Skip to Content

How to Train a Cat to Use a Scratching Post

How to Train a Cat to Use a Scratching Post

❇︎Affiliate Statement: The services and products that I may link in this article are ones that I use myself and am proud to recommend. If you follow one of my links please be aware that I will receive a small commission from Amazon or other vendors. I’d also like to say a big Thank You for your trust if you do.

1. Pick a sturdy, tall scratching post.

A good scratching post should be sturdy and tall enough for your cat to enjoy using it. Cats love to stretch and flex their muscles while they scratch, so a tall post will provide them with the opportunity to do just that.

For example, if you have a large cat, such as a Maine Coon, consider a post that is at least 32 inches tall. This will allow your cat to fully stretch their body while they scratch. On the other hand, smaller cats like Siamese or domestic shorthairs might be perfectly content with a slightly shorter post.

In terms of sturdiness, make sure the post has a solid, weighted base that can withstand your cat’s enthusiastic scratching. You don’t want the post to topple over as your cat uses it, as that could not only be dangerous for your cat, but it may also discourage them from using the post in the future.

One popular material for scratching posts is sisal rope, which provides a satisfying texture for cats to dig their claws into. Other options include corrugated cardboard or carpeted posts, so you can choose the one that best suits your cat’s preferences.

2. Place it near a favorite sleeping spot.

Once you have the perfect scratching post, the next step is to place it in an area where your cat is likely to use it. Cats often like to scratch after waking up from a nap, so positioning the post near their favorite sleeping spot can be an excellent strategy to encourage its use.

If your cat loves to snooze on a particular windowsill or in a cozy corner of the living room, set up the scratching post close to that location. This way, when your cat wakes up from their nap and feels the need to stretch and scratch, the post will be conveniently nearby.

Another advantage of placing the post near your cat’s sleeping area is that it creates a positive association between the post and a comfortable, familiar environment. This familiarity can help your cat feel more inclined to use the post regularly.

Keep in mind that every cat is unique, so you might need to experiment with different locations to find the one that works best for your furry friend. If you notice your cat isn’t using the post in its current location, don’t be discouraged. Simply try moving it to another spot until you find the perfect place.

3. Use catnip or treats to attract your cat.

There are several methods you can try. Here’s a list of some tried-and-true techniques to entice your feline friend to use their new scratching post:

  • Catnip: Many cats go crazy for catnip, which is a natural herb that triggers a euphoric response in some felines. Sprinkling a bit of catnip on the post can make it instantly more attractive to your cat. For an even stronger effect, you can use a catnip spray, which is a concentrated solution that can be applied directly to the post.
  • Treats: Strategically placing your cat’s favorite treats on or near the scratching post can be a great way to encourage them to explore and use it. You can even try hiding treats in the nooks and crannies of the post for your cat to discover as they scratch.
  • Toys: Hanging a toy from the top of the post or attaching it to the side can provide an added incentive for your cat to interact with the post. Cats love to play and hunt, so incorporating a toy into the post can make it even more engaging and enjoyable for them.
  • Pheromone spray: Some companies produce synthetic feline facial pheromone sprays that mimic the natural scent markers left by cats when they rub their faces on objects. Spraying a bit of this pheromone on the post can make your cat more likely to accept and use it.

4. Show your cat how to scratch by gently taking their paws.

Cats are intelligent creatures and can learn from observation, so showing your cat how to use the scratching post can be a helpful training technique. Gently guiding your cat’s paws can teach them the proper motion for scratching and help them understand what the post is for.

To start, make sure your cat is relaxed and comfortable. It’s important to avoid forcing your cat or causing them any stress during the process. Instead, choose a moment when they’re calm and receptive to your touch.

Next, gently take one of your cat’s front paws in your hand and mimic the scratching motion on the post. You can do this by lightly dragging their claws down the post’s surface, simulating the action they would perform if they were scratching on their own. Be careful not to apply too much pressure or pull too hard, as you don’t want to hurt your cat or make them feel uncomfortable.

While demonstrating, you can also use verbal cues, such as saying “scratch” or “good kitty,” to create an association between the action and the word. This can be helpful for reinforcing the behavior over time.

