Scratching Recommendations, Feline

Recommendations to Prevent Scratching

By Dr. Karen Burgess

Scratching post– How can I get my cat to use its post

Since cats use their scratching posts for marking and stretching, posts should be set up in prominent areas, with at least one close to the cat’s sleeping quarters. The post should be tall enough for the cat to scratch while standing on hind legs with the forelegs extended and sturdy enough so that it does not topple when scratched. Some cats prefer a scratching post with a corner so that two sides can be scratched at once while other cats may prefer a horizontal scratching post. Commercial posts are often covered with tightly woven material for durability, but many cats prefer a loosely woven material where the claws can hook and tear during scratching. Remember that scratching is also a marking behavior and cats want to leave a visual mark. Carpet may be an acceptable covering but it should be combed first to make certain that there are no tight loops. Some cats prefer sisal, a piece of material from an old chair, or even bare wood for scratching. Be certain to use a material that appeals to your cat.

Every time the pet approaches the post, toss a very small treat to it. When it touches the post, toss a bigger treat, and when it scratches give it several treats. The pet should be within eyesight of a family member at all times. Whenever it starts to scratch furniture, the behavior can be interrupted with a water gun or toss a bean bag tossed near it. The family member shouldn’t say anything or look at the pet when this is done. Anything that is exceptionally startling for the pet or elicits a fear response should be avoided. Whenever the cat can’t be watched (out of the home, busy or sleeping), it should be confined to a room without objects that it will likely scratch except its scratching post. Once it is frequently scratching the post on its own, freedom without supervision can gradually be allowed.

  • Trim nails– Start trimming early and often to get the cat used to nail care. Combine with stinky cat food (e.g. Fancy Feast) to help the cat realize nail trims are not so bad. Ideally trim every 2-4 weeks.
  • Feliway spray– A synthetic “happy” pheromone that comes in spray and diffuser. Discourages cats from scratching in areas where applied.
  • Double sided tape or Sticky Paws- Applied to areas where cat is scratching may discourage behavior.
  • Innotek SSSCAT or doorknob alarm (available at travel stores)- A motion detector that hisses when the cat approaches the problem area. Even the most fearless of cats clear the area when it activates.
  • Vinyl carpet runner- The back-side of a vinyl carpet runner (that has a very prickly feel) can be cut and placed in the areas that you want your cat to avoid.
  • Solid air fresheners, strong citurs fragrance/cologne, spray anti-perspirant- Cats dislike perfume. An air freshener may keep the cat away from an area until it has evaporated. (Never put it near the litter box or a feeding area). Scented dryer sheets may have the same effect.
  • Pavlov’s Cat Scratch Feeder- Product rewards pet with food when they use scratching post.
  • Microfiber- Reportedly is resistant to cat scratch damage and resilient for washings.
  • Hang a towel over the side of the furniture with six empty aluminum cans on top of the towel. When the cat scratches, the cans will tumble down.
  • Attach balloons to the side of the furniture. Hang a short ribbon on each balloon so the cat will swat at the ribbon and pop the balloon.
  • Cover the furniture with plastic or canvas drop cloths.
  • Softpaws Blunt acrylic nail caps are glued onto the cat’s claws. The idea is that the blunt nail will not be sharp enough to cause damage. The nail caps will wear off but not at the same time. After a couple of weeks some of the nails will be capped and others will not be. The nail caps must be replaced as the nail grows out. Some cats are not in the least discouraged from scratching by these caps and are able to simply scratch larger holes in the upholstery.

Building a Sisal Wrapped Scratching Post

This scratching post has been cat tested and approved by various felines. If you would rather buy this scratching post already made, SmartCat makes a sisal post called the Ultimate Scratching Post. The reasoning behind this cat post is simple. A post should be as high as your cat is tall when he is fully stretched out plus a few inches. The post should also be wide enough that your cat can sit on top and survey his surroundings. The base should be sturdy enough that the post will not tip over. Once a post tips over on a cat it is very hard to convince a cat to use the post again. The post should be wrapped with sisal rope because cats like something to dig their nails into. (Picture below)

Supplies needed:

  • One (1) cedar post that is about 30″ tall and at least 4″ in diameter
  • A bundle of non-oiled sisal rope measuring a 1/2″ wide
  • A piece of 3/4″ plywood to make the base sturdy (at least 16 x 16 diameter)
  • 1/2″ roofing nails
  • Four (4) 3/4″ 16d coated sinker nails


Before beginning, make sure the post is dry so that there will not be any shrinking of the post after the sisal is wrapped on. Wear a pair of work gloves when you wrap the sisal around the post. Nail the beginning of your rope all the way around the top of the post. Then wind the rope around and around and around the post very tightly so that there is no air space between the pieces of rope. When at the bottom, once again nail the end of the rope all the way around the bottom of the post. Next nail the base on to the post, use at least four nails and pound them through the bottom of the plywood base and into the bottom of the post.