As cat parents, we’ve probably all dealt with our cats scratching a surface that wasn’t intended for their lovely little claws. Your carpet, your sofa, maybe your cute kitten wallpaper. So, how can you discourage this behavior? One option is to ensure you choose the best type of scratcher for your cat.
Being a cat mom for over 13 years now, I’ve seen my fair share of scratching posts and scratchers. So, I’ll help you pick out one or two that might work well in your house.
But before we talk about choosing the best cat scratcher, let’s look at why cats scratch in the first place.
Disclosure: Some links below are affiliate links. This means that, at zero cost to you, I will earn an affiliate commission if you click through the link and finalize a purchase.
Why Do Cats Scratch?
Well, there are a few reasons that cats scratch. An obvious one is claw maintenance. When they scratch, the motion helps the cat shed that dead outer layer (known as the sheath) and expose a new, sharper claw beneath. When you trim your cat’s nails, you’re also helping remove the sheath.
Another reason cats scratch is to mark their territory. When a cat scratches, scent glands in its paws leave scent marks on the surface, letting another cat know they’ve claimed that territory.
Cats also scratch for stretching purposes. When a cat digs their claws into a scratcher, it helps them grab hold and do a deeper stretch, reaching all of its muscles, and helping maintain flexibility. Stretching helps keep your cat’s body in good condition.
And finally, your cat may scratch for stress relief. If your cat has pent-up energy or frustration, scratching can help release this, making them feel more relaxed.
Great, now we know why cats need to scratch. So, how can we get them to scratch the right object in your house? One way is by ensuring you have several cat scratchers or scratching posts available to them.
Choosing the Best Cat Scratcher
So many cat scratchers and scratching posts are on the market, and my cats have used several types. I recommend having more than one type of scratcher in your house, as the different scratchers can serve different purposes. You’ll likely learn which one(s) your cat prefers by offering them options to choose from. You’ll also want to have the scratchers in multiple rooms or areas of the house. And the scratchers should be placed in easily accessible areas, not always tucked into the corner of a room, or else your cat might not use it.
Types of Cat Scratchers
Tall sisal scratching post
A taller option allows the cat to reach up and stretch down simultaneously, helping them achieve that deep stretch. When selecting the scratching post, you’ll want to ensure that the cat has enough room to reach above its head, allowing for a full stretch. Woodrow demonstrates with this Art of Paws scratching post.
Also, check that it’s a heavy duty cat scratching post. You want a solid base that won’t tip over when your cat uses it. Sophie tests the Hauspanther MaxScratch Oversized Cat Scratching Post.
Some scratching posts also have a big enough area or a perch on top so it doubles as a place for your cat to survey their domain. Here, Sophie enjoys watching bird TV from the top of her scratching post.
Overall, I find that the tall sisal cat scratcher is the best scratching post for cats’ nails. Usually, I find an assortment of nail sheaths at the base of ours.
We received the Art of Paws scratcher for free years ago and wrote a full review about it. Unfortunately, it’s currently out of stock. We bought the MaxScratch Oversized Cat Scratching Post from Hauspanther. Unfortunately, it too is out of stock right now. But there are other tall sisal scratching post options on Amazon and elsewhere.
Horizontal cat scratcher
If you’re out shopping in a big box store, they will likely have these horizontal cat scratchers in their pet section.
These types of scratchers are cheap, easy to move around, and most cats take to them. Some are also sold with catnip that you can sprinkle on to encourage your cat to use it. (Although some owners find this a deterrent to buying if their cat doesn’t like catnip.) Some horizontal cat scratchers are sold with a base enclosure; then, you can replace the inserted cardboard scratcher section as needed.
Here is a refillable option on Amazon. (affiliate link)
Vertical cardboard scratcher
If your cat is really into cardboard but scratching vertically, then this type might be a good fit. The ones we bought weren’t very tall, so they won’t replace a taller sisal scratching post. We had set our vertical cardboard scratcher outside of the litter area, and it was used like clockwork after the cats did their business.
The cardboard vertical scratcher we bought is no longer available, but here’s an option to check out on Amazon. (affiliate link)
Cardboard scratcher ramp
Talking about the litter area, we recently learned about a new scratcher ramp that is designed to help your cat go in and out of the litter box called Purrfectly Clean Paws from Simply Paws Design. The scratcher portion inside the ramp is meant to help capture litter. It’s great for a senior kitty or a cat with mobility issues. We were sent this for free to try out. The company did not ask for a review, but I’m including it since readers may be interested in it.
