9539 Liberty Road, Frederick, MD 21701
Phone: 301-898-4009 ~ Fax: 240-668-3664
Gentle, complete veterinary care for the felines in your family
Link map for Frederick Cat Vet for directions, hours, bio of the veterinarian and staff, veterinary services offered and a tour of the veterinary practice

If you build it...

...they will scratch. Cats have an innate need to scratch. It allows them to stretch properly, groom their claws and leave visual and scent clues to communicate their presence to other cats. If they are not given their own areas to scratch, it is inevitable that your cats will use the furniture, the carpet or the drapes.

The five favorite scratching materials:
-Wood, with or without bark
-Canvas, or other heavy fabric
-Sisal or manila rope

Many commercially available scratching posts fall short of cats' needs and may be a waste of money. Keep several factors in mind materials when choosing one and setting it up.

-It should be very sturdy. It needs to provide resistance to their scratching so should feel quite stable to them.
-Keep it in the same spot. Cats want to know that their favorite piece of furniture will always be in the same spot, as a consistent part of their environment.
-For upright items, at least 24" tall is a good rule of thumb. This allows cats to fully extend their bodies.
-Horizontal items work well also, but should always be in the same spot.
-Location, location, location. A scratching post is a social playground and you will have more interested cats if there is a sunny window view and proximity to people or favorite rooms.

Large carpeted cat condos with many levels often have a scratching area or make ideal scratching posts themselves. Experiment with different types and always reward use of it with attention or catnip. Encourage climbing on these areas by adding toys or dangling objects just above. Once it is used by one cat, this stimulates repetitive use and encourages your other cats. They will often rub their face against it to indicate their approval. This facial rubbing is a marking behavior by cats which leaves a scent only other cats can detect.

It is much easier to train a cat not to scratch on a new piece of furniture than one they have already used, but with all undesired locations, training must be immediate, positive and consistent:

-Use quick startling countermeasures like a compressed air canister noise, loud finger snap, or single-syllable vocal correction (e.g. 'no', 'hey', 'psst')
-After this interruption, move your cat to the desired scratching location and encourage the correct behavior. An interruption gives an instantaneous unpleasant association with what they just did.
-Do not punish your cat. Physical correction can cause injury to you or your cat. Punishment can quickly damage the relationship you have with your cat because they begin to fear you.
-Reinforce positive behavior. Reward with immediate attention when they don't scratch, but instead simply sniff and rub their chin against your couch.

Dr. Mike Karg, DVM