The 10 Best Scratching Posts
This wiki has been updated 26 times since it was first published in July of 2015. If you have cats who love to attack your furniture and furnishings, one of these scratching posts can provide a useful distraction, satisfying their instinctive drive to sharpen their nails and saving you from costly replacements. We've included both multi-tiered structures that also provide comfortable lounging areas along with some simpler structures suitable for small houses and apartments. When users buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki.
April 30, 2020:
If you're familiar with the idiomatic expression "There's more than one way to skin a cat," you know that it means there are many ways of accomplishing a goal (but please don't harm any felines). It's important to realize that cats are independent creatures by nature. As loving as they are, I've always picked up on a sort of "otherworldly" feeling about them too, as though they're peering into my soul whenever they look at me. Cats require a lot of mental stimulation and they can be quite the tricksters. With that in mind, there are many ways of safely satisfying a cat's curiosity and natural instincts. Cat trees provide additional indoor real estate for a feline to call home, while specialized window perches give your kitty a place to view the world from on high. There are also a variety of toys designed to pique their interest. But when it comes to clawing, stretching, playing, and viewing their habitats without sacrificing your expensive furniture or upholstery to their sharpened nails, a scratching post will do quite nicely.
Our list includes anything from cat trees, with toys and independent platforms, to standalone solutions that allow your pet to satisfy its natural urges to sharpen its claws. The AmazonBasics Cat Tree, for example, has multiple tiers with carpeted resting spots and plenty of columns for scratching, making it a good option for multi-feline households. The structure also has 2 enclosures for additional privacy and taking cat naps.
We've also included the versatile PetFusion Ultimate Lounge and PetFusion Vertical models, the former of which offers a large surface area without taking up a lot of space in an apartment, while the latter has a central hole for exploring. If your indoor environment has limited space, the Sofa-Scratcher Furniture Protector slips conveniently over the corner of your couch.
For high energy felines who love to play and jump, the three perches and built-in tunnel on the PetPals Activity Tower is a good option to consider.
The SmartCat Bootsie's length makes it a convenient choice for large cats who need to stretch their muscles or shed old nails. It can also be easily mounted to the wall for placement in tight spaces.
Finally, the folding Trixie Miguel is ideal for travel, while the padded condo base provides a nice place for a snooze.
Kitty Mansions Buckingham Palace If you're looking to indulge your cat with expensive furniture designed for scratching and playing, the Kitty Mansions Buckingham Palace is definitely one way to go. As part of the company's deluxe line of cat trees, this structure features several large bedroom areas, overhead tunnels, lots of scratching posts, ramps, and slides. The palace stands approximately nine feet tall and close to 7 feet wide, so it's definitely not designed for use in small living spaces. kittymansions.com
Alpha Paw ScratchyRamp The Alpha Paw ScratchyRamp offers a 2-in-1 design as both a walking ramp and large clawing surface for any four-legged feline companion. It is available in two sizes, one at couch height and the other at bed height, which can be beneficial for aging cats who have difficulty with mobility. Alpha Paw also makes products for dogs, including ramps, calming beds, and car seats. alphapaw.com
Best Friends Animal Society Best Friends Animal Society is a national animal welfare organization that has been dedicated to ending the termination of dogs and cats in American shelters for the last 35 years. The organization has regional centers located in New York City, Los Angeles, Atlanta, and Salt Lake City, and they operate the nation’s largest no-kill sanctuary for companion animals. Their website also provides access to a large resource center where you can learn all about dealing with your pet's behavioral issues. bestfriends.org
Save Your Stuff From The Scratch
Well, the first thing that manufacturers look for when designing a scratching post is a good material.
If I had a nickel for all of the couch and chair arms, pant and table legs, vinyl record sleeves, cabinet corners, suitcases, and mattresses that my cats have clawed to shreds over the years, I could buy scratching posts for all of your cats. I might even have done it, too, if somebody had been around to give me all those nickels.
