How Often Do Cats Use Their Scratching Post?

Updated March 28, 2023

There’s no universal answer for “how often do cats use scratching posts?” because each cat’s habits are unique.

Most cats use scratching posts several times a day to trim claws, stretch their backs, and mark territory.

But a scratching post is more than a place to trim nails. It serves as a meeting point for cats in multi-pet households and stress relief to anxious felines.

If a cat scratches everything but the post, the owner should identify the root of the problem to resolve it. Teaching a cat to use a scratching post is crucial for discipline.

However, too frequent use of a scratching post isn’t better than a refusal to use one because it may signal behavior problems that need the owner’s attention.

After Periods of Inactivity

Scratching posts serve more purposes than removing the outer claw layer. Cats also use them to stretch their backs because vertical surfaces allow for better stretching than horizontal ones.

Like us, cats stretch their backs after long periods of inactivity – for example, after a nap. Because cats spend about 16 hours of their day sleeping, they stretch their backs pretty often.

The average cat owner sees their pet stretching its back near a scratching post at least twice daily. Sometimes, cats stretch their backs when passing by for no apparent reason because it makes them feel good.

Stretching the back releases endorphins in a cat’s brain, giving it a feeling of contentment and joy. Your cat may also head to the scratching post after a long trip in a carrier.

When Stressed

Because scratching facilitates endorphin production in the feline brain, the process helps relieve stress.

Many cats use scratching in the same way as people use repetitive actions such as rotating a pen or drumming fingers on a table to switch their attention from the trigger.

Another reason scratching helps cats feel better is a sense of security. When cats scratch something, they leave behind their scent, marking the territory. As a result, they feel more secure because they have their personal space.

Distinguishing between healthy scratching and stress-induced scratching in cats can be tricky because there’s no universal scratching frequency norm.

If your cat has suddenly started using a scratching post more often, you can suspect something is wrong.

Stress in cats can be triggered by a new pet or baby in the family, changes in owner schedules, loss of a loved one, moving houses, home remodeling, noisy environments, parties, and other reasons.

Stressed cats typically have other behavioral abnormalities such as loss of appetite, hiding, excessive grooming, meowing, and aggression towards people or animals.

If your cat scratches the post non-stop, don’t ignore this new habit. Identify the root of the issue and give your cat plenty of love and physical exercise.

If you have multiple cats, provide each cat with a personal litter box, toys, and bowls to prevent them from competing for territory.

To Mark Territory

Cats have tiny pheromone glands on their paws, cheeks, forehead, and under the tail. Whenever a cat stretches its paws and shows its claws, it releases pheromones to mark the territory.

Territory marking doesn’t equal territory claiming. Cats leave information about themselves for other felines to recognize members of their social group.

By sniffing a place where another cat has left its mark, cats can understand whether the cat was intact, pregnant, nursing, or old and find out other crucial aspects.

Cats frequently rub their heads against scratching posts to leave their scent rather than because their head itches. Cats in the wild use logs to communicate with other felines.

In multi-cat households, the scratching post inevitably collects a lot of scents and becomes a meeting point. A cat that is coming to the scratching post signals other felines that it wants to interact with them.

So, cats living with other cats use scratching posts more frequently than cats living alone.

Sometimes, territorial instinct becomes problematic, and cats engage in destructive scratching, trying to leave more pheromones on the post than other felines in the house.

When Playing

A scratching post is a perfect playing environment for kittens and older cats. Felines love jumping and climbing, especially when they play with each other.

Since most owners discourage their cats from jumping on shelves but don’t mind them jumping on the scratching post, the latter becomes the favorite game spot.

Many cats climb on scratching posts when zooming around the room or running away from their peers. Others use the post to get toys out of their reach.

In multi-cat households, cats use scratching posts to express their willingness to play and tease each other.

When Their Claws Need Trimming

The primary purpose of a scratching post is to keep cat claws healthy. The urge to scratch something is engrained in every feline, and the instinct is so strong that even declawed cats will use a scratching post.

Contrary to a popular misconception, a scratching post doesn’t dull cat nails and doesn’t substitute clippers. However, what a scratching post does to cat claws largely depends on its material.

As a rule of thumb, soft surfaces sharpen cat claws, and rough surfaces dull them. But most importantly, scratching posts help remove the old claw layer concealing the new, healthy nail.

The outer layer of a cat’s claw is made from keratinized dead cells that shed like a snakeskin. Scratching helps a cat get rid of the dead claw layer quicker.

Most cats scratch the post multiple times daily to keep their claws healthy. However, even with frequent scratching, a cat’s claws remain sharp and can harm someone or damage the interior.

Create a claw trimming schedule to prevent your cat from shredding curtains or ruining your silk blouse. Cut the claw tips every couple of weeks to keep them from growing too long.

Why Does My Cat Barely Use the Scratching Post?

If your cat refuses to use the scratching post or uses it occasionally, the first step is identifying the cause. Some scratching posts aren’t stable enough for cats. In the wild, felines scratch claws against trees that don’t move.

However, many cheap scratching posts are shaky because they don’t have a heavy enough base, and some can even tip over when cats jump on them.

For this reason, furniture may seem more appealing to your pet – it’s tall, heavy, and stable. Choose a scratching post with a heavy bottom to give your cat a sense of security.

Some cats only like a particular type of scratching posts, either vertical or horizontal. The best cat scratching post should have both vertical and horizontal scratching surfaces to appeal to every kitty.

The scratching post material also matters. The most widespread materials are carpet, sisal rope, and cardboard. Like humans, cats may have unique preferences and not find certain materials attractive.

If your cat scratches the carpet, get a scratching post with a carpeted surface because your pet is already used to the texture. Or, if your cat scratches something rough, get a post covered in sisal rope.

Basic scratching posts may not seem fun enough to cats, so posts with toys, elevations, or large cat trees with scratching areas are a better choice, especially for young and playful felines. The more a scratching post resembles a tree, the better.

Some cats need to be encouraged to use the post. They may use the post occasionally but continue scratching furniture. If that’s your cat’s case, reward your pet with a treat or favorite toy every time it uses the scratching post.

Don’t scold your cat for scratching furniture. Your cat won’t understand it was punished for damaging furniture but will avoid scratching anything in your presence, including the post.

Sometimes, the problem lies in the scratching post’s placement. Put the scratching post close to your cat’s favorite clawing spot. If your cat has formed a habit of scratching the couch, place the post nearby.

You won’t convince a cat to use a scratching post in a different room, but you may be able to move it eventually after your pet changes its habit.

Cats often use scratching posts as watch posts, so find a spot from which your cat can see in all directions. Ensure that the area is high traffic.

Cats prefer prominent spots in the house where they can watch everything happening. If you tuck the post into a dark corner in the basement, your cat will pick a better spot.

Many cats love hanging out with people. If your cat is extraverted, pick a spot close to you, for example, in the living room. Or, if your cat loves watching birds through the window, place the post near the window.

Why Does My Cat Use the Scratching Post So Often?

A cat using a scratching post too often is no lesser cause for concern than a cat not using the post.

If your cat has suddenly started spending more time clawing the post, ensure that it doesn’t suffer from anxiety or stress.

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