Scratching Posts: Why Cats Stop Using Them

A baffling aspect of cat behavior is use, or non-use of scratching posts.  There are some reasons for this other than vindictiveness. Your cat may realize the scratching posts available to him will not satisfy his needs.

scratching posts
Marty in his Scratch Lounge

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Here are some points to consider when trying to solve the scratching post mystery:

Covering

Many scratching posts are covered with plush, soft carpet.  This doesn’t work very well, since one of the main reasons a cat scratches is to remove dead nail sheaths, and this requires a rough surface to slough off the old nails.

Check out the surface of the furniture your cat is scratching and compare it to the surface of the scratching post he isn’t using.  Chances are the furniture surface is much rougher.  Sisal is a good material option, and the cardboard scratchers offer a good surface too.

The only down side to cardboard scratchers is they tend to make a bit of a mess as the surface bits get scratched off.  I can attest to the cardboard mess, but in my case, these are the only scratchers my cat Marty will use.

A few months ago, Marty stopped using his Scratch Lounge.  He would scratch the area rug beside the scratcher instead.  This became frustrating, Marty was making a mess of the area rug.  Finally, I figured out what was wrong.  The scratching surface of the Scratch Lounge was no longer fresh, and therefore wasn’t meeting Marty’s needs.

I ordered a new Scratch Lounge for him, set it down, and he was using it within ten minutes!

Size

Cats like to do a full body stretch when in scratching mode. Many scratching posts are too short to provide that option.  Look at the furniture in comparison to the post. Chances are the furniture gives him the full stretch, but it’s very possible the post does not.  Be sure the scratching post you buy is tall/long enough for your cat to get a good stretch

Sturdiness

Many posts wobble or may tip over when your cat attempts to use them for scratching.  Cats like to feel support when they’re in scratch mode.  If your cat feels the post may tip over, he will probably avoid it for something more sturdy, like your furniture.  Make sure the post you buy is sturdy enough and won’t wobble when your cat uses it.

My cat Marty received a scratching post as a gift, and while the gift was appreciated, the post itself was too light. When Marty used it and began walking away, it tipped up.  That startled him, he turned around and looked at it, and didn’t use it again.

Location

Cats like convenience, and sometimes need reminders that the scratching post is available for them.  Don’t stick the scratching post in the corner, but rather a place the cat spends quite a bit of time.  If you have a kitten, put the scratching post in the middle of the room so he’ll see it often.  For homes with more than one cat, make several posts available in various locations, since some cats don’t care to share scratching posts.

Scratching Preference

Some cats prefer vertical scratching (standing up on two legs while scratching) and others prefer horizontal (stretch out with front paws while scratching).  Observe your cat’s scratching behavior, if he’s a horizontal scratcher, but the post you have for him is vertical, he will probably avoid the post.

I made that mistake early on with Marty, once I figured out he’s more of a horizontal scratcher, all the scratchers I buy now support that and get lots of use.

For Marty, his favorite scratching posts are the The Original Scratch Lounge, and the PetFusion Ultimate Cat Scratcher Lounge. Both of these are available from Amazon, and replacement panels are available for the Scratch Lounge.  The PetFusion Scratcher is large and can be turned over for a “fresh” scratching surface.

Both of these last a long time and are very sturdy.  They give cats the option to lay on them or scratch without worrying about them tipping over.

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Written by Karen

Karen

Karen is Publisher of Fully Feline. She also owns a pet care business in Overland Park, KS called Joy of Living.

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