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how to get cat to use scratching post

How to Encourage Your Cat to Use a Scratching Post

It is no secret that cats need to scratch, and most owners are happy to provide a suitable scratching post or similar, to meet this need and keep them happy.

But what happens if your cat decides to use the carpet or sofa instead? Here are 10 tips for making the most of your post and encouraging your cat to use it.

cat scratched up sofa

Tips on how to get your cat to use a scratching post

The right material

Outlets for scratching are made of various materials and finding out your cat’s favorite is the first step to providing a scratch post they will be happy to use. It could be sisal rope, cardboard, hessian or even carpet tiles – the key is to provide them with different options to find out which they prefer. 

If they take a liking to an unsuitable material such as wallpaper or the side of the sofa, temporarily cover these areas and provide appropriate scratching outlets nearby until your cat is using the correct ones consistently.

The right angle

Your cat may have a favorite angle in which to scratch. They may prefer upright posts, horizontal boards or even a diagonal slant. Keep an eye out for what your cat is choosing to scratch to help you find out what they like. 

For example, if your cat regularly scratches your carpet, they may prefer a flat surface over a vertical post. Some cat trees include both vertical and horizontal scratching areas and the corrugated cardboard options come in many different shapes and sizes to suit most cats. Try a few different options and see what they take to.

The location of your post is important and having a good understanding of why your cat is scratching in a particular spot can help you decide where best to position it.

Next to sleeping areas

Often cats will have a good stretch and scratch after sleeping. Position a scratching post near beds and their favorite resting areas so they can’t miss them once they wake up.

Socially important places

Scratching is used to mark territory, as pheromones are deposited onto the surface of a cat's paws. They will be inclined to mark the important parts of their territory, including the areas they spend most of their time. 

For this reason, the sofa is an obvious choice for many cats – it’s a prominent object, usually in the part of the home where people spend a lot of time. Placing scratching posts in these socially important areas allows your cat to mark their territory and means they won’t need to go off into a room they rarely frequent just to scratch.

cat scratching tree

Scratching outside

For cats with outside access, scratching can also be an essential part of maintaining their wider territory. Providing opportunities for scratching outside will allow for scent marking and can help redirect inappropriate scratching inside. It also provides more natural substrates for scratching on, such as tree stumps and fence posts that are uncommon indoors. Of course, cats also scratch to maintain their claws and exercise their muscles, so posts need to be fit for this purpose.

Solid and sturdy

Another attraction to scratching the sofa is that it’s heavy and solid, allowing for a good scratch without wobbling or toppling over. Therefore, posts need to be sturdy enough for cats to pull down hard and effectively maintain their claws.

cat using scratching post

The right size

A key part of a cat’s claw and body maintenance involves stretching up to full height before pulling down, so posts need to be tall enough for them to do this. Some posts can be attached to the wall, allowing you to position them at just the right height for your cat. It’s also important that scratchers are solid enough that they don’t move or lift during use, like some smaller, lightweight cardboard ones.

Replace as they get worn

Well-used posts can lose some of their functionality over time – sisal can become threaded and worn through, while cardboard may get ripped or compacted down. Sisal is a simple material to replace on individual posts as they wear, and cardboard scratchers are usually cost-effective enough that providing a new one won’t break the bank.

Encourage investigation of new posts

You can encourage your cat to use its new scratching post by playing with toys nearby or using catnip to entice them. Wand toys or pieces of string can be dangled alongside the post or pulled along during play, while catnip can be placed in the grooves of cardboard scratches to generate kitty curiosity.

Help your cat cope with stressful events

When your cat is scratching unwanted parts of your home like your carpet or furniture, keep in mind that this is often exacerbated by stress, particularly if there is tension with other cats. FELIWAY Optimum can help reduce stress in these situations and allow your cat to better cope with stressful events if they are unavoidable.

Scratching in inappropriate locations is a common problem among cat owners, so be sure to follow the above tips to provide an environment that meets your cat’s needs and leaves your furniture scratch-free.

cat laying on ground

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