Keep in mind that some cats might need a little more encouragement than others. If your cat doesn’t seem interested in the post after a few attempts, try combining this technique with some of the enticing methods mentioned earlier, like using catnip or treats.

5. Reward with treats or praise when they use the post.

Rewarding your cat helps creating a strong association between the action of scratching and a positive outcome, making them more likely to continue the behavior.

When your cat starts to scratch the post, be prepared with their favorite treats or a cheerful, enthusiastic “good kitty!” It’s essential to reward your cat immediately after they’ve used the post so they can make a clear connection between the action and the reward. Consistency is also crucial, as it helps reinforce the behavior over time.

You can also reward your cat with extra attention or a brief play session. Many cats enjoy being petted or having their favorite toy dangled in front of them, so incorporating these elements into the training process can further motivate them to use the post.

Each cat is unique, and what works for one may not work for another. If your cat doesn’t respond to one type of reward, try something different until you find the perfect incentive. Some cats might prefer a specific treat or a particular kind of praise, so don’t be afraid to experiment and find what works best for your feline friend.

6. Discourage scratching elsewhere with deterrents.

There are several deterrents you can use to protect your furniture and belongings while your cat learns to use their post. Here’s a list of methods to help prevent unwanted scratching:

  • Double-sided tape: Applying double-sided tape to furniture or other surfaces your cat tends to scratch can be an effective deterrent. Cats dislike the sticky feeling on their paws, so they will be less likely to scratch the taped areas.
  • Furniture covers: Using furniture covers made of materials that are unappealing to cats, such as vinyl or plastic, can help protect your belongings during the training process. These materials don’t provide the same satisfying texture as upholstery or carpet, so your cat will be more likely to choose the scratching post instead.
  • Citrus scents: Many cats dislike the smell of citrus, so spraying a citrus-scented air freshener or using citrus essential oils around the areas you want to protect can help deter your cat from scratching. Just make sure to use a pet-safe product and avoid spraying it directly on your cat.
  • Repellent sprays: Commercially available cat repellent sprays can be used to deter your cat from scratching specific areas. These sprays usually contain scents that cats find unpleasant, so applying them to your furniture or other surfaces can help keep your cat away.
  • Balloons or aluminum foil: Placing balloons or aluminum foil around the areas your cat tends to scratch can startle them and deter them from scratching those surfaces. The sound and texture of these materials can be off-putting to cats, making them less likely to scratch there.

7. Gradually move the post to your preferred location.

After your cat has become accustomed to using the scratching post, you might want to move it to a more suitable or convenient location.

To begin the relocation process, start by moving the post just a short distance from its current position, perhaps only a few inches or a foot away. Monitor your cat’s behavior to ensure they continue to use the post in its new location. If they seem comfortable with the change, you can gradually move the post a bit further every few days.

Be patient and give your cat time to adjust to the post’s new location at each step. If your cat appears confused or starts scratching other surfaces, consider moving the post back to its previous position and trying again after a few days. This will help reinforce the positive association between the post and scratching.

8. Keep the post clean and well-maintained.

A clean and attractive post will be more appealing to your cat, while also helping to maintain a healthy and sanitary environment in your home.

One of the first things to consider is the type of material your scratching post is made from. Sisal rope, corrugated cardboard, and carpet are common materials, and each may require slightly different maintenance.

For sisal rope posts, regular vacuuming can help remove any loose fibers and debris that accumulate over time. If the rope begins to wear or fray, you can trim away the damaged sections to keep the post looking neat and tidy.

Corrugated cardboard posts often have replaceable inserts, making it easy to swap out the old, worn sections for fresh ones. This not only keeps the post looking clean but also provides your cat with a satisfying new surface to scratch.

Carpeted posts can be vacuumed regularly to remove dirt and hair. If your cat has an accident on the post, clean the affected area with a pet-safe cleaner designed for carpets to remove any stains and odors.

Periodically inspect your scratching post for any signs of wear or damage. Loose or unstable parts can pose a safety hazard for your cat, so it’s crucial to address any issues as soon as they arise. Depending on the type of post you have, you may be able to repair it yourself or replace individual components as needed.