Here’s another scratcher ramp option that’s meant more for play. And it’s the perfect size for a kitten to peek in and out of. (We purchased this ramp when we had foster kittens.)
Check out the Kong Naturals Incline Cat Scratcher on Amazon. (affiliate link)
Cardboard scratcher bed or lounger
Now, we’re getting into a bit more decorative scratchers that also serve as a place to lounge. We have had several scratcher beds and loungers over the years. They serve the purpose of allowing your cat to scratch while also offering a place to hang out. My cats love these types of scratchers.
I don’t recall where we bought the hexagon scratcher pictured above, but it’s double-sided and could be flipped over. I’m pretty sure we bought the couch scratcher from TJ Maxx or HomeGoods. They always seem to have fun cardboard scratchers in their pet section.
Above, Dexter sits on a wide lounger scratcher, while Woodrow lays on top of the same scratcher.
Cardboard house scratcher
Many big box stores have these types of cat house scratchers. Is it just a gimmick to keep you buying one for every season? Probably. Do I do it? Yes. But in all honesty, they are pretty great. My cats love to hang out in these cat house scratchers. They offer a safe enclosed space, and the cat can also scratch when they feel the urge. Oh, and they’re cute (the scratcher and the cat).
Both of these scratchers (spring and Christmas) are from Target.
Other fun scratchers
Cat scratchers are also made in unique shapes and designs. Some are cardboard, while others are pretty extravagant. I tend to stick to the “cheaper” cardboard designs since they’re easily replaced and not too hard on the pocketbook. We’ve bought many round scratchers that the cats love using as beds. There are also cute ones with fun-shaped openings. I believe both of these were from TJ Maxx or HomeGoods.
While this Catit scratcher is super cute, the cats don’t use it for scratching much. My guess is because it’s not tall (to reach up to) and also not flat. So, maybe it’s too awkward to use for scratching. But they do sit on top of it and hang out inside of it.
Cat trees with built-in scratchers
Most cat trees have a scratching post or two incorporated into their design.
While my cats did use the posts (a lot!), I wasn’t happy with them overall. The sisal would wear out or come unglued. Some companies offer replacement posts, but I never tried that option. Seems like a headache to disassemble the cat tree to attach the new post. But if you’re willing to do that, a cat tree scratching post might be a great option. Here, Olive shows her handiwork.
A cat tree we bought that I do like is the Lotus Cat Tower from The Refined Feline, which has a replaceable scratcher mat. We haven’t had to replace it yet (we bought it nearly two years ago). But when we do need to swap it out, the mat will come off easily since it’s attached by velcro. Sophie uses the scratcher mat almost every morning. I think it’s to wake me up for breakfast.
Check out The Refined Feline Lotus Cat Tower on Amazon. (affiliate link)
Functional scratcher furniture
Another piece of furniture we bought is from the same company as the tree mentioned above. When we bought new couches, we didn’t want our cats scratching the ends, like they did with our old sofa. So, we bought these end tables that have scratch mats on them. Our cats don’t actually use them (for scratching), but they also don’t scratch the new sofa. We will keep the end tables as a deterrent. And who knows, maybe one day they will use them. (It’s the same scratch mat as the tree that gets used daily, so I know it’s not a matter of not liking the material.)
You can check out these end tables on Amazon. (affiliate link)
Cat scratcher mat
Speaking of scratcher mat material, you can also buy a big ol’ scratch mat in general. We’ve never tried one, as I don’t have a place to put it, but I thought they’re worth mentioning. Some people also attach a carpet cat scratcher or scratch mats to their walls, to allow for vertical scratching. That’s something I may try in the future with one of these.
Check out this cat scratcher mat on Amazon. (affiliate link)
So, which one do you think is the best scratcher for your cat? Which types do you already use? Are there any that you don’t like?
Check out our complete listing of cat scratchers on Amazon.
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Rachel is a lifelong cat lover, who loves writing and sharing about all things cat. Having been a cat mom for over 13 years, she is passionate about animal welfare and has fostered several cats and kittens. Rachel has used her skills as an award-winning blogger to volunteer as a writer and editor for a nationwide program supporting shelter cats. She entertains readers with her own cats’ antics on her other blog Three Chatty Cats. Rachel and her husband Ross share their home with four adorable cats – Dexter, Olive, Sophie, and Woodrow – and one handsome pup named Guster.