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If there’s one thing new cat parents learn pretty quickly is that felines possess an instinctual need to scratch sh*t up. If you don’t indulge this primal need — by way of strategically placed scratching posts and pads, cat trees, towers, and toys — they may turn their claws on your couch. You may think that removing scratching posts from your home will suppress said need. Out of sight, out of mind, right? Wrong. This can actually backfire, cause cat anxiety, and lead to more destructive behaviors. Ugh.
Your cat isn’t trying to destroy your furniture, trust us. In addition to trimming their own nails and getting a good stretch in, scratching is a healthy expression of emotion — rather, a range of emotions from excitement to stress. It’s also a way in which they mark their territory, as they release pheromones through their pads. (Trimming your cat’s nails is an important part of their grooming routine, but won’t save your furniture or curb their need to claw.) So we asked veterinarian and The Wildest Collective member, Dr. John Iovino, to weigh in on the best cat scratchers of 2022.
Btw, our editors (and their pets) picked out these products. They’re always in stock at the time we publish, but there’s a chance they’ll sell out. If you do buy through our links, we may earn a commission. (We’ve got a lot of toys to buy over here, you know?)
If you’ve ever wondered why your cat can’t get enough of your wicker chair or cool woven lampshade, you’ve just encountered a new level of shredding behavior that sisal introduces. Though it seems to be a universally beloved texture, “specific materials for cat scratchers will usually depend on a cat’s own preference,” suggests Dr. Iovino. “It seems most cats will gravitate towards carpeting but not the fluffer kind necessarily.”
The most important reason to invest in a scratcher for your cat, aside from the fact that it brings them joy and might help fill space in the corner you haven’t known what to do with since you moved in, is that it’s good for the health of your feline. Overgrown nails may puncture your cat’s paw pads leading to ingrown nails, sores, and infection. You also have to be careful of the materials on the scratchers your cat is using to dull their nails. “If cats start to get their claws stuck in a material, it may turn them off to that texture, and if they get their claws caught, it may cause damage to the nail,” Dr. Iovino advises. “Bark and cardboard have also been good textures that a lot of cats seem to like.”
Cat scratchers come in all shapes and sizes, but experts agree that height is the most important feature to consider. “The best example of a good cat scratcher would be a tree,” says Dr. Iovino. “It’s tall enough to allow cats to stretch their full bodies. It’s heavy, sturdy, and won’t move while cats forcefully scratch to sharpen their nails and mark their territory. Lastly, it has a rough texture helping to remove the outer portions of the nail to help them sharpen.”
Sometimes we’re lucky enough to encounter a pet product that our cats gravitate towards and isn’t a total eyesore. Meyou Paris’s cactus shaped scratching post is one such item. Made of woven rope, this desert-inspired vertical scratcher is the perfect way to accessorize your home and engage your cat’s clawing instincts. Plus, its scratching surface can be easily replaced by placing a fresh Vegas attachment over its steel base. It’s sustainable, aesthetically pleasing, and as functional as they come. Hey, when it works, it works.
Other key factors to keep in mind for reliable cat scratchers are those that are durable and provide an interesting texture for cats. “Heavy furniture, carpeting, and other furnishings are appealing to cats since they provide those necessary functions for scratching,” Dr. Iovino says. However, if your cat confuses your rug or favorite pillow for their favorite scratching post, he recommends “keeping the cat scratcher near the furniture.”
If you’re shy of space, “it’s helpful to have a scratcher that’s going to be more vertical than horizontal,” says Dr. Iovino. “One of the cat scratchers I’ve seen commonly used is one made of cardboard, and it can either be mounted to a wall or left flat on the ground. Cats seem to really like the texture, they’re inexpensive, and they can stand on it using their own weight to provide that stability they look for when they scratch.” This can also be helpful for those on a budget, as cardboard is less prohibitive of cost than some other cat scratchers, but fair warning: it may not last as long.
Perhaps you have a cat on your hands who just can’t seem to get with the concept of scratching their designated post over your poor piling sofa. Have no fear: Dr. Iovino has a suggestion that could just be the game changer your cat needs to reprogram their internal clock. “It’s been known that cats will scratch after a nap, and so having that scratching post near an area they sleep the most can be helpful to create a good habit of where to scratch,” he says. “Once you feel like you’ve been able to get a cat to use the scratching post frequently, then you can slowly start to move it around to a more desired area if needed.”
One important thing to look out for when purchasing a new cat scratcher is stability. “I would say that with cat scratchers, finding one, or producing one that is durable and will last a long time would be ideal,” says Dr. Iovino. “Cats will always need to scratch for good claw maintenance and marking their territory, and I find that some cats just don’t react well to a lot of change, so keeping with the same scratcher avoids these issues hopefully.” Not only does it create less stress for your feline to have their personal furniture coming and going, but it’s also a lot less wasteful monetarily and environmentally.
Just remember, as long as your cat’s scratcher meets the proper criteria for their physical health and mental wellness, there’s no reason you can’t have fun adorning both your spaces with visually pleasing objects. “As long as it has the appropriate stability, the length for them to stretch, and it’s their preferred texture, then from there it would be a matter of personal space, and an aesthetic choice for the pet parent,” Dr. Iovino advises. Here we come, mid-century modern cat furniture!
Ready for a DIY? If you’re interested in carpentry, Dr. Iovino suggests turning this into a building opportunity. “Using a heavy, wood base that is then covered in your cat’s preferred material can be easy to put together for an appropriate scratcher. From there, the complexity, and creativity would depend on each situation.” We’re more likely to opt for the less involved alternative, but it’s certainly an option.
Avery is an editor at The Wildest. She has written for numerous publications, including Refinery29, BuzzFeed, and V Magazine. She lives in Brooklyn, New York with her fiancé and cat, Chicken, and has high hopes that one of them will let her adopt a dog.