How to Teach Kitty to Use a Scratching Post
Cats need to scratch regularly in order to stretch their muscles, to rid their claws of dead outer layers and to mark their territory with their scent. Cats may also scratch to help them relax after a period of stress such as an encounter with another cat. It is a perfectly natural behaviour and you will never be able to stop it. Nor should you try to. But you can stop your cat from using your sofa as a scratching post!
Cats don’t care about aesthetics and do not appreciate that your sofa cost you a month’s salary or that your dining room table is a valuable antique. They will seek out what they deem to be suitable scratching posts and use them with relish unless you teach them not to. So how do you prevent your cat from shredding your pine and making mincemeat of your treasured sofa?
You should start training your cat at the earliest opportunity. The younger they are, the less ingrained their behaviour and the quicker they learn.
Choose the Right Scratching Post
Every cat is an individual and so their tastes in scratching posts vary. Some prefer vertical posts, others will choose something horizontal. You may need to try out a few different posts before you hit on a winner. The scratching post should be sturdy and should not wobble or feel unstable otherwise your cat is unlikely to use it. It should be high enough to enable your cat to enjoy a full stretch.
The texture must also be right and sisal rope ticks all the right boxes. This material is very tough and cats cat really sink their claws into it. Carpet often proves to be too soft and is easily pulled away from the post. Cats can get their claws hooked on carpet loops and this will dissuade them from scratching.
Choose the Right Location
If you position the scratching post close to the cat’s food or litter tray then they will probably ignore it. You might find that it is a good tactical move to locate the post close to a piece of furniture or carpet which the cat has tried to scratch. This indicates that they are comfortable with the location and so will probably return to it. When cats need to scratch they will often choose the closest suitable object and so posts are best positioned in the areas where your cats spends most of its time. You may require more than one scratching post if you are to save all of your furniture!
The Carrot and Stick Approach
Introduce your cat to the scratching post. Praise the cat and reward it with a treat when it scratches the post. It can also help to place catnip on the post or a favourite toy. When your moggie attempts to scratch anything inappropriate, say “no” or “stop” quite forcefully. You should then immediately take your cat to the scratching post. Most cats will get the message soon enough.
Cats are naturally independent and can be stubborn but if you provide the right scratching post, position it in an appropriate location and reward your cat for using it, you should win the battle of wills!