Encouraging Your Cat to Use Their Post
What can you do as a cat parent to encourage your cat to scratch in the right places? What training methods can you employ? The name of the game is positive association. In a nutshell, we want to entice our cats to use their posts by making their experience enjoyable and rewarding them for good behavior afterward. Ideally, we want to be training them with positive association from a very early age. Starting training young has the benefit of having more time on our side, not having to try to ‘unlearn’ any ingrained but undesirable behaviors, and guiding them at a time when they might be more willing to listen.
Making a Post More Appealing
There are a couple tools we can use to make using a scratch post more fun for our cats. The first is catnip. If your cat enjoys it, you can sprinkle small amounts at the base and top of the scratching post. Your cat might knead her claws after eating or smelling the catnip, which will show her that the post is a perfect surface for scratching. You can also substitute catnip for treats if your cat prefers the latter, and can even encourage her to stretch up towards the top of the post before giving them to her.
Another way to make the post look appealing is through play. Using a toy that encourages your cat to reach high up the post might get her excited and in the perfect position for scratching. You can also put some of her favorite toys at the top of the post to inspire her to climb up and get them. Doing that consistently for several days can help solidify the positive connection between the post, scratching and enjoying play time.
If you’ve just bought a new post and your cat seems indifferent, consider changing the angle of the post or lying it on its side. Cats, just like us, are creatures of habit. So if they are used to scratching something that has a horizontal orientation, like the top of a sofa for example, then it might help to buy a horizontal post or tip your vertical post on its side.
Using scent products can also encourage your cat to use their post. Some synthetic feline pheromone products can be sprayed directly onto a scratching post, which will help amplify her scent, making her feel more comfortable and ‘at home’ in her own territory. Remember, cats spread their scent with glands in their front paws.
Rewarding Good Behavior
Finally, make sure to praise your cat when you see that they are using their post. This can include giving treats, petting or talking to them in a soothing voice. Whatever your cat likes, you want to build that connection in their mind between using the post and a positive outcome, which will encourage them to use it more in the future.