How to Get Your Cat to Use a Scratching Post [7 Tips to Make It Attractive]

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How to Get Your Cat to Use a Scratching Post (short answer)

Here are 14 steps to train cats to use a scratching post:

  1. Choose a tall scratching post;
  2. Offer different surfaces opportunities;
  3. Make sure the scratching post is stable;
  4. Choosing the right scratching post material;
  5. Begin when the cat is young (If possible);
  6. Choosing the location from the cat’s perspective;
  7. Use more than one scratching post;
  8. Use catnip to attract the cat to the scratching post;
  9. Praise your cat every time he/she uses the interest;
  10. Reward him/her with yummy food treats;
  11. Use the Feliway® product to attract it to the post;
  12. Rub the cat’s paw on the post to leave its scents;
  13. Place the scratching post on its side;
  14. Incorporate games into the scratcher.
  • Do you want to know how to get your cat to use a scratching post?
  • Is the cat scratching your sofa or somewhere that he/she shouldn’t?
  • Or are you thinking of having a new cat and want to teach him/her to use the scratching post instead of the furniture?

Then this article is just what you need. We are here to help you!

Scratching is an instinctive and natural behavior in all cats. Most cats simply want a place to scratch that aligns with their interests. That is, sharpen their claws and stretch well.

Training your cat to use a scratching post is a necessary and important step. Especially when it comes to the question:  what are the best ways to stop your cat from scratching furniture? 

Don’t worry, we will explore in-depth the best solutions to redirect the cat’s behavior to a scratcher pole.

It can even be a fun and rewarding experience!
Still, you will need a lot of patience and determination …

Your cat may not be interested in the scratcher at first. However, by the end of this article, you will know exactly how to finally get your cat to use a scratching post.

Let’s get started.e

How to Make Cats Use a Scratching Post (long answer)

A scratching post is one of the most essential purchases that any cat owner should make. If you have decided to share your life with one of these wonderful pets, you should be aware that cats scratch primarily to mark their territory.  It is part of their instinct.

In the wild, studying cat scratching behavior is fascinating. Yet when it comes to destroying furniture, this scientific interest fades and frustration rises. This is especially true when these adorable pets destroy the expensive newly purchased carpet.

If you have a new cat or if it has got into the habit of clawing furniture, cutting doors, and so on… you will need to teach him or her to use the post instead of your furniture.

To do this, we can break the steps into 3 main aspects: 

  • BEFORE you buy the scratching post (4 things you must know);
  • WHEN you buy the scratching post (what to do at home);
  • AFTER you buy the scratching post (7 tips to increase the cat’s interest in it).

BEFORE You Buy the Scratching Post

4 Things You Must Know

You can approach your search for a scratching post in many ways. You can buy a ready-made one at the pet store, or you can make your own. 

In both cases, remember to follow these guidelines:

# 1 Offer Different Surfaces Opportunities

illustration of a black cat scratching a scratching post with oblique surface
Some cats like horizontal and sloped surfaces

We know very well that cats are unpredictable creatures. Meaning, few may prefer horizontal surfaces.

If you can’t get the cat’s attention to the new scratching post, try to lay it down on the floor.

In any case, make sure your cat has access to vertical, horizontal, and sloped surfaces. This allows him/her to stretch different muscles.

# 2 Choose a Tall Scratching Post

Cats need to be able to reach as high as possible to scratch and stretch.

The pole should be high enough to allow your pet to stand on its hind legs and reach over his/her head with his/her front legs.

If the post is too short, your pet may not even look at it.

The easiest way to understand why your cat is not using the scratcher you bought is to compare it to a tree.

Cats like tall scratching posts

# 3 Make Sure the Scratching Post Is Stable

how to get a cat to use a scratching post, illustration of a scratching post that is stable, that is, it has a wide base and two red arrows indicate that it does not swing
Cats likes stable scratching post

If your cat feels the pole move, it will not feel safe and may refuse to use it.

