3 Traits Every Cat Scratcher & Scratching Post Must Have

(Don’t Waste Your Time and Money on Fads and Scratchers that Your Cat Will Never Use… Even When You’re Going DIY)

We all know how it feels when we buy a new cat scratcher…

Here it is.

The moment you’ve been waiting for…

The cat scratcher has arrived.

It looked so great on the website, and the enticing description made you feel like it was the only cat scratcher you would ever need to buy.

You’re so excited to unbox it, and finally end the war going on between you, your cat, and your now shredded couch.

cat gif cats at war watermelon helmets
Kitties with Their War Helmets on

So, you open it up, set it out and…..


The old sniff and walk away.

I think every single cat owner knows what this feels like.

The excitement you feel while you’re in fantasy-land, thinking you got your cat something wonderful. But alas, they have no interest whatsoever.

The disappointment and frustration.

Not to mention a waste of money.

And, of course, there are variations of this.

Like, your cat went to scratch the new post, and it fell over, scared the crap out of them, and now they are cautious even when just walking by it. As if it’s going to jump out and attack them.

This can be used as a checklist, and a comprehensive guide.

With it, you’ll finally be able to take the guesswork out of buying a new scratcher.

You can also use this same checklist to assess scratchers you already have.

And before you spend copious amounts of time on a DIY scratcher project (which I have done), you’ll also want to make sure the design meets all the necessary criteria listed here.

3 Traits Every Cat Scratcher Must Have

The 3 Traits Every Cat Scratcher Must Have:

First, I highly suggest that you take a moment to look around your home, and think about where your cat likes to scratch. 

And then take another moment, after you have read this checklist, to think about why they like to scratch that spot in particular.

What’s so appealing about it?

Do they tend to scratch on vertical, or horizontal surfaces? Both?

This information will be a great asset to you when deciding on a scratcher.

  • #1: Stability

cat scratching tree demonstrates the necessary stability of a scratcher

Having a stable scratcher is extremely important if you want to avoid the situation I described above. No cat is going to use a scratching post that wobbles, or falls over.

Look for a solid, stable base that is wide enough when compared to the height of the post. This will ensure that  the post will not wobble, move, or tip over when being used by an unsuspecting cat.

*This can also come in the form of a cat tree. Good quality ones are typically very stable, and many have scratching posts attached that are wrapped in rope or sisal.

In the case of a cardboard scratch pad, which is always a nice addition to a home that already has a good stable post, I recommend one that is big enough for your cat to get on top of, and lay on.

If your cat can’t lay on the cardboard scratcher, they’ll just drag it across the floor while attempting to scratch, and they’ll never fully satisfy their urge. (Which will more than likely lead them to places you don’t want scratched.)

  • #2 Appropriate Height

image demonstrates a good height for a cat scratcher

The recommended height for a scratching post is at least 32” high.

Your cat needs to be able to stretch up, and get some really good pull down action while they mark their territory.

(Learn why cats scratch in my post: How To Stop Your Cat From Scratching Your Furniture: In 3 Easy Steps

If you have a scratching post that is too short, you’re cat either won’t bother to use it, or if they do, they will not be getting that satisfying full upper-body stretch that they need.

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  • #3 Correct Material

Material To Consider:

  • Sisal
  • Carpet
  • Rope
  • Corrugated Cardboard
  • Bare wood

examples of sisal, carpet, rope, corrugated cardboard

The number one recommended material for a cat scratcher is sisal.

  • Sisal is a rope material that is extremely durable, and makes the perfect surface for a cat to really sink their claws in, and go to town.

If I was limited to recommending one scratcher in particular, it would be a tall, sturdy, sisal covered one. This one is perfect, and meets all the criteria:

This is a staple scratching post.

*Every home with a cat that scratches vertically should have a post like this one.*

They even make a perch to go on top of it for versitility, and added kitty appeal:

  • Your cat may like scratching carpet or rugs, but it’s important to note what kind of carpet or rugs. 

Most likely, it is short carpet that is easy to get a good grip on.

In this case, the sisal will make a fine, actually better, substitute.

*Keep in mind, if you choose to use a carpet-covered scratcher, this is sending the message to your cat that carpet is the appropriate material to scratch. This may lead to scratching carpeted areas that are not designated for scratching.

  • Rope covered scratching posts are usually acceptable options as well. Such as the ones that come on the posts of cat trees. My cats use them all the time.
  • Corrugated cardboard also makes a great material for horizontal, inclined, and sometimes even vertical scratching.

With cardboard scratchers, it’s really the shape and size that you need to be conscious of.

I recommend getting one that is big enough for your cat, and as stable as possible.

*I don’t recommend the wave-shaped ones. My cats still use them a bit, but when they step onto the lower side, the higher side pops up off the ground. This sometimes deters them from scratching on it.

High quality, Eco-Friendly Options Made With Non-Toxic Materials:

These scratchers will last a long time, while looking beautiful in your home. They’re big enough to become your cat’s favorite spot to nap! And they’re sturdy enough to be the perfect place to scratch in order to get a good stretch.

The second option can even accommodate multiple cats at once!

This is the perfect incline scratcher. It is much sturdier than previous ones I’ve had. It looks really sleek, and comes in multiple colors.

Hiding Place & Scratching Combo:

This one doubles as a house. Doja and Nia love hiding, napping and scratching in this one! I was pleasantly surprised that Doja didn’t tear it up, and still hasn’t. He loves to tear up most paper and cardboard objects.

  • Lastly, if your cat is more inclined to scratch bare wood, purchasing or making a DIY wood scratching post may be a great option for them.

My cat, Nia, particularly likes to scratch on window and door trim, and wooden furniture.

I don’t have any personal experience with this post, but it meets all the criteria listed here. From what I have read and seen, it looks like an amazing option for cats who really love scratching bare surfaces. You even have the option of choosing cedar or cork.

*In the wild, cats scratch trees. This scratching post is the closest thing to it, without letting your kitties outside!

Multiple Scratchers are the Best Option

I’m not even sure how many scratchers my furry ones have around the house.

They have different types of cardboard scratchers, incline scratchers, sisal scratching posts, rope-bound scratching posts (part of their cat trees), and scratchers that double as hiding places.

You don’t need to go quite this crazy.

Keep in mind, I do have three cats…

But having multiple options throughout the house is 100% the best choice. 

My kitties are happy, and so is my furniture! 🙂

Are You Having Issues With Your Cat(s) Scratching Furniture or Carpet?

Please refer to my post: How To Stop Your Cat From Scratching Your Furniture: In 3 Easy Steps

Please leave me a comment below, and let me know if there is a specific topic you would like me to write about, if you have any questions or comments regarding inappropriate scratching, or if you just want to say hi. Either way, I would love to hear from you! 

Thanks for reading! 

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1 year ago

I really love & appreciate you help! Lots of goods things that I had not thought of! However, my problem is not mine alone, but lingers in my house! I have bad arthritis in my hands, so DIY projects are not in my world. I understand the are replacement posts for cat trees AND wrap arounds for existing posts. But I can’t find them any place. I thought maybe you could help. Right now my girls cat tree posts are really bad!! HELP!!! THANKS!

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