Getting Kitten to Use the Scratching Post

CatChannel behavior expert Marilyn Krieger offers some tips for getting kitty to scratch the right surfaces.

By Marilyn Krieger | Posted: January 1, 2010, 3 a.m. EST

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Q: Please let me know how I can get my newly adopted 4-month-old kitten to use the scratching post.

A: Provide your new kitten with vertical and horizontal scratchers throughout the house. Ideally, the scratchers should be made of a material that is different from your furniture and rugs. One of the most popular surfaces that cats enjoy scratching is sisal. Posts wrapped in sisal rope as well as sisal mats are commercially available both in stores and online. Some cats also enjoy scratching horizontal scratchers made of cardboard.

Youngsters who haven’t quite caught on to scratching can be encouraged to scratch the right surfaces by scraping your fingernails on the scratcher. They can also be influenced to scratch the approved areas by encouraging them to play with their toys on the scratchers. When your kitten does scratch the preferred surfaces, make sure to praise her.

Some horizontal scratchers come complete with a little package of catnip. Rubbing the catnip on the scratcher is supposed to encourage the cat to use the scratcher. This might work with some cats and older kittens, but not with young kittens. Kittens are not affected by catnip until they are 4-6 months old. Also, not all cats have a genetic disposition for responding to catnip. At least one-third of all cats are not affected by it.

If your kitten has started scratching your furniture, you can save your furniture by blocking the areas being scratched while simultaneously providing her with alternative and better items to scratch. StickyPaws, a double-sided tape, placed on the targeted areas will deter cats. Sheets and thick plastic can also stop a cat from scratching the furniture. Whenever making an area unavailable for a cat to scratch, it’s important to provide the cat with something else that is more appropriate and feels better to the cat to scratch. Tall posts wrapped in sisal are perfect choices for the job.

Scratching posts need to be placed directly in front of the now-covered areas that were originally being scratched. If your kitten is scratching the carpet, place a horizontal scratcher or scratching mat on top or next to the targeted area. After your kitten is using the posts and horizontal scratchers on a consistent basis, you can gradually move them 1 inch a day to another location in the same room.

Scratching is very important for a cat. Besides nail maintenance, cats scratch to mark their territory. There are scent glands located on the bottom of their paws. Whenever they scratch, they leave a little information about themselves on the scratched surfaces. Also scratching is very useful for releasing playful kitten energy. Cats also scratch to stretch and when they feel conflicted.


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Reader Comments

Vendetta    McMinnville, TN

7/29/2012 1:53:34 PM

I have had Sticky for 7 years and she is declawed. I just took in a stray 2 year old black cat. I bought two scratch boards made of cardboard I guess. I put catnip on them and scratched with my own nails to show him what to do plus I put a toy on it and he uses it so am happy about that. It may take a few times for them to get the hint.

Desiree    Brooklyn, NY

5/11/2011 7:53:21 AM

I'm so glad I read this because I was a little baffled about my ca. I adopted my 1 yr old cat (Tuxedo) a week ago and noticed that he does not scratch the scratching posts I have laid out for him nor does cat nip seem to affect him. Instead, he's been scratching the carpetBeing someone who has always been around cats I was stunned! I'm going to try the horizontal posts and see if that helps. Thanks catchannel!

Nickie    Pittsburgh, PA

1/7/2010 9:38:20 PM

Love cats!

Sheila    Wilmington, IL

1/7/2010 9:29:15 PM

catnip is great.

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