Training Your Cat To Use A Scratching Post And Where to Put It

I’d like people’s input on this if you have ideas and time. We all know how important a scratching post is. It allows a domestic cat to express his/her natural desires to scratch without upsetting his owner who may be house proud and who may find it distressing to see her furniture scratched.

Marvin at scratching post
Marvin at scratching post. Marvin lives with DW, a regular contributor. The photo is by her.
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles:- Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

One issue that pops up occasionally is whether a cat will use a scratching post. This presents a barrier to purchasing one. It may encourage people to consider declawing their cat as the easier option (for the cat owner), which as we all know is really the unnecessary mutilation of a cat. Declawing should be avoided at all costs.

In this article I’d like to mention some pointers that may be useful in getting a cat to use a scratching post and where it should be sited. Hopefully it will encourage people to buy one or two or three (more than one may be needed)!

Pioneer Pet Smart Cat The Ultimate Scratching Post. A large post.
Pioneer Pet Smart Cat The Ultimate Scratching Post. A large post.

Where to Put the Scratching Post

Obviously, the scratching post should not be in an out-of-the-way place and hidden. Although it might not look that great as an item of furniture, your cat needs to know where it is. It should be the largest and most solid scratching post that you can get and afford. The larger the better because they are more stable and they replicate more accurately a tree upon which a cat will normally scratch if allowed outside. When the post is conveniently located it will be a visual reminder to scratch there.

cat-scratching-log1

A good percentage of cats will like to use the post when the owner comes home or in anticipation of their meal. This may give some clues as to where to position the post. Some cats will scratch as a territorial marker rather than to maintain claws, to stretch or to just express an emotion. This may happen at significant junctions in the home (e.g. hallway, near back door). A scratching post or a wall-mounted scratcher can be located there.

If the post is for a kitten it should be in the middle of her room or her usual area of activity so that she cannot miss it. A cat who has access to a large area of the house or the entire house will probably mean more than one post to make it easier for the kitten to find it.

In a multi-cat household scratching posts should be provided in areas where each cat spends the most time. In addition, some cats might not feel comfortable sharing a post.

Tootsie scratching a scratching post. Tootsie is a poly Maine Coon with a smokey coat.
Tootsie scratching a scratching post. Tootsie is a poly Maine Coon with a smokey coat.

Training Your Cat to use the scratching Post

The training method is the same for kittens and adult cats. You should make training a game. You can do this by dangling a “cat tease” (a feather on the end of the stick) or other cat toy right next to the post. Your cat will go for the feather and in doing so he will feel the texture of the scratching post. It should prove irresistible. You can scratch the post yourself with your nails which will create a sound that may well encourage him to join in.

You can lay the post on its side and dangle the cat tease over the post. She should jump on the post to play with the feather and thereby discover the texture under her paws. She may well then begin scratching it. Once she has got used to this, the post can be positioned upright again.

It is not sensible to force your cat to scratch the post by grabbing his paws and putting them against the post. Your cat will dislike this experience no matter how carefully and gently you do it. Your cat will understandably become confused. His attention will be on how to release himself from your grasp rather than scratching the post. In addition, it will create a negative association between you and him. There is no substitute for play with a cat tease in order to get a cat involved in an area where you want him to be involved.

The training should be consistent to avoid confusing your cat. The toy or cat tease should not be dragged under clothing, behind drapes, et cetera, as this may encourage him to scratch there. Obviously, avoid running the cat tease along upholstered furniture as your kitten will want to climb it thereby extending his claws and scratching. In addition, it will send mixed messages.

Catnip can be used as well. It can be placed in and around a scratching post to encourage him/her to use it. In addition, positive reinforcement can be used. This means using clicker training (and here). When a cat is being trained to do something and he does it successfully, you click the clicker at that moment and provide a treat (tasty morsel of food). This reinforces the behaviour that you wish to train into him. The clicker can be used as it allows for more precise and clear timing between the successful action and the reward.