Nothing is worse than a post that falls over.  You can try fixing it to a surface or make sure the post has a sturdy base so it won’t move when they scratch it.

Keep in mind that scratching boards that lean against the wall or that hang like a picture are unpopular with most cats.

# 4 Choosing the Right Scratching Post Material

Getting cats to use a scratching post will be easier if you take the time to choose one that they will have a natural affinity for. 

Cats often have preferences when it comes to the materials used for scratching. It’ll be easier with a texture similar to your cat’s preferred scratching surface. Select the material and texture that your pet likes.

Consider the following materials

  • A simple trunk;
  • Corrugated cardboard;
  • Upholstery or carpet fabric;
  • Poles wrapped in sisal fabric or sisal rope.
how to get your cat to use a scratching post: illustration of a tall scratching post and next to it, 3 circles containing a close-up of: 1 a rope, 2 cardboard and 3 carpet, how to get your cat to use a scratching post: a scratching post and 3 circles with a close up of tree different materials
Sisal, cardboard or carpet

Avoid plastic ropes or man-made fibers because these materials can create static electricity, which cats don’t like.

Some cats prefer sisal, some like cardboard, others choose the feel of the carpet. You may need to try a few to see what your cats like best.

My cat Milo prefers sisal-wrapped posts. On one occasion,  I bought him cardboard and I could not convince him to use it.

If you’re not sure what your cat likes, try one made of natural rope wrapped around a sturdy column. This texture is the most enjoyable for many cats.

It is not a good idea to buy a cheap post. If the scratcher doesn’t meet the material, height,  and stability criteria…

guess what?

Your cat will prefer your beautiful furniture, which is tall, heavy, and does not wobble.

WHEN You Buy the Scratching Post

What to Do at Home

Cats like to scratch things naturally, in fact, no one has to teach a stray cat to scratch a tree trunk. But that doesn’t mean you should put the post in your living room and hope for the best.

You are not teaching your cat to scratch a tree; you are training your cat to scratch a post.

If your cat is already using an inappropriate object or place to scratch, examine it for valuable information. 

  • Are the scratch marks high or low?
  • on a vertical or horizontal surface?
  • in a corner, or under a bed?

Use this information to choose the right scratcher and placement.

To attract the cat’s interest in it, you have to form positive associations with the scratching post.

So, here’s a list of what you can do:

  • Begin when the cat is young (If possible);
  • Use more than one post;
  • Choosing the scratching post location from the cat’s perspective.

# 5 Begin When Your Cat Is Young (If Possible)

You should start training your cat to scratch from a young age.

The younger your cat is, the easier and faster you will get him/her to use the scratching post instead of furniture.

Start with kitties

Scratch your fingers along the pole as kittens love the noise it makes. Play with toys near the scratching post. You can play with a pen or with any toy that your cat likes.

This exercise will help your cat become familiar with the scratching post.  And he/she will discover that it can be used for scratching purposes.

# 6 Use More Than One Scratching Post

The basic rule is simple: a scratching post for each cat and also in several rooms of the house.

Why? Chances are, your cat likes to scratch in more than one place in your home.

This simple suggestion will increase the chances that your cat will leave your furniture and rugs alone.

The more cats you have, the more scratching posts you will need. It will be impossible for you to stop their instinct to mark their territory.

That is why a Cat Condo could be a good idea, since several cats can use it at the same time, with vertical and horizontal scratching surfaces and several heights of beds or perches to choose from. 

Encourage your cats to play with each other near and on the scratching posts. To help with that you can throw small toys and balls around them.

One scratching post for each cat
Illustration of a cat condo with three black cats resting and playing on it
Cat Condo for several cats

If space is an issue, you can fix to walls flat boards with a rough surface.

Fix flat boards to walls

# 7 Choosing the Location from Your Cat's Perspective

Choosing the best areas of the house to place the scratching posts is an important step to ensure that your cat will use them.

