Your cat’s scratching post, if you bought the right kind, may eventually get very worn out and ragged looking from years of use. If the post has been well-loved by your cat, it’s probably the ugliest object in your home right now. You might be thinking it’s time to treat your cat to a brand new one. While that is a wonderful idea, don’t be a rush to toss out the old post when you bring home the new one. Here’s why.
Scratching Serves Multiple Functions
Scratching isn’t solely about conditioning the cat’s nails. A cat’s relationship to a scratching post is more complex than that. Scratching is also a marking behavior. When a cat rakes her nails down the post, she leaves a visual mark. Since cats don’t like to have physical confrontations, the ability to see a mark from a distance is valuable because it may prevent a face-to-face encounter. When scratching, an olfactory mark is left as well through scent glands in the paw pads.
The visual and olfactory marks left on a scratching post aren’t just to let other cats know whose territory they have entered. Those marks are a comforting reminder to the cat who did the scratching that she’s on familiar turf.
Scratching is also used as a way to stretch out muscles. Being able to lean her weight against the post and fully stretch out her back and shoulder muscles is very beneficial. Additionally, a scratching post is used for emotional release. The cat may go to the scratching post when excited, unsure, or in anticipation of something (for example, when dinner is being prepped). The cat takes comfort in knowing the post she goes to is familiar and contains her own scents.
Security vs. Anxiety
If you buy a brand new post and toss out the old one, it can be very unsettling. The cat goes over to the post, expecting everything to be familiar but this strange new post smells nothing like what she is used to. Instead of this new post being a thoughtful gift, it becomes a source of anxiety. Cats take great comfort in familiarity.
The New Post
When you bring home a new post, place it near the old one and let the two co-exist there until the cat has happily accepted the new one. If the old post has a particular type of covering, such as sisal, make sure the new post has similar material. If you want to offer a different type of material or style of scratching object, such as a corrugated cardboard scratcher, then consider that as a bonus one and not a replacement. To increase the appeal of the new post, rub it with some dried catnip, or conduct an interactive play session near the post to entice your cat to dig her nails into it.
You may not like the look of the old post but your cat has gotten it just to the condition she finds most comfortable. Isn’t it better that the scratching post be scratched and well-used, rather than your sofa or chairs?
Replacing a worn-out scratching post may be very needed, but it should never be a sudden process. As with just about everything in a cat’s world, changes done gradually are much more successful.
Certified Cat Behavior Consultant & Best-Selling Author
Pam Johnson-Bennett is a certified cat behavior consultant and best-selling author of 8 books on cat behavior. She starred in the Animal Planet series Psycho Kitty, seen in Canada and the UK. She was a vice president of the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants and founded their cat division. She has served on an advisory board for the American Humane Association as well as other animal welfare organizations.
Pam is considered a pioneer in the field of cat behavior consulting, having started her career in 1982. Some of her books have been used as textbooks for behavior courses and she has influenced many practicing in the field today. Her book, Think Like a Cat, has been referred to as the cat bible.
Pam owns Cat Behavior Associates, located in Tennessee. She lives with her husband, two children, a rescued cat, and a rescued dog.