The fact of the matter is that cats love to destroy your stuff with their little razor blades, and if you don't give them some alternative outlet for their aggressive behaviors, you're going to have to spend a lot of money replacing things. Or, you could get your cats declawed. If you do that, though, I'm probably going to come after you.
How exactly is it that these posts are designed to work? Well, the first thing that manufacturers look for when designing a scratching post is a good material. Cats need to feel their claws digging into something, and that something can't just disintegrate after a week or two of use. Otherwise, you're going to quickly jump brands to something more durable. Most scratching posts are made of tightly woven carpet material or sisal, an incredibly durable fiber derived from cacti.
You'll also notice that some of the scratching posts on our list include perches for your cat to climb up and survey his or her territory. These are invaluable ways to increase the vertical space for an indoor cat who doesn't have a lot of horizontal room to play.
To keep the scratching posts on our list from tipping over from the force of the clawing and from the pushing and pulling of your cat's weight against them, manufacturers either use wide, weighted bases or overall shapes like a triangle that will naturally increase stability.
Scratching Your Cat's Itch
Your cat is definitely a unique creature with his or her own preferences and personality traits. To imply otherwise would be a foolhardy insult. Equally undeniable, however, is that your cat is a member of the cat family, and cats share traits that make a large quantity of scratching posts satisfying for all breeds and personalities.
With that in mind, the first thing you should consider when evaluating the scratching posts on our list is the overall footprint of each unit. I've lived with cats in pretty small apartments and in big houses. In smaller places, giant, towering scratching posts become the only thing anyone sees in a living space.
Your cat is definitely a unique creature with his or her own preferences and personality traits.
If you don't want your cat ownership to imply or result in the kind of loneliness often humorously associated with so-called cat people, it's a good idea to balance the size of the scratching post you select against the size of your living space.
Once you get a sense of the appropriate size scratching post for your home, you can start to think about your cat's behavior and try to make a choice with that in mind. If your cat's a big climber, a multi-tiered scratching post might be the way to go. Be careful, though. If you've done a good job teaching this climber how to keep off of the furniture or the table tops, the freedom a tall scratching post provides might just break their training.
If you have what I like to call a "floor model" cat, one who prefers sprawling out on the ground over reigning high above it, you're probably better off with a lower-profile scratching post. Not only will it satisfy your cat's need to scratch, but it will also keep itself neatly out of the way. The one downside to these is that they don't provide your cat the opportunity to stretch and elongate their bodies in tandem with the act of scratching, which is preferable for a cat's physical and psychological experience.
Domestic Bliss; Instinctive Behavior
At least 12,000 years ago, as human beings began to develop agrarian cultures in the Fertile Crescent, the wild cat began its long, slow haul toward domestication. It was a symbiotic relationship: farmers stored grain that attracted mice; wild cats came, moved themselves in, and ate the mice.
These are carnivores, remember, and many of them still kill birds and mice in the wild.
In the wild, cats lived in the trees, sleeping in high perches and climbing all over the place. In order for them to maintain a solid grip in the bark of their natural habitat, they developed strong, sharp claws. In part to keep these claws sharp, and in part to strengthen their beds, cats naturally developed the tendency to scratch.
Even millennia later, as the more docile breeds of cat outlived and out-evolved their more feral brethren, the domesticated cat still prefers high perches. It also still feels that instinctive urge to scratch, to strengthen its claws for a climb that it'll likely never have to make.
Still, that urge to scratch, often accompanied by a slow, luxurious stretching, remains as a preparation ritual before a would-be hunt. These are carnivores, remember, and many of them still kill birds and mice in the wild. For indoor cats without the opportunity to track and kill live prey, these devices have become even more important, as carpeted surfaces and hardwood floors provide next to no natural wear on a cat's claws, allowing them to grow to uncomfortable lengths if you don't regularly whip out the cat's nail clippers, an event they don't tend to enjoy.