Our preferences in terms of location are not the same as our cats’. We are guided by aesthetics in decoration and practicality and we generally prefer corners and secluded places. But your cat will ignore the scratching post if you place it there.

These places are not always suitable in the eyes of our feline friends. If we consider the problem from the cat’s point of view, it will be easy to understand why. 

As discussed above, cats use scratching as a way to mark their territory and to stretch their muscles. 

With this in mind, here are some good places to put a scratching post:

Near entrances or exits, in high traffic locations of your home.

Near an object that your cat already prefers like a scraper.

Near a window and at the highest place possible.

Close to where it sleeps.

On every floor of the house
(if your home has multiple floors).

Section of a two-floor house where you can see a bedroom upstairs and a living room downstairs. In both, there is a scraper

Choosing the best areas of the house to place the scratching posts is an important step to ensure that your cat will use them.

Our preferences in terms of location are not the same as our cats’. We are guided by aesthetics in decoration and practicality and we generally prefer corners and secluded places. But your cat will ignore the scratching post if you place it there.

These places are not always suitable in the eyes of our feline friends. If we consider the problem from the cat’s point of view, it will be easy to understand why. 

As discussed above, cats use scratching as a way to mark their territory and to stretch their muscles. 

With this in mind, here are some good places to put a scratching post:

Don’t despair! Once your cat starts using the new scratching post, you can slowly move it to a location that suits your home decor.

AFTER You Buy the Scratching Post

7 Tips to Increase Your Cat’s Interest in It

Don’t worry if your cat doesn’t immediately use his/her new scratching post or shows only mild interest in it.

To encourage cats to use a scratching post you’ll need to be patient.  It takes a while for many cats to realize that you have provided them with the best scratching surface.

Here are some tips to increase your cat’s interest in his/her new scratching post and to teach him/her how to use it:

  1. Use Catnip;
  2. Praise your cat;
  3. Reward with treats;
  4. Use the FELIWAY® product;
  5. Rub the cat’s paw on the post;
  6. Place the scratching post on its side;
  7. Incorporate games into the scratching post.

# 1 Use Catnip

Most cats go crazy over it. If your cat is one of them, you can spray the scratching post with concentrated catnip spray or sprinkle catnip on the base of the post.

You could also hang bags at the top of the scratching post.

cat owner's hand putting catnip on a scratching post surface
Cats like catnip

It will produce an immediate interest in your scratching post. This will allow your cat to discover that it is a great surface to scratch.

Your cat will remember it and use it to the fullest later on. I spray every new scratching post I buy for Milo. This technique works well for me.

# 2 Praise Your Cat

Cuddling is very useful and works very well. If your cat scratches a bit and then looks at you, pet him in his favorite places and interact with him.

This will let the cat know that the behavior is acceptable.

Cats like to be pampered

Your cat will associate the enjoyable activity of scratching the pole and stretching, with another enjoyable activity: attracting attention. 

Remember to reward your cat ONLY if he/she does the right thing.

Alternatively, you can …

# 3 Reward with Treats

Treats are an important thing when training a cat. Reward your cat each time it interacts with the scratching post.

When your cat’s sniffing, investigating or placing his/her paws on the post.

Woman's hand giving a treat to the cat
Cats like to be rewarding with treats

Put some treats on top of the post to encourage him/her to climb the pole to retrieve them.

Treats will make the scratching post a very positive experience for your cat. Once the behavior is under control, you can decrease the number of treats.

You can use treats to train the cat with other unwanted behaviors.

# 4 Use the Feliway® Product

Feliway® is a brand specialized in feline behavior control. Their products are based on the way cats communicate: with pheromones. Feliway® simulates these pheromones, making cats calmer, more comfortable, and safer.

It works by amplifying their olfactory signals since Feliway®  contains a synthetic copy of this pheromone along with a small amount of catnip. It relaxes them and improves their behavior as well as their relationship with other animals.

The brand products that interest us are the following:

  • FELISCRATCH® to attract your cat to the scratching post and
  • FELIWAY® CLASSIC for your cat when it scratches improper areas (sofas, furniture, curtains, rugs)

How does FELISCRATCH® work?

