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What's Your Cat's Scratching Style?

Image via Alewtincka/Shutterstock

By Rita Reimers

Cats are adorable. Often pictured as soft, cuddly, sweet companions who curl up against us and purr us to sleep, cats are unsurprisingly the subject of many viral photos shared across the internet. But then, you notice them digging their little claws into your furniture, your rug or the very jeans you have on right now.

To help prevent destructive or painful instances of cat scratching, it is important to understand why a cat scratches furniture and how to redirect him to more appropriate items, like cat scratchers.

Why Cat Scratching Happens

How and why does anything so cute have sharp spikes at the ends of their tiny little bean-shaped toes?

While indoor kitties may not need to fend off attackers nor hunt for food, their instinct to keep their claws ready for protecting themselves or hunting prey still persists.

Scratching serves a variety of other purposes:

  • Paw health: The scratching motion of their feet keeps their paws healthy and strong.
  • Nail health: A cat’s scratching action removes the dead outer layer of their nails.
  • Scent marking: The pads of your cat’s feet also deposit their scent as they scratch, meaning they are claiming that scratching spot as their very own.
  • Self-soothing: It is both a way for cats to soothe themselves and to show contentment. A cat scratching when they are happy is often lovingly referred to as “making biscuits.”
  • Boredom: If your cat has nothing to keep him occupied, he may create a project for himself that includes scratching and shredding objects in your home.

Knowing Your Cat’s Scratching Style

Now you know why your cat needs to scratch, so the next step is to figure out which scratching position she prefers. But why is that important?

Determining your cat’s particular scratching style will help you pick out cat scratchers and posts that your cat will actually use, so you can save your rugs and furniture from total destruction.

Horizontal Cat Scratchers

If you notice that your cat is only scratching carpets, floors or throw rugs, then your kitty might prefer a flat surface. Flat scratchers such as cardboard cat scratchers or mat scratchers would appeal to these kitties.

The Bergan Star Chaser cat scratcher has a toy built in to attract your cats to it right away. Of course, the traditional cardboard cat scratchers like Big Mama's cat scratcher are always a hit with cats, and this one comes with catnip, too.

Cat Scratching Posts

If your cat is likely to be found scratching sofa arms, chair backs or curtains, then your kitty will probably prefer a cat scratching post that allows him to stand on his back legs as he scratches with his front claws.

Upright poles or scratchers such as the Frisco 21-inch scratching post, the Kong Naturals Incline cat scratcher, or hanging cat scratchers such as the Smartykat Scratch Up hanging cat scratcher would work best for these cats.

The Best of Both Worlds

If your cat likes to scratch any old place in any old position, or if you have multiple cats who seem to like different styles, then you may want to provide cat scratchers that allow scratching in either position.

Three-dimensional cube scratchers or bed-type scratchers that have both vertical and horizonal sides are ideal, and they work double-duty as napping spots as well. Try the Petlinks Sea Ramp cat scratching post, the Petfusion Ultimate cat scratcher, or my cat’s favorite, the Scratch Lounge original!

It also helps to note whether your cat prefers to scratch cardboard surfaces or if he likes materials that are carpet-like or a little rough and nubby. If your cat seems to prefer carpet, try the Trixie Topi cat condo and scratcher. For cats who like to scratch rough surfaces, cat scratchers made of sisal rope or knotted carpet might be a good fit. Try out the Four Paws Super Catnip carpet and sisal scratching post.

Getting Your Cat to Scratch Right

It’s a good idea to provide different types of cat scratching posts and pads until you discover the ones your cat likes best. Use catnip, such as Yeowww Organic catnip, to attract your cat to try new cat scratchers or cat scratching posts.

Should you discover your cat is still scratching those no-no places, take her over to her cat scratcher and gently mimic the scratching motion by gently (not forcefully) moving her feet over the “good” scratching objects. Praise her and offer her cat treats so she associates positive things with the use of the cat scratcher.

You should also keep your cat’s nails trimmed. You can trim your cat’s nails yourself or have your groomer or veterinarian do it for you. It’s also important to play with and love your cat daily and provide lots of cat toys so he doesn’t scratch your furniture out of frustration and boredom while you are not home.