Monday, March 18, 2013

Scratching Post Woes (Or How Your Cat Learned to Love Their Scratching Posts)

Most cats have preferences for scratching post textures.  These can include sisal, wood, corrugated cardboard, and carpeting, among others.  Essential attributes of any cat-preferred scratching post are:

  • Tall enough for the cat to reach/stretch to his full body length and still embed claws in the post
  • Sturdy enough that the post will not tilt, wobble, or fall over with vigorous scratching
  • Cat-specific texture preference (most cats prefer sisal or rope-covered posts)

Door-hanger scratching boards are too wobbly and unstable to provide a satisfactory scratching experience!  If your cat is scratching the carpet, perhaps he prefers a horizontal scratching board.  There are many inexpensive horizontal scratching boards available, with sisal and corrugated cardboard textures.  Carpet-covered horizontal scratchers are not recommended for carpet-scratching cats, for obvious reasons, and it’s hard to convince a kitty that it’s OK to scratch a carpeted post but not a carpet!

Introduction of the new scratching post should include rubbing catnip along its length, positioning it close to the area which he’s currently scratching, and placing a passive deterrent on or around the inappropriate, “old” scratching area.  The most effective passive deterrent is a piece of clear vinyl carpet runner (you know - the one you put beside your door in the winter for boots).  These runners have a smooth side and a “nubby” side.  Cats do not enjoy walking or standing on “nubbies,” so the runner should be placed “nubby” side up where you do not wish the cat to scratch.  For furniture-scratching kitties, the runner should be fitted and placed where the kitty stands to scratch.  Not many cats will enjoy the scratching experience if their back paws encounter these “nubbies.”  Your cat will then look for an alternative scratching area, and it is your job to provide him with one.  Another deterrent is double-sided tape, but this has the disadvantage of becoming very furry very fast, and will need replaced frequently.

Proper introduction to the scratching post is suggested as well.  You should never force your kitty to scratch the post.  You can, however, lure him to the post by rubbing it with catnip or placing a treat or toy on the top – he will have to put “paws on the post” to get it – or lead by example and scratch it yourself!  His curiosity will get the best of him and most likely he’ll join right in!  Interactive toys may do the trick as well – while he’s chasing the toy, lead him to the post, raise the toy so he needs to put paws on the post to get to the toy, and he will discover his new, enjoyable scratching post.


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