Cats have a natural urge to scratch furniture, carpets and other rough surfaces. It allows them to mark their territory and to remove the outer layer of their claws to free the healthier nails underneath. Scratching is not just for fun, and cats may do it not only when they feel good but also if they are frustrated or excited. Probably the most important reason for scratching, however, is for cats to groom themselves.
Do scratching posts trim nails?
A scratching post does not necessarily trim nails, but it will file down the outer layers. A cat’s tough claws, or nails, are made up of several layers. It is quite normal for these layers to shed regularly, as this allows for stronger and sharper nails to emerge.
Cats’ claws are retractable, meaning that cats do not have their nails out all the time. To help keep them filed down and break through the outer layer, it is therefore useful for them to have a scratching post or similar rough surface. When they dig their claws into such a surface, the thin top layer is filed away to expose a sharper one underneath.
Benefits of a scratching post
Your cat will be less likely to dig her claws into your furniture.
Cats may scratch when stretching, or to exercise their bodies. It allows them to strengthen their muscles, shed their nails, leave their scent and expend energy. By providing a scratching post, you are giving your cat a proper outlet for her scratching, rather than letting her use your furniture.
If your cat prefers scratching or clawing at furniture even after you have provided a scratching post, try dangling a toy or spreading catnip on the scratching post. You can also offer your cat treats when she uses the scratching post, to help redirect her scratching from the furniture to the post. She will eventually catch on and learn to use the scratching post.
It helps your cat stay in shape.
Cats need exercise to stay healthy, and a scratching post can be a great help in this regard. Scratching posts come in various shapes and sizes, and they allow your cat to have a good stretch as well as some climbing and jumping. Exercise is vital for cats to maintain their strength, tone their muscles, manage their weight and stay alert. For bonus enjoyment, place some catnip or her favorite toys on the post.
It keeps your cat from becoming bored.
Cats love sleeping during the day, but between naps they also need some activity. If they are left alone for most of the day, they are likely to become bored. A scratching post will help to keep the boredom at bay and provides a fun way to work off their scratching urges.
Along with a scratching post, you can also provide toys, and rotate the use of these toys. Schedule play sessions with your cat for at least a few minutes each day.
It acts as a mutual ground if you have multiple cats at home.
Having a scratching post could be a great help when introducing a new cat to your existing cats at home. Because the urge to scratch is something that all cats have in common, the scratching post could bring them together and they might start getting along sooner. However, although a scratching post might be a common ground for some cats, others might become more territorial over it before they get used to having the new cat around.
Do scratching posts sharpen claws?
No, scratching posts do not sharpen claws. While cats scratch to groom their claws, this does not actively sharpen the nails. When cats scratch on a scratching post, the outer sheath of the nail is removed, which could lead you to believe that the claws have been sharpened, but this is not true. Rather, the removal of the outer sheath exposes the already-sharp nail beneath.
The ideal scratching post for cats should be good quality and sturdy. Most cats prefer materials like sisal rope, carpet, natural wood or cardboard. You can also choose between vertical and horizontal scratching posts.
Recommended scratching posts for cats:
- SmartCat Pioneer Pet Ultimate Scratching Post
- PetFusion 3-sided Vertical Cat Scratching Post
- 4Claws Wall-Mounted Scratching Post
Cats are playful, active animals and can become easily bored if left at home alone for most of the day. Providing them with a scratching post is helpful, as it allows them to stretch and exercise as well as easing the boredom of being home alone. Scratching posts file nails rather than trimming them, and the removal of the old, outer layer of the nails makes way for the younger, sharper nails beneath.
Image: istockphoto.com / Svetlana Popova