already Started Scratching a Forbidden Surface

If your cat has already started scratching at your couch or other valuable surface, place the scratching post near the item your cat has selected and follow the directions above to attract your cat to the scratching post. At the same time, make the other surface undesirable for your cat by using sticky sided tape on the surface. Don’t forget to reward your cat when she chooses to use the post.

In the worst cases, your cat can be confined with the scratching post alone, with no other scratching surfaces available. Be sure to provide for your cat’s other basic needs such as litter box, food, water, etc. Once your cat is regularly using the scratching post, allow your cat wider access to your home and continue to encourage use of the scratching post using cat nip, treats, toys, etc.

Caring for Your Cat’s Nails

Your cat’s nails should be trimmed every one to two weeks by removing the tips of each nail. Failing to keep your cat’s nails trimmed may result in overgrown nails that can grow into your cat’s pads, causing pain and infection.

Nail caps can also be used on your cat’s nails to help protect your valuable surfaces from scratching. These nail caps are glued with a cat-safe adhesive over your cat’s nails and usually need to be replaced every 4-6 weeks.

Declawing is a controversial and volatile subject. Many people are strongly opposed to declawing a cat. Discuss the procedure with your veterinarian thoroughly before making a decision to declaw your cat. Make an informed decision that you will not regret later on.

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About Lorie Huston, DVM Lorie Huston is an accomplished veterinarian, an award winning blogger, a talented author and a certified veterinary journalist. She is available for writing assignments, blogging and social media consultation, and SEO strategy.

This article is posted and shared through the courtesy of the Pet Health Care Gazette