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Felinexpress.com Home > Cat Behavior > Training a Cat to Use a Scratching Post

Training a Cat to Use a Scratching Post

If you are entertaining the notion that you need to physically put your cat on her scratching post, grab her front paws and bring them up to the post in a scratching motion, well, dismiss that idea immediately! Such extreme training measures will only result in you getting scratched. Instead, of training your cat to do something she already does instinctively, encourage her to use her scratching post without annoying her.

The following tips are offered to help accomplish this task.

Understanding cat behavior:

  • Clawing on objects benefits your cat in several ways.  If her claws are dull, the act of scratching will sharpen them (depending on what material the cat chooses to scratch on).
  • If she catches her claws on carpet, instinctively she will seek out a hard object to scratch in order to blunt her nails.
  • Like a snake shedding its skin, periodically, your cat will need to shed old nail growth. These claw casings when they are coming loose tend to itch. Scratching removes the old nail casings. She will vigorously begin cleaning and pulling at her claws afterward to be sure all the casings have been removed.
  • When she is scratching, she is leaving her signature mark behind for other cats to find. Equipped with scent glands in her paw pads, kneading, clawing, walking or running, any type of action involving the paws opens these scent glands. She may be telling other cats to “Back off” or leaving her mark to tell others: “This is MINE!”
  • She uses the opportunity of scratching to stretch her back and tone her leg muscles. Nothing like a good stretch during the day to get the blood flowing.

Scratching immobile objects is part of a healthy cat’s normal routine. Sometimes being blamed for being “destructive,” she is only acting purely on instinct. She is not intentionally destroying your furniture or drapes:

Follow your cat’s instincts, not your own:

Observing cats outside, you will notice they claw trees. If you don’t want your cat to scratch your carpeting, then avoid the carpeted scratching posts and purchase hardwood scratching posts instead. Make sure the post is high enough with a stable enough base, so when your cat scratches, she can stretch her muscles while flexing her back. No wobble, the scratching post needs to stand firm when being assaulted by kitty claws or kitten play.

Do you live near the coast? Go beachcombing and search for a good sturdy piece of driftwood. Bring it back to your home and wash it off with a good insecticide to kill all the sand fleas. Leave it out in the sun to air dry for a few days. Bring it into your home and your cat will love you for it! Some states prohibit the removal of driftwood from their beaches, so check the local laws first.

Do you live near a forest or a woodland park? Go for a hike. Find a good sturdy log suitable for climbing. Treat the wood with a safe insecticide before moving it into your home. Ask your vet for a good insecticide. Scrape off any moss growing on the log. No beach or forest nearby, contact a local tree removal service and ask if you could have some of the bigger limbs from their next job (before the limbs head for the chipper). Using your imagination, some plywood, a screwdriver and sturdy screws, you can build your own “natural” cat scratching post.

A cork bulletin board mounted low on the wall makes a good scratching area for cats (although it does create a bit of a mess over time.)  Corrugated cardboard boxes receive a lot of claw attention (again a bit messy). You can build a window perch and leave the wood uncovered. Your cat will delight in having this flat, hard scratching area off the floor.
To encourage your cat to use a scratching post, rub catnip over the area, place a pot of cat grass near the base, or take the blanket that you wrapped up in the night before and rub the post with your “scent.” Your cat will want to cover your scent with hers to claim you. You can also use one of your sweaty tee shirts.

Visit a second-hand or thrift store. Pay close attention to the tightly- weaved material covering furniture. An old wooden stool or chair makes for an ideal scratching post. A small wooden ladder secured down into a piece of plywood, allows your cat not only a place to scratch, but also something to climb. Keeping your cat supplied with the right type of scratching post(s) insures that your cat will stay healthy and your furniture will be left in peace not in pieces.

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