All cats need to scratch something—it’s in their DNA. “It’s a big part of how cats interact with their environment and even interact with other cats,” says Marci L. Koski, Ph.D., a certified feline behavior and training consultant and founder of Feline Behavior Solutions in Vancouver, Washington. Scratching keeps cats’ claws healthy, so they can catch critters (or toys) and protect themselves. Scratching also stretches their back muscles, which feels especially good to your fur-friend after a snooze. Bottom line: Your pet has to scratch something up, so get the best cat scratching post you can find. Otherwise, there goes your furniture!
But as you’ve probably discovered, felines are finicky. And not all cat scratching posts are created equal. We’ve rounded up a variety of scratching posts, cat scratch pads and everything in between to help you find the best one to suit your kitty’s scratching needs.
What to Consider Before Buying Cat Scratching Posts or Scratchers
Before you spend money on something your cat ignores in favor of the sofa, here are some questions to ask yourself as you hunt for a cat scratching post or cat scratcher in general:
- What is your cat already scratching up? “A lot of people don’t realize that your cat is already telling you what she wants in a scratcher,” Koski says. “If she’s scratching the arm of your couch from the floor, she’ll probably prefer a vertical scratcher. If she is scratching your carpet horizontally, she may prefer a horizontal scratcher.”
- What types of material is your cat drawn to? Scratchers come in a variety of textures, including carpet, carboard and sisal (a strong durable fiber that often comes in a rope form). Again, look to your cat for answers. “Some cats will scratch wooden doorjambs. OK, so maybe something that is vertical and made of wood would be an appropriate scratcher for them. And some cats prefer carpet or sisal,” she says, especially if they like to scratch your rug. Most cats will also go for a cardboard cat scratcher—cats also scratch to leave their mark and cardboard is an easy way for felines to see their handiwork.
- How sturdy is it? “The problem with a lot of cat scratchers is that they move or tip over when a cat tries to use them,” says Koski. So you need a scratcher your pet can put their full weight on and really reach out, stretch and scratch. How can you tell you’ve gotten the best cat scratching post? Jiggle the top of it and if it wobbles, it’s not sturdy enough, Koski notes. One solution: “Try to tighten it by adding screws at the base.” And if your scratcher slides easily across the floor when you push it, Koski advises putting non-skid carpet padding or a yoga mat underneath it.
- How big is it? Another mistake cat parents make is getting a cat scratching post or a cat scratching pad that is too short or too small for their pet. “I always think larger is better for cats because your cat actually can reach up and stretch a fair amount,” says Koski. For horizontal scratchers, wider is better too. “Most adult cats are going to want something fairly stable that they can walk on,” she notes.
- Will I need more than one scratcher? Koski recommends getting a few and placing them around the home: 1. Where your cat likes to sleep. “One of the first things cats do when they wake up is stretch and scratch.” And 2. Next to things your cat already likes to scratch. “[If] you notice that your chair’s getting hit hard, put a scratching post right next to your chair and encourage your cat to use the scratcher” with treats or a sprinkle of cat nip. (More on that below.)
- Do I have more than one cat? Although a pair of cats can share smaller cardboard scratchers just fine, bigger may be the way to go if you have two or more kitties. “If you have a large cat tree, it can definitely enable multiple cats to scratch and use that same structure and share the space better,” Koski says.
Now that you’re armed with the basics for getting the best cat scratching post, here is a rundown of all the different types and which ones may suit your furry friend better.
Types of Cat Scratching Posts, Pads and More
Vertical Cat Scratching Posts
Horizontal Cat Scratchers
Angled Cat Scratchers
Hanging Cat Scratchers
Multifunctional Cat Scratchers