Kitten scratching horizontal scratching post

Q. When I was at the pet store, I saw a scratching post that was horizontal instead of vertical. Do cats like those? I’d try one, but I don’t want to waste my money.

A. Cats do indeed love to scratch horizontally. Some even like to scratch upside down, kicking at the roof of “scratching tunnels” with their hind paws, bunny-style. I would encourage you to try some different kinds of scratchers, and I’m guessing they won’t be a waste of money at all. Instead, they’ll be part of an enriched environment that’s key to keeping indoor cats healthy, active and happy.

And you’ll find many choices that aren’t very expensive at all. Check out “scratching trays” that offer the exposed ends of cardboard packed tightly into a compact unit that will fit almost anywhere in your house. Cardboard is a great scratching surface, fun for a cat to really dig into with those claws.

Feline obesity is a serious and common problem, leading to chronic diseases such as diabetes. Whatever you can do to keep your cat active will help prevent him from packing on the pounds. Looked at this way, additional places to scratch are certainly a good investment in your cat’s health.

What to Look For in a Scratching Post

There are a couple of important things to look for when shopping for a scratching post.

Material with “give” so claws can find a way in deep. Remember homemade cat trees covered with ’70s shag carpet? You can sometimes still find them, and if you can stand the look, that shag is cat-alicious. That’s because the big loops allow a cat to get in deep, dig in those claws and really get a good stretch. For a more modern, neutral look that’s packed with feline appeal, try sisal. This rough, natural rope is perfect for cats, and you can refresh it easily by getting new material at the home-supply store and rewrapping the post yourself. And, yes, cardboard is very appealing to cats and turns up in all kinds of fashion-forward scratching products.

Construction that’s sturdy enough to stand up to playful cats. The first time a scratching post crashes down on your cat is probably the last time he’ll use it. That’s why you need to look for solid construction and a sturdy base. That’s true even with horizontal scratchers, since you don’t want them flipping up — or over — on your cat.

Teach Your Cat to Love the Post

When you get your scratchers home, put them where your cat will use them. Hiding them in the basement if your cat won’t use them there absolutely guarantees they’ll be a waste of your money. If your cat is attracted to the corner of your sofa, put double-sided tape mounted on cardboard on that corner and put the scratching post, tree or pad next to it. If your cat likes catnip, rub some fresh catnip on the scratching post and praise him for using it. You can also play some games with him there, such as with a cat-fisher toy.

Once your cat is using the scratching place you want rather than your couch, you can very slowly — as in a foot or so a week — move the scratcher to the location of your choice. But if you look at some of the fantastic designs available today in cat furniture, you may be happy leaving it proudly on display.

Whatever you do, don’t give your cat one tiny scratching post and call it a day. The more places your cat is allowed and encouraged to scratch, the more he’s likely to use them — and the less likely he’ll be to scratch what you don’t want him to touch.