“In 20 years of behavior counseling we have never had a destructive scratching problem we couldn’t solve completely. In fact, our counselors agree that it is the easiest of all behavior problems to solve,” say the feline behavior counselors at Cats International, an educational organization dedicated to helping people better understand and appreciate their cats.

If, at this very moment, your cat is shredding the arms of your sofa, you may find this hard to believe. But it’s true. All you have to do is accept that cats must scratch and that you must give them an appropriate piece of furniture to satisfy that feline requirement. Of course, what seems appropriate to you might not seem appropriate to your cat.

When it comes to selecting the right scratching post, it helps to understand why cats scratch. One reason is to get a good stretch. They anchor their front claws at the top of the post and then curve their spine downward. Cats are long animals, so even little cats need tall scratching posts. Most inexpensive scratching posts are simply too short for most cats. A minimum height for a post your cat will like more than the sofa is 32 inches.

A tall post needs a wide base to keep it from wobbling or falling over. If your cat’s scratching post wobbles, why would she use it –especially when the sofa doesn’t wobble. When you’re looking at scratching posts in the store, try the push test: If you push on the post and it wobbles, the base is not sturdy enough. For the same reason, scratching posts that hang on a doorknob are usually not feline favorites.

Cats also scratch to maintain their claws. Feline claws grow in layers, and when the inner layers grow, the outer layers must be pulled off. So the scratching post must be wrapped in something rough that your cat can really sink her claws into. Many cats prefer a scratching post wrapped with rope or a rough, scratchy fiber called sisal. Some even like a post made of hard wood, like a tree trunk. Many scratching posts are covered with carpeting, and that’s just not rough enough for a cat to get a really good manicure.

There are also some cats who like to scratch horizontally. Most pet supply stores sell horizontal scratching pads wrapped in rope or made of corrugated cardboard for cats with that preference.

Finally, cats scratch to mark their territory. But the only territory worth marking is the territory the cat hangs out in. If you place a scratching post in the closet, bathroom, basement or any other peripheral location, your cat will still have the need to mark something closer to the center of her world — like the sofa.

While the perfect feline scratching post is generally not cheap, it is cheaper than recovering your couch. And if you still have problems, contact the behavior counselors at Cats International at (262) 375-8852 or visit the website.