You’ve just added a new friend to the family, and you’re off to buy them a few toys and a new scratchy post. You walk into a pet shop filled with purpose and good intentions of emerging with a scratch pole your kitty will love… and that’s when you stop. There are so many scratchy posts to choose from! What one is best? How high should it be? What should it be made of? How do I get them to use it when I get it home? What if they don’t like it! Too many questions! It’s all a bit confusing isn’t it.
Believe me, I’ve been in your position a number of times in the past. I’ve made a few bad choices along the way too. Here are my hints and tips for choosing the right scratching post and once you have it, how to make sure they actually use it! You see a scratch post can be a major investment of money so you want to get it right first time.. Right?
Before we get into it though, I want you to consider your cat. Yes, I know he’s cute and you love him to bits; but do you know how he likes to scratch? What is he currently scratching? How old is he? Is he an active, agile kitty or more the laid back sleepy type? All things you should get a handle on before you go choose that all important scratch post.
Things to consider before you get a scratch pole.
- Age – How old is your kitty? If you’ve just bought yourself a little bundle of fluff and love, it is not a good idea to get them that kitty condo that is six foot high and takes up half the wall. Yes, cats are great climbers, but they need to hone their skills on something smaller and lower first. Choose a smaller kitty gym, one they can grow on a little but nothing too tall. Get them that impressive kitty condo once they are older and more bullet proof.
- Temperament – How active is your kitty? Does he spend most of the day snoozing on the couch or is he the active, always climbing and playing type? If you’ve got the equivalent of Garfield at your place, then a simple pole that allows them to sleep up high and sharpen their claws effectively might be all you need. Whereas a more active kitty might like a condo type kitty gym that has lots of climbing areas with plenty of stimulation.
- Weight – How heavy is your kitty? All scratch posts should be stable on their base, not top heavy and definitely built to withstand heavy use.. however, if you have a 9kg monster cat then you definitely want to make sure you choose a post that isn’t gonna fall over or apart when they race up it in one of their silly moods.
- Vertical, horizontal or angled – If you observe your kitty for a few days you’ll soon realize that they mostly scratch in one plane. Either they are horizontal, vertical or angled scratchers. Vertical scratchers like to stretch up and reach to scratch. They give all their body a good stretch out by reaching up and sinking their claws into a surface to scratch (that’s why the arms and back of your couch are bearing the telltale signs of their visits). Horizontal scratchers do the same, but they prefer a horizontal surface instead (your poor couch gets attacked more along the tops of arms and back instead). Angled scratchers tend to like a mixture between the two other types. You can get scratchers which will meet all these three requirements, so choose one that best suits your kitty.
- Material – Cats often prefer one surface for scratching over others.. so observe what your kitty is using his claws on now. if it is your couch, then what is your couch covering? Cloth? Is it a rougher surface or smooth? Is it your carpet instead? Keep this in mind. Scratch posts are usually made with one of three different materials, carpet covered, sisal covered or corrugated cardboard. Choose the one that most closely mimics what they are using now.
- Size – Cats are territorial and mark this by scratching and leaving the scent from their paws on things.. If your kitty is an addition to the kitty family, the others have probably already claimed the current scratch pole. That makes it more likely your new kitty will choose something else to scratch. Changing your current post for a larger one with more platforms and vertical posts may help.. or you could consider buying a second post if you have the space.
Scratch Pole Training
So armed with this information you should now be able to choose a post that your kitty will love using. Now comes the fun part.. getting them to actually use it!
Now here are a few extra tips to help you ensure successful scratch pole introduction.
- Attract them – Use treats, play or catnip to attract your kitty to use the scratch pole. Many cats love catnip, so sprinkle a little on the pole in a few strategic places. Others have favourite food or treats, so place your kitty on the pole and reward him for being there. he’ll soon get the message that being on his pole is to his advantage. Others love to play, so place them on the pole and play with them. Use a teaser toy or other favourite (for some toy ideas, try our bulk toy buy). Your kitty will soon associate the scratch pole as a fun place to be.
- Demonstrate – Place your kitty at the pole and rub their paws on it, simulating a scratching motion. This distributes their scent on the pole and will encourage them to go back again and again.
- Position – Where does your kitty currently spend time? Most cats like certain spots in the house and this is where you should try to place a scratch pole. Now I realize that you might not have much choice of position if you live in an apartment or smaller home, just try to choose somewhere that they frequent a lot.
- Above all reward, reward, reward! Never punish. Always use positive reinforcement of good behaviours to alter and encourage. be observant, if you see your kitty scratching his post, reward with praise or treats and or playing immediately. This will work wonders and your kitty will love you even more!
If you’d like to read further about this topic, you might like to go here.