How to train your cat to use a scratching post – Part 1

Cat paws are marvels of engineering. Cats actually walk on their toes, and the retractable claws are hidden to keep them sharp and also to not betray their stealthy approach to prey. Claws are one of the cat’s special hunting tools, and so they will devote a certain amount of their time to their maintenance.

Cats are sharpening their claws when they scratch things, but not in the way we might think. Cat’s claws actually consist of many nested sheaths, one inside the other. New sheaths are constantly being produced from the inside, and the cat pulls off the old, dull sheaths from the outside. It’s like those inexpensive plastic pencils which have a number of short leads in little cones stacked up in the pencil. One lead gets dull, and we pull off that cone and place it in the back of the pencil, pushing a sharp lead into place for writing.

The scratching ritual is also a stress reliever. A cat who is wound up from activity will often head for their scratching places to burn off some of that exuberance, and to use that energy to scratch higher and deeper than before. Cats use their scratch marks to let other cats know whose territory this is, and also how big and strong they are. That’s why cats need sturdy items to scratch, so they can dig in and exercise their whole body.

All cats are going to scratch. We just need to provide the right materials, and let them know what they can and can’t scratch. One scratching device all cats seem to like are the scratchers made from cardboard, such as the Alpine Scratcher. It’s slanted, so it accommodates cats both vertically and horizontally. This is the one my cat boys prefer, even though it does leave bits of cardboard around after they have gone to town on it. There’s also a cat toy inside the incline, which many cats like. The cardboard inserts are replaceable, so it’s an economical way to fulfill a cat’s needs.

It’s crucial that the cat has a place to scratch where they get praise and approval. It’s also crucial that the cat like their scratching alternative. A lot of scratching post designs just don’t appeal to cats. The ones that hang over doorknobs don’t have the stability they need, and certain kinds of carpet that are low pile don’t let the cats dig in. Closepiled, dense carpets, like Berber, are cat favorites, and their remnants are great ways for handy cat people to make their own scratching posts.

The best way to keep cats from scratching our furniture is to give them their own stuff that they

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