Ask Moses: Why doesn't my cat use the scratching post?


Dear Moses,

We bought our cat a nice tall scratching post with sisal on it, but he still sharpens his claws on the dining room carpet. We don't want to declaw him, but we don't understand why he doesn't like his scratching post. What can we do? 

– Frayed Carpet

Dear "Frayed", 

You did the right thing by buying a nice scratching post – I'd sure use it! We cats use scratching to shed old covering from our nails, and to mark our territory. Our paws have scent glands that leave a distinct smell on our favorite scratching spots letting other cats know they are entering our territory. Our scratching behavior is necessary to our good health and happiness, and has nothing to do with whether we like or dislike a person or a particular piece of furniture. 

Cats have definite scratching post preferences: 

  • some cats love horizontal scratching surfaces that are flat on the ground,
  • other cats love upright scratching posts they can stand up and hang onto,
  • individuals cats may prefer a particular kind of surface  – sisal, carpeting, and cardboard are three popular scratching post materials. 

I suspect your cat is a horizontal scratcher, so try offering him a flat scratching surface, and put it right on the spot he's been using on the dining room carpet.  If he doesn't like sisal, try cardboard or a doormat made of carpet. Sprinkle some irresistable catnip on it to make it enticing, and don't get discouraged, after a few tries you'll find something your cat loves as much as the carpet. 

We cats pick particular spots for scratching, spots where we think other cats are most likely to find our scent and understand our message. These spots are often in high traffic areas like living and dining rooms, so these are good places to locate a scratching post or surface. 

If you have recently added a new cat or kitten to your household, your cat may be scratching more frequenly or in more places to show the new cat what parts of the territory are already claimed. When cats share a household they tend to divide the space up into mini-territories, with the high status cat getting the best spots and lower status cats getting the leftover space. Both cats will need a few good places to scratch, so make sure you have both upright and flat scratching surfaces in several rooms, where they can each scratch without competing. 

Many young cats take excellent care of their claws, sharpening to remove the old husks, or even chewing them off. But older cats sometimes lose their flexibility and may not be able to keep up their hind claws, or may take less overall interest in grooming. We check your cat's claws when you visit us to make sure they are in good, clean condition, and to see if any trimming is needed. 

If you have any questions about your cat's scratching behavior or the condition of his claws and feet, just give us a call!  We want your cat to live a long, healthy and happy life as your companion. 

Phone: 954-421-2244   Serving Deerfield Beach, Coconut Creek, and Boca Raton from our offices at Hillsboro Blvd and  Powerline Road in the Dunkin' Donuts plaza.    © Deer Run Animal Hospital 2017