Training Your Cat to Use the Scratching Post

A common worry among new cat owners is – how to get the cat to scratch at his scratching post and not the furniture? The answer is part cat psychology and part perseverance!
Scratching is a typical feline trait. The cat flexes its body and limbs, has a nice robust scratch, and marked the spot as “his”. It also liberates the claws of aged, sloughed layers. It is part “territorial marking” and part exercise.
Cats are territorial animals, they understand very well what is theirs and what is not if shown. By making full use of their territorial tendency is probably the best approach by letting them know which furniture is “theirs” and which is off limit. To make this work, it is advisable to have a few pieces of cat furniture around and then educate them which are for their enjoyments, and which are not. Here are some suggestions.

Start them young! Scratching behavior starts to emerge around the time that kittens are being weaned off milk. Training should start as soon as this behavior shows. Older cats likely require longer training period but absolutely trainable. Just be tenacious, kind but consistent.

Choose a scratching post that the cat likes. You may need to carry out some trial and error to find a post your cat likes. Most cats like the vertical post. The post should be tall and solid enough for your cat to fully stretch out his body and four limbs without tumbling. An unstable post is most likely ignored by your cat. Some feline friends like to claw on horizontal surfaces.
Whether it is vertical or horizontal, the post can be surfaced with sisal rope, carpet material, or cardboard. Some cats like to scratch on a tree trunk or rough wood with the bark still on it.

Place the scratching post where the cat needs it. This is crucial. Cats usually like to limber up and scratch after awakening from a nap, so put the post next to wherever he likes to nap. You may need to put a few posts around the house where napping occurs. Place one next to an irresistible furniture may protect your furniture from further scratching.

Use encouragements and dissuasion. Dangling a favorite toy or rubbing a little catnip on a new post would encourage your cat to use it. Don’t forget to praise him for using it. A little cooing and treat rewarding would go a long way.
When he begins to scratch on a piece of off-limit furniture, you need to promptly let him know that this is not allowed by uttering a word in loud, low voice such as “CLAWS!” or “STOPS!”. This usually startles them and stops them in their tracks. Then pick him up and place him in front of his nearest scratching post. Most cats learn pretty quickly.

A verbal control method, accompany by appropriate encouragement is a far better method than physical reprimand such as spraying a cat with water to discipline the cat. Cats are highly intelligent creatures, an “insulting” gesture may produce counter-productive behavior.

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