Have you ever thought of a scratching post as indispensable when you have a cat at home? This nondescript piece of furniture can help reduce some important concerns of cat ownership, specifically scratching behavior in cats. Having a scratching post or two around will give your kitty ‘legal’ scratching surfaces instead of running their claws on your carpet or furniture and destroying valuable household items.
Scratching is one of the most misunderstood behavior of cats. It is a common reason for cats being abandoned or surrendered to shelters, declawed, or punished. But these are not solutions to the problem. These are inhumane! It is not what responsible cat parents are expected to do.
Why do cats scratch?
Understanding why cats engage in the behavior and love to run their claws on certain objects will enable pet owners to provide ‘legal’ scratching surfaces for their pets. Here are important reasons for this instinctive feline behavior:
- Scent glands are found in the paws of cats. When they scratch objects or surfaces, they leave their signature scent that can be perceived by other cats. This is a cat’s way of claiming territory and serving as a warning for other cats to keep off. The visual marks that are made by cat scratching reveal important territory information to others.
- Scratching promotes nail health as it helps remove old nail sheaths and uncover new ones. Suffice to say, a cat scratching post to trim nails is a piece of important kitty furniture to have when you have a cat. Keeping nails well-trimmed and healthy is a part of good grooming behavior.
- When cats scratch, they usually stretch their bodies. This is especially true when they have a tall scratching post. Stretching helps keep the cat’s muscles lithe and in tip-top shape.
- The behavior also stimulates the release of “feel-good hormones” and a great way to release cat stress or ‘blow off steam’. All that scratching and digging their claws on the post’s surface, and stretching of their bodies and standing on their hind legs are a great way to get some exercise and burn excess energy. Scratching is a great way to have physical and mental stimulation.
- For kittens that have just been brought to a new home, a cat post gives them opportunities to burn excess energy. This is especially true with scratching posts that come with hanging feathers or a mouse that they can play with while engaging in natural behaviors. It can also help make the transition period to a new home, less stressful.
- A scratching post can divert a cat’s instinct to scratch on furniture. If it’s a new post, introductions have to be made. Make the scratching post more appealing to your kitty by rubbing some catnip on it. Placing a treat at the top could also lure your cat to run his claws on the post.
- In multi-cat households, the scratching post often becomes a spot to convene in, where cats play and interact and build rapport between your pets.
Factors to consider when buying a scratching post
Scratching posts are available in various designs, materials, heights, and sturdiness. There vertical scratching surfaces while others are horizontally-oriented. The most common materials that are used for scratching posts include wood, corrugated cardboard, sisal, or carpeting fabric. Cats prefer material that shreds when they scratch.
Types of scratchers
1) Cardboard posts
Cardboard posts are often the choice of first-time cat owners because they are quite inexpensive. They are easy to replace and are usually designed to lie flat or angled on the floor. A horizontal cardboard scratcher should have enough space to allow the cat to stand on it and scratch at the same time.
2) Sisal-covered scratching posts
Scratching posts that are covered with sisal rope is also a popular option. Cats love to run their claws on the sisal’s rough surface, also because the resistance feels great to their paws and claws. Posts covered with this heavy-duty material are more expensive than those made of corrugated cardboard. But since the material is durable, they often last for years before they need to be replaced.
3) Carpet-covered scratching posts
There are also scratching posts covered with carpeting material. Cats love scratching the material because it is similar to the carpeting on floors and staircases. But when a cat continues to scratch at carpeted stairs and floors, experts recommend switching to a scratching post made of a different material.
Cats need a sturdy and stable scratching post
The sturdiness and stability of a scratching post is also an important consideration. It matters more than the material that is used. A sturdy base ensures that the post won’t wobble or topple over when the cat scratches with gusto. An unstable scratching post can cause injury to a cat when it flips over. For taller posts, be sure to check that the bases are extra heavy to avoid unfortunate circumstances from happening.
Cats prefer tall scratching posts
The height of the scratching post is also an important factor to consider. The taller and sturdier the post, the better are the chances of your cat preferring the post to your carpeted floor or furniture. Tall scratching posts allow cats to stretch their body out fully and pull back their shoulder and back muscles, movements that promote flexibility and overall cat health.
Location, location, location
Where the scratching post is placed inside your home can have a big say in your kitty’s acceptance of the post. If there are several cats in the household, it is a good idea to place scratching posts in places where cats usually congregate or spend time in. If your cat ignores a new scratching post, try rubbing some catnip or placing a treat on the post. You could also hang a toy mouse or any prey toy to pique your cat’s curiosity to make him approach the post to investigate.