Why Do Cats Need Scratching Posts?

Why Do Cats Need Scratching Posts

Buying supplies for your new cat? Do not forget to buy him a scratching post.

Why do cats need scratching posts?

Cats need a scratching post because of their instinctive need need to scratch. Cats need to scratch their claws on surfaces for two reasons: to remove the old outer layer of their claws and to mark their territories.

A more accurate way of putting it would be that you need the scratching posts to protect your furniture at home. Your cat can get by with any type of surface, scratching post, or otherwise.

Why do cats need to scratch?

To people, scratching may seem like an unacceptable behavior. But to cats, scratching is normal, a behavior embedded in their DNA. As a predator, your cat needs to keep his claws in optimal condition. His claws are essential for catching prey, be it a mouse or his favorite toy.

But the more important reason why cats scratch is that they use this action to mark their territories. Your cat’s paws have scent glands. And when he scratches a surface, he is transferring his scent on that surface.

To your cat, scratching is part and parcel of his being. It is not something that you can actually stop. Your only best option, especially if you plan to keep your pet exclusively indoors, is to redirect his scratching behavior to an acceptable surface, typically a scratching post.

Scratching is usually a problem for humans who keep their cats indoors. If you allow your cat to roam outside, he will focus his scratching behavior on objects he finds outdoors, including trees and fences.

Without a scratching post, your cat will scratch objects that are readily available to him. These include the couch, wall, and other pieces of furniture.  

Can you stop your cat from scratching?

Is it possible to prevent a cat from scratching completely? The truth is you cannot prevent your cat from scratching. And even if you can, that would be cruel to your pet. 

Even if you let your cat go outside his urge to scratch will remain when he stays inside your home. The better option would be to provide your cat with an acceptable outlet for this instinct. Without an acceptable outlet for scratching, your pet will turn his attention to surfaces that are readily available in your home, including your pricey pieces of furniture and your curtains.

This is where a scratching post comes in handy. Apart from providing your pet with an acceptable outlet for scratching, a scratching post can be used for playing and exercising your pet. And when your pet’s mind and body are engaged and stimulated, he is less likely to exhibit bad behaviors.

How to choose a scratching post for your cat

With so many options available for cats and their humans, how do you choose the right scratching post?

There is no one correct answer to this question. You may also have to do some trial and error to find a scratching post that your cat will like. However, there are three basic qualities that you should look for.

First, you have to make sure that your cat likes the surface. Scratching posts are available in different materials, from rope to sisal to other rough surfaces. You can narrow down your choices by observing the type of surface that your cat likes to scratch. Take note that this will differ from one cat to the other.

Next, make sure that the scratching post is sturdy. The last thing that you would want is having a startled cat because his scratching post tipped over. This is particularly true if you are buying a cat tree with built-in scratching posts.

Finally, be sure to buy a scratching post that is tall enough to allow your cat to stretch his back completely and comfortably. Again, look to your cat’s preferences before deciding which scratching post to buy. Some cats prefer vertical scratching posts while others like horizontal ones.

Where should you place the scratching post?

Placing the scratching post at the right place is just as important as buying the right one. But where exactly should you place your pet’s scratching post?

As a rule of thumb, your should place a scratching post near the area where the cat usually sleeps. Remember, one of the reasons why cats scratch is to mark their territories. As such, it makes perfect sense to place a scratching area in the place he usually dozes off.

You should also strongly consider placing a scratching post near the area where he previously scratched. This will help redirect his attention to the scratching post instead of the inappropriate surface. Sometimes, cats will scratch surfaces in the room that their humans frequent. Essentially, a cat scratches surfaces in that room to stake his claim of that area as his territory.

Once you redirect your cat’s attention to the scratching post, you can slowly move it to your preferred location. However, this will take some time and patience.

How to encourage your cat to use his new scratching post

The last thing that you want is to invest your money into something that your cat will not use.

Fortunately, cats are curious by nature. They will readily investigate their scratching posts. To encourage your pet to use his scratching post, there are a few things that you can do.

The first thing that you need to do is to make the scratching post interesting for your cat. One of the easiest ways to do that would be to place toys on or near the scratching post. You can even place his food bowl near as well as a few enticing objects like empty boxes and catnip.

Under no circumstance should you carry your cat to his scratching post and rub his paws on it. This will only cause your cat to feel anxious.

What to do if your cat still scratches unacceptable surfaces

Despite your best efforts, your cat continues to scratch the couch instead of his new scratching post. What can you do?

If your cat continues scratching inappropriate surfaces instead of his scratching post, he might be dealing with a larger problem. As such, the most important thing that you need to do is to find the underlying cause behind this behavior.

For example, if your cat tends to scratch new things inside a room, it is because he is marking his territory. Some cats tend to scratch inappropriate surfaces such as walls as a release for the stress they are experiencing. Other cats scratch objects owned by a certain person or those placed in a room because of relationship problems.

If the inappropriate scratching is not related to stress or anxiety, you can consider cat-proofing your home or completely denying your cat access to certain areas in your home.

You need scratching posts in your home

Technically speaking, cats do not need scratching posts. They can do fine with whatever surface that is available to them, whether outdoors or inside your home. Essentially, scratching posts are made for people to protect their belongings from destruction from their pets.

Image: istockphoto.com / Nils Jacobi

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