Josef and cat scratcher
Josef and cat scratcher. Collage by Ruth aka Kattaddorra.

Retraining a Cat To Use a Post After Scratching on Furniture

If your cat has used furniture for a while and you want to get him to use a scratching post instead the first thing that you have to do is to prevent him scratching the furniture – obvious I guess. You have to make the scratched chair or item of furniture unappealing to your cat. You can lay strips of a product called Sticky Paws across the areas where he scratches the furniture. This is double sided, transparent tape made for the purpose. Please read the instructions before use because you don’t want to leave a mark on the furniture when you remove the tape.

If the cat has been scratching the entire item of furniture then you have to cover it up with a sheet and make sure the sheet cannot be removed. Sticky Paws can also be used at several locations to make the furniture unacceptable to your cat. You then place a large and stable scratching post next to this item of furniture whereupon he/she will discover something even better when he wishes to scratch the furniture. You can dangle a toy around the post.

Patience will be required and, of course, it goes without saying that you should not punish your cat in any way by either hitting or yelling at him if his efforts displease you. Once he has acquired his new behaviour you can gradually move the post over to where you want it to be permanently placed. It should be not too far from the same area where the furniture is. When he is trained the sheet and double sided tape can be removed.

These are some pointers and they are largely common sense. If you have other ideas please comment. It will be much appreciated.

michael-written

11 thoughts on “Training Your Cat To Use A Scratching Post And Where to Put It”

  1. awesome article i will try to do all these for koal it was very amazing information i didn’t even think of doing so i am really gonna try my best to train koal to use his scratching post thank you for writing this article

    Reply
  2. It was very trying to get Abby (Maine Coon) to accept Shadow (large grey tomcat). Abby joined our home after Sadie (Tortie) passed after 17 wonderful years. Abby was a return to our shelter because her human passed, so it was kismet. Shadow joined us as a stray who just waltzed into my unit when the porch door was opened and I was replenishing the feeding station out there. He just refused to leave, period. Since Shadow is FIV+ and Abby is FIV-, my vet was none too happy, but every year I have Abby tested and she’s still negative.

    She initially didn’t like Shadow, then tolerated him…now they’re fabulous friends who just chase each other around. It took a lot of time and patience, but if you’re up to it, it can happen. Good luck!

    Reply
    • Nice story, Gail. It is interesting and good that they became friends before simply tolerating each other. I like that. There is a moral there for others.

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  3. My 2 (Maine Coon & large tomcat) have never had an issue, thankfully! I have the large Ultimate Scratching Post; a 2-tier squared carpeted post with large platforms for them to sit on and a giant sisal rope hanging from the 2nd tier and a large support column on it in sisal; the Cat Scratch Sofa; a cone-shaped carpeted post and a round turbo scratcher (cardboard in the middle with the ball inside that the cat can bat around).

    The large Ultimate post sits next to the 2-tiered post so they can step from one scratcher to the other to sit and watch their world on high. Next to that is a cat bed (one of 4), then the cone-shaped scratcher.

    The Cat Scratch Sofa is on the other side of the room – they don’t scratch it, they take turns sleeping on it, LOL! The turbo-round keeps moving around the room as the tomcat keeps batting it around forcefully and the Maine Coon puts all of her toys in the middle on the cardboard part of the turbo-round and then walks away to run at it and jump at her toys, scattering them everywhere!

    When I got the Ultimate Scratcher (won a few years back in a contest, thank you Michael), the cats wouldn’t touch it. I got a very strong organic catnip and rubbed it all over the sisal column, then got on all 4s myself pretending to be a cat. When the cats responded by scratching, I praised them in a high, happy voice and they enjoyed that. Every time they scratched, more praise. I just took turns fussing them up, massaging their fur, lots of smooches and we took turns scratching the post. No treats involved.

