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How to Teach Your Newly Adopted Cat Where to Scratch

You must teach your newly adopted cat where to scratch.

Whether you are adopting a kitten or an older cat, your main goals when you bring him home will be to make sure he knows he's loved, give him lots of mental and physical exercise, and teach him the rules of your home. Among those rules are where to scratch.

Don't assume that your newly adopted cat won't scratch your furniture, carpet, or doorframes. In fact, it's best if you make the assumption that your cat doesn't know that it's inappropriate to scratch those areas; be proactive about teaching him.

First, Provide a Good Scratching Spot

Cats scratch to exercise, mark territory, and relieve stress. However, they also have certain criteria that must be met for a good place to scratch. It needs to make a good sound, feel nice and smooth to scratch, be placed in a prominent area of the home, and be good and sturdy.

Sisal fabric and heavy corrugated cardboard are among the best scratching substrates for cats. These surfaces don't grab a cat's claws and pull on them like carpet and sisal rope can, and they are satisfying to scratch.

PurrfectPost.com offers high-quality sisal fabric-covered posts that are handmade in the USA individually. They are extremely sturdy, with double-thick bases so the posts won't wobble and fall over if a cat scratches at them aggressively. They come in beautiful colors and are built to last.

Before you bring your new cat home, you should have one or two good scratching posts already set up. That way, your cat will immediately have an appropriate scratching surface ready. Don't wait until he starts using your sofa to get him a post.

Show Your Cat Where to Scratch

When you bring your new cat home, you will need to show him where his food and water bowls are, how to find his litter box, and where the scratching posts are. If he immediately begins scratching the posts, that might be all you need to do. If he doesn't seem interested or doesn't appear to know what to do with the posts, you can use one or more of the following techniques to show him.

  • Lie the post on its side and apply catnip spray, leaves, or honeysuckle. This may entice your kitty to explore it and find out that it's a lot of fun to sink his claws into. Note: catnip won't work for a young kitten.
  • Use a wand toy to get your cat's interest, then trail it over the post so your cat will attack its end and, in the process, end up with his claws in the post.
  • Place a favorite toy on top of the post and see if your cat will climb up to get it.

It's probably best not to grab your cat's paws and run them along the scratching post. Many cats tend to object to being manhandled that way.

Be sure to give your cat praise and maybe even a treat when he shows interest in the post, to encourage him to continue to explore it.

What to Do If Your Cat Scratches the Wrong Spot

If your new cat should start scratching somewhere that you don't want him to, you'll need to make his chosen scratching surface unattractive to him. If you can, cover it with a heavy blanket, use double-sided tape or foil on it, or spray it with citrus spray to deter your cat from scratching it. Then, double down on your efforts to get your cat interested in the proper scratching surface, as described above.

You can also use Feliway to help train your cat where to scratch. Use the spray on any areas that he scratches inappropriately. Do not spray scratching posts with Feliway, only spots you do not want your cat to scratch. You may also use Feliway diffusers throughout your home to promote calm feelings and decrease stress scratching. This is a great way to help ease anxiety for a newly adopted cat.

Also, be sure that you're spending enough time playing with wand toys and throw toys with your cat to get out some of his pent-up energy in a positive way. If you have multiple cats, be sure you have enough scratching posts because sometimes one cat will keep another from using a certain post.

Never yell at or hit your cat for scratching in the wrong spot. That is scary, mystifying, and stressful to a cat, and it can actually lead to increased inappropriate scratching as your cat tries to deal with the anxiety it causes. Remember, scratching is natural for cats, and your new cat doesn't know that the sofa isn't an appropriate spot to scratch. You need to teach him that by using deterrents when necessary and plenty of positive reinforcement for scratching the right things.

You May Also Like These Articles:

5 Signs You're Ready for a New Cat

Cat Training: When Deterrents Are Necessary

Multiple Cat Households Have Special Cat Scratching Post Needs

Disclaimer: This website is not intended to replace professional consultation, diagnosis, or treatment by a licensed veterinarian. If you require any veterinary related advice, contact your veterinarian promptly. Information at CatScratching.com is exclusively of a general reference nature. Do not disregard veterinary advice or delay treatment as a result of accessing information at this site.