Once applied to the desired surface, Feliscratch by Feliway works in three different ways:

  1. Blue color mimics visual message (scratch marks)
  2. Catnip helps attract your cat to the scratching post
  3. Pheromone directs scratches

Leaving the synthetic copy of the natural pheromone that cats leave in the places they scratch encourages them to scratch there again.

How does FELIWAY® CLASSIC spray work?

After carefully cleaning it, spray the product in the area where you do not want your cat to scratch.

The FELIWAY® CLASSIC spray will send “happy messages” to provide peace of mind and prevent your cat from scratching the furniture.

Clinical studies have shown that it helps reduce or stop unwanted scratches in the home.  FELIWAY® directs cats to the scratching post.

It can only be perceived by cats and produces the same message for all cats. It does not affect humans or other animals that live in the house.

Using a combination of FELISCRATCH® and FELIWAY® CLASSIC Spray will double the chances your cat will use the new scratching post.  Also, it will help stop him/her from using the furniture for this function.

# 5 Rub the Cat's Paw on the Post

You can attract your cat to the scratching post using his scent. Rubbing the cat’s paw on the pole will help leave the cat’s scent there.

That way your cat will be more likely to use it. Then,  encourage your cat to use the pole by making gentle scratching motions with its paws.

Cats like their own scent

Don’t force it. Forcing the cat doesn’t work. Cats are known to have a mind of their own, and to like things to be their idea.

Manipulating their paws against their will is often a no-no in the eyes of our feline friends. 

It’ll result in avoiding the scratching post. So try to do it gently, as a game.

# 6 Placing the Scratching Post on Its Side

If your cat still shows no interest in the new scratching post, it may be helpful to place the post on its side.

Your cat may like to scratch horizontally. Once your cat is using the pole regularly, you can pull it up.

As a last tip, we recommend …

Some cats like scratching horizontally

# 7 Incorporate Games Into the Scratching Post

You can put your cat’s favorite toy within the scratching post. Together, with the catnip and its scent, they will make the scratching post even more attractive to your cat.

Your cat will play around and on it.  Use a wand-type cat toy. 

Cats like to play
This way your cat will stretch out and place his/her paws on the scratching post while he/she reaches out and lunges for the toy. Providing good playtime with a cat with a post will show the cat that it can use it. In no time, you’ll find that your cat will love to scratch the post.

Avoid Negative Training Methods

Negative training methods are often counterproductive. There are a variety of cat training methods that aim to link negative consequences to undesirable feline behavior. 

Here you have a small list of the most used:

  • Spray your cat on the face with water,
  • Make a loud noise with coins in a can,
  • Using traps to scare or hurt the cat,
  • Yelling, hitting, and any other similar strategies.


Don't yell or punish your cat
Illustration of a cat's owner spraying water on the black cat's face
Don't spray water on your cat

These negative reinforcement techniques generally don’t work on cats.  Worse, they can be completely counterproductive or cause injury. The main reason is that punishments break your cat’s trust. Many cats are stressed by these actions and will react with behaviors that most humans will not find acceptable.

The possible consequences of using these methods are:

  • Urinate or defecate outside of the litter box, on rugs, or personal items.
  • Scratch even more objects around the house.
  • At worst, they may become shy and hide or refuse to eat.

The most recommended thing to do is to focus on positive reinforcement.


Cats can be fickle.

You can start with one or more of the approaches listed above, or you can use them all at once. It all depends on your cat’s learning speed.

Remember that you will be able to teach your cat to scratch on the scratching post only with patience and love. At the same time, you’ll be preventing it from scratching your furniture.

Training your cat can be a rewarding experience for you, and it as well.

Now it’s your turn! 

Do you have any extra tips to share that work to train your cat to use a scratching post? If so,  please share them with us!

Are You Fed up With Your Cat’s Bad Behaviors?

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