    The room they love the best (besides my bedroom) is the adjacent living room, so that’s where all the scratchers are. If I’m up late watching TV in the bedroom, one or both will start talking to me as if to tell me to shut it off. If I don’t, they just go off in a huff to the living room where it’s dark, and if they’re not playing they will go into their respective (open) carriers to get away from the TV – or they settle in on the desk chair and/or chaise lounge in that room. In the morning, both jump up on the bed to remind me it’s time to eat. We’ve got our own kitty clocks!

    Reply
    • Lovely comment. Thanks Gail for reminding me it was you who won the prize of that large cat scratching post. I like the way you got them to use it. I am sure it will help others.

      Fortunately my cat uses the cat scratching elements of a large cat condo in the spare bedroom. I sited the condo well, I believe: near a radiator and with good views over the garden where there is wildlife to look at. I am pleased he uses the scratcher and I never trained him to do it which makes the article redundant for me!

      Reply
      • Michael, you and I have been fortunate with our fur kids. In my bedroom, my large-screen TV is in a corner on a table with the DVR in front of it and next to a window that I placed an old end table for the cats. In front of the window’s table, I put a set of carpeted kitty stairs and to the side, another larger “doggie” steps. It’s like a kitty carnival sometimes. They chase each other up and down the steps to the table down the other steps, plus the doggie steps are hollow so sometimes one of them will hide in the hollow part and when the other one is on the table, the one under the steps will reach up and bat the other, starting the chase again. I must say, it’s kept them both trim. The Maine Coon likes to sleep on the DVR sometimes (the warmth from the unit), while the other prefers the end of my bed, on the temporpedic mattress. What a life!

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        • When I read your comment I want more than one cat. Your comment tells me that more than one cat is good for the cats provided they get along. The trouble is I don’t really live in a place at the moment where it is sensible to look after more than one cat. I have thought about moving to the country where it would be safer. My apartment is quite small as well. Just thinking aloud. I may move for the sake of my cat and cats to be!

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  4. Just found this is Homeguides, SFGate:

    Fabrics with even textures and tight weaves effectively repel liquid, which also makes them easy to clean, a handy feature for cats who sometimes vomit up their last meal or the occasional hairball. Synthetic microfiber fabrics have tight weaves that keep cats’ claws from easily penetrating the fibers. These fabrics do not snag or scratch easily and are resistant to stains, bacteria and pet dander, as hair and dead skin cells can’t get through the weave. Hair and soil easily wipe away with a damp rag.

    This describes the chair and couch fabric that doesn’t show damage.

    Reply
  5. I’ve always provided scratching items for my cat. Many I’ve gotten at thrift stores, and wasn’t sure if she’d be turned off by another cat’s scent. But it hasn’t been a problem.

    She uses all of them. One is tall, and carpeted with a large area on top for resting. She stretches, scratches, and naps on this one. Another one is cone shaped covered with sisal that encircles it from top to bottom. I was keeping this on the porch, but have brought it in because of heavy rains.
    It’s one of many cat items in my room, including litter pan, 2 beds, 2 water dishes, steps to litter pan (so I don’t have to bend so much) multiple toys and a toy storage bag.

    If I see that she hasn’t used the post in awhile, I will scratch it myself, and she always follows my example. I’ve also tied a sock with catnip around it. Any favorite thing can be attached to attract the cats. We just have to know what incentive might work. (Even a bit of tuna juice might get attention.)

    She still scratches on the upholstered dining chairs, but for some reason, this material doesn’t show any damage. I’ve been thinking of trying to find some in an upholstery store. It’s the same kind of weave that my previous sofa was made from, and had no damage from cat scratching.

    This seems like an opportunity in disguise for anyone who can manufacture scratching posts with this material. I’m going to see if I can snip a piece from underneath to see if I can find an identical piece somewhere.

    I don’t care for the cardboard scratchers because they shred, and leave messes.

    Reply

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