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How do I get my cat to use the scratching post?

How do I get my cat to use the scratching post?

Is your cat ignoring the new scratching post that you brought home with much excitement?

Perhaps you are tired of your cat scratching your furniture and wondering how do I get my cat to use the scratching post?

Getting your cat to prefer the scratching post over your furniture is possible with a bit of effort from your side and a lot of patience.

However, before we go further, it is important to understand why cats scratch in the first place.

Why do cats scratch?

1. To ensure the health of their nails

Scratching is a natural behavior and is necessary to keep the nails healthy. When a cat scratches a surface, it helps to discard the old sheaths and uncover the new sheaths covering the nails.

2. A visual warning

The scratch marks on different surfaces serve as a warning. A cat approaching may see the marks left by another cat and may choose to take another route.

3. Scent message

Scratching releases scents from the scent glands located in the cat’s paw. These scents tell other cats that the area is already claimed. If an intruder decides to enter the territory, he can get more information on the owner of the scratch mark from the scent message.

4. Expression of emotions

Scratching is also linked to a cat’s emotions. You may have seen your cat scratching as soon as you reach home. It may be an expression of happiness. Cats also scratch when they are upset. For example, when they are scolded or unable to go outside.

5. Stretching

Scratching also allows the cat to stretch fully, especially after a nap.

How to pick the right scratching post for your cat?

How do I get my cat to use the scratching post?

The material matters

Most scratching posts are covered with colorful and soft carpet-like material.

Cats require a rough surfaced material that can help to remove the dead outer sheaths covering their nails.

If your cat is scratching the furniture instead of the post, do a quick comparison to see the difference in the materials. Is the scratching post material softer?

Is the post unstable or shaky?

Most scratching posts are not very stable. The stand is usually small, and the post can tip over when the cat leans on it while scratching.

Sometimes the stand is poorly constructed and can be shaky.

On the other hand, your furniture is heavy and does not move when your cat put his weight on it while scratching.

This is another reason for your cat to head for your couch every time he feels the need to scratch.

Height of the scratching post

Most scratching posts are not tall enough for your cat to stretch completely while scratching. As discussed above, cats also scratch when they want to stretch after a nap.

Where do you think your cat will go when he wants to stretch? Yes, you guessed right; he will head over to your sofa, which is the right height for him.

Look for these qualities when picking a scratching post:

  1. It should be covered in rough textured material
  2. It should be strong, and the base should not be wobbly
  3. It should be long enough for your cat to fully stretch

What is the right material for a scratching post?

You can go for scratching posts that are covered with Sisal, a natural and stiff fiber obtained from the leaves of the agave plant (Agave Sisalana). Most cats love the rough texture of Sisal, which has a beige and creamy white color.

Even posts that are covered with carpet like material can work if it has a rough texture.

If you are not able to find a tall and well-built Sisal covered scratching post at your neighborhood pet shop, you can consider ordering online.

The right location for the scratching post

Make sure to place the scratching post in a location where your cat can see it.

Place it where your cat spends most of his time.

If you are training a kitten and he has access to multiple areas in the house, you may have to place a few scratching posts around your home.

If you have more than one cat, you will have to get a scratching post for each one as they may not like to share.

Scratching style

You need to also understand your cat’s scratching style: vertical or horizonal.

Some cats prefer flat surfaces, and they may not like scratching vertically.

Your cat prefers horizontal surfaces if you notice him scratching the carpet, the welcome mat, or the arms of your sofa.

If your cat shows a preference for horizontal scratching, it may explain why you have been unsuccessful in getting him to use a vertical scratching post.

For cats with a preference for horizonal scratching, you can opt for flat scratchers such as corrugated cardboard scratchers or mat scratchers.

We have covered the attributes of the right scratching post, the right location, and the scratching style. Next, let us look at how to get your cat to use the scratching post.

Coming back to the question, How do I get my cat to use the scratching post? Read on to find out how.

Make it a fun activity

The training should be structured in such a way that it becomes a fun activity for your kitten or cat.

Fur and feather toys satisfy the hunting urge of your feline friend and can be used effectively in the training process.

Swing the fur or feather toy near the scratching post. Your aim is to have the cat or kitten feel the rough texture of the scratching post.

You can also scratch the Sisal covered surface of the post with your nails to entice your cat to be part of the fun activity.

You can try placing the scratching post on its side and swing the toy near it. As your cat jumps for the toy, his paws will meet the rough material of the post and it is likely that he will start scratching the post.

Once your cat understands the function of the post, you can put it back in the original standing position. 

Do not force it

You should not force your cat to scratch the post by holding his paws. Your cat will not enjoy it and his main objective will be to free himself from your grip. Your cat will end up associating the scratching post with a negative experience.

Keep the training consistent

Make sure to continue the training consistently and stick to a schedule. Follow the training until your cat or kitten starts using the scratching post.

How to train a longtime furniture scratcher? 

We just looked at training a kitten or cat to use the scratching post. What about a cat who has been scratching furniture all along? Is it possible to train him to use the scratching post in place of the furniture? Yes, you can train an old-timer to use the scratching post. Follow the below steps:

1.Get the right scratching post

Make sure to get a scratching post that fits the qualities that we have mentioned above: covered with the right material, sturdy and tall.

2. Make your furniture unattractive

You can keep your furniture covered or lightly spray with Feliway spray, a product that has a calming effect on cats. You should repeat the spraying every couple of days. Spray the areas of your furniture that your cat likes to scratch. Its also available as a plug-in diffuser. Feliway mimics the natural pheromones that a mother cat produces to calm her kitten.

You can also try Sticky Paws, a double-sided tape but some cats will rip it off with their teeth.

3. Place the scratching post next to the furniture

While turning your furniture unattractive to your cat, you should also place the scratching post nearby. This way when your cat feels the urge to scratch, he is likely to go for the post since the furniture is now off-limits.

You can also make the post more inviting by swinging a toy near it or rubbing catnip on the post if you are training an adult cat.

4. Uncovering the furniture

Continue to use Feliway spray or keep your furniture covered until your cat starts using the scratching post without hesitation and no longer tries to access your furniture. However, keep the scratching post close to the furniture.

Dealing with scratching in other areas

A cat scratching near entrances or doorways is likely marking territory. You can place a scratching post near the areas that your cat scratches frequently. You can use Feliway spray on the scratched area to make it unattractive to your cat. If training an adult cat, you can rub a bit of catnip to make it a bit more appealing to your cat.  

Should you replace a worn-out scratching post? 

You should not. The beat-up scratching post has your cat’s scent and all the scratch marks. It is exactly how he likes it. Do not get rid of the old scratching post, simply place a new one next to it. If your cat starts using the new scratching post and ignores the old one, you can safely throw away the old one.