The Basics on Scratchers for Cats

Today I’m going to answer some questions about scratchers for cats.

1) If I have a cat, do I need a scratcher?

Well, if you want your furniture to remain unharmed, it’s a good idea.  Scratching things is a natural behavior in cats.  In the wild they scratch on tree trunks and fallen logs in order to show other animals where their territory is through scratch marks and scent from scent glands in their paws.  Scratching also rids cats’ claws of the dead exterior layer of the claw and allows cats to stretch and to flex their muscles, all of which feels good.

2) What is a scratcher?

A scratcher is just something intended to be scratched on by cats.  There are all kinds of professionally-manufactured scratchers.  There is the tried-and-true scratching post, which is generally a wooden post wrapped in carpet or rope and attached to a weighted base.  The natural version of the scratching post is a section of a tree trunk attached to a base.  These types of scratching posts come in different heights.  A scratching post can also be built into a cat tower or cat tree.  (My cat, Phoebe, likes to scratch on the trunk of her natural cat tree that has three resting platforms.)  There are also scratch pads that you can attach with Velcro to a vertical surface such as a wall.

Scratchers can be horizontal as well, and they come in a variety of styles.  There is the scratching circle made of corrugated cardboard that snaps into a plastic base with a track running around the edge.  This type of scratcher comes with a ball to add to the track so your cat can amuse himself batting it around and around.   Horizontal scratchers can also have a rectangular frame and a flat, wavy, or slanted corrugated cardboard scratching surface.  Nowadays there are fancy scratchers that look like horizontal figure eights that your cat can lie down on if he gets tired scratching and step-in scratchers, which are essentially low-walled boxes with corrugated cardboard bottoms that your cat can scratch or curl up on, depending on his mood.

3) Can I make my own scratcher?

If you’re handy with a saw, a box cutter, a hammer, and a staple gun, you sure can.  Just make sure all scratching surfaces are safely covered so your cat’s paws don’t get splinters.

4) How do I know which kind of scratcher to get for my cat?

If you’ve had your cat for a while but haven’t provided a scratcher, he has probably chosen some surfaces on his own.  If you’ve noticed him scratching on your carpet or on a sisal door mat, for example, a horizontal scratcher of some sort is a good choice.  (My cat, Sammy, loves to scratch on sisal door mats.  I’ve just resigned myself to the fact that the mats do double duty now.)  Try to pick a scratcher that matches the scratching surface your cat has already shown he likes.

If you’ve noticed your cat scratching on a vertical surface, like a door frame or the back of your couch, a scratching post is a good choice.  You want your cat to be able to stretch up fully while standing on his hind legs, so choose a scratching post that’s tall enough for him to do so.

If you just got your cat and he hasn’t had a chance to scratch on any surfaces in your home, it’s good to buy a variety of scratchers.  You’ll see pretty quickly what he prefers and will know what to get in the future.  You can donate whatever he doesn’t use to your local animal shelter.

5) How many scratchers do I need to provide for my cat?

It’s a good idea to have one in each room he spends a good deal of time in.

6) How do I get my cat to use the scratcher I’ve provided?

Try spraying some catnip spray on the scratcher or sprinkle some of the herb itself on it.  If that doesn’t work, energy therapy with an emphasis on clearing the energy of old habits and communicating ideal behavior can help.

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