Cats love to scratch. But did you know that they actually need to scratch? It's a cat's equivalent of a nail clipper. As their claws grow, they need to scratch not so much to sharpen them, as to remove the outer, dead layer of the claw. Imagine how you'd feel if you couldn't cut your nails for six months, and you'll understand how frustrated your cat feels when you won't let him scratch.
In nature, of course, there are plenty of trees with lovely rough bark for a cat to claw at. In your apartment, there are door frames, sofas, and curtains, which also look appealing to a cat, but which you'd probably rather keep safe from feline claws. Providing a good scratching post can help your cat keep his nails trim while preventing him from ripping up your upholstery.
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We looked at a wide variety of cat scratchers, from simple cardboard wedges to beautifully designed large wooden towers, trees and sisal pieces. Cardboard has the advantage of being recyclable once your cats have finally trashed it, and some of the scratchers are made out of recycled materials, too. The best cat scratchers are large enough for a cat to stretch out fully, and have material that doesn't trap a cat's claws and doesn't fall out all over the floor. Many of the higher priced scratchers also double as cat perches, and some have cat toys included to make them into multi-use cat furniture.
There's a lot of choice out there. There are some great products, and there are also some rather poor ones. Design is often an issue, and some of the lower range cardboard products are overpriced and shed far too much cardboard over your floor. We had to evaluate quite a few products to find the right ones.
But succeed we did, as we’re about to showcase the five best cat scratching posts you can buy:
Pet Fusion's Ultimate Cat Scratcher Lounge is a huge figure-of-eight loop of recycled cardboard, with matte black sides, that provides both a scratcher and a place for cats to sleep. It uses recycled cardboard which is tougher than many competitors' products, and should last a year of active use, since it doesn't shred as easily as other cardboard scratchers.
There's a huge scratching area, and the cat can choose between a lot of different scratching positions, too. The open design gives two 'tunnels' to intrigue your cats, and the curved top is a favourite lounging place for many fur babies. At 34 inches long, this is a big scratcher, and it's also reversible - in fact even if cats tip it over on its side, they can still use it. The hole in the middle also lets you attach it to a table leg with rope if you want to stop it moving about.
This is definitely the best for big and heavy cats, and at around $50 is not expensive for what you get. It also comes with a packet of catnip to get your cats interested.
This good looking and sturdy scratching post is another designer option. The SmartCat Ultimate Scratching Post is a square scratching post on a square wood base, made with sisal on all four sides. The post is wide, and 32" high, so even large cats like Rag Dolls can stretch their full length while having a scratch - good cat yoga! It's sturdy, and won't tip over even when used by the big guys, and some users have found it will last up to three years before the sisal gets scratched up.
The design is classic, and will go with any kind of décor while looking elegant and in place, though the top and bottom panels could be in a nicer colour than the rather off-putting brown.
The Ultimate Scratching Post costs $40-50 - not the absolute cheapest scratching post you can get, but still relatively inexpensive. The vendor also appears responsive to customer problems. It's fair to note that a few cats don't get on with it, and the sisal is quite hard and could catch a cat's claws in it, so this is not a good buy if your cat has sensitive paws.
The Go Pet Club Cat Tree is a shining example of how to make cat furniture properly. Go Pet Club have produced a multi purpose cat tree that provides the perfect opportunity for your cat to engage in all of the activities that are so important for growth and healthy development.
Available in a variety of great colors, this cat tree features several well constructed platforms, each with their own unique feature set which are sure to keep your cat entertained.
Furthermore, this cat tree features a variety of different materials including a luxurious fur lined hide hole and several places for your cat to exercise their claws.
Go Pet Club's Cat Tree offers exceptional value for money and is just the right size for most homes. It might not be the most fancy cat condo on the market but it makes for a fantastic choice for many cat owners.
The problem with many commonly available cat scratching posts is that they're, frankly, years behind in interior design concepts. They may look great to your cat, but will they fit with your Alvar Aalto furniture or your collection of Andy Warhol prints? Lurid turquoise and purple is not everyone's idea of a great colour scheme!
Frontpet's futuristic design comes to your rescue. It's a sophisticated looking design with clean lines and elegant balance, providing multiple perches and scratching areas. Unlike most scratchers, this one will keep going for ever - it uses carpet squares which are attached with Velcro and can be removed for cleaning, or replaced. The big platforms let cats stretch out to their full length, and the tree is robust enough for cats that like to play rough. It includes two water bowls at the bottom as well.
The 'tree' comes in raw, unfinished wood, so you can oil it or paint it to suit your décor. Although it might not look like an easy-build product, it's actually quite easy to put together, though it does need two people - one to hold pieces while the other fastens them.
Customer reviews are almost all positive - cats love to sleep on the shelves as well as scratch. Just a few users have found it can be a little wobbly, because of its height; putting it in a corner helps support this scratching post. And this is an expensive option, at well over $200. Worth it, perhaps, if you want to protect your collection of Eames lounge chairs.
The Pawaboo Cat Scratcher Lounge is a cat scratcher that doubles as a 'cat house' - an open-sided box with scratching fabric inside as well as outside. It can be used horizontally or vertically, and it's great for multiple cat families as one cat can scratch inside while the other has a good claw at the outside of the box. It's a neat design with two little portholes, one each side, and rounded corners, and it could fit under a desk or table. It actually looks a little bit 1960s retro, which is fun.
It's made out of corrugated cardboard, but the cardboard is quite thick and durable. (That also means postage is a lot cheaper than with a solid scratcher.) It will slide about a bit when the cats are having fun, though. And the 'flame' accent on the side is a bit tasteless, at least according to one customer's cats who decided to rip it off and chew it up.
The package also includes catnip, which is a nice touch. At under $50 this isn't a snip, but it's a good scratcher that's versatile and fun for your cats.
GoPet's scratcher is our budget option at around $20. It's a recycled cardboard wedge, with two available scratching sides, so it can be turned over to spread the damage. The design includes two holes to stimulate your cat's curiosity and encourage it to play as well as scratch.
Because it's wedge-shaped, the scratching surface is slanted, giving your cat a more natural and easier stretch than with flat scratchers. Cardboard also has the advantage that unlike sisal, it can't catch your cat's claws. The package includes catnip as well as a bell ball that can be put in the little recesses in the scratcher to turn it into a cat toy, making it a really versatile little object.
The drawback is that the bits of cardboard get ripped off, so this isn't a great buy for people who like their houses clean and tidy at all times. The cardboard this scratcher is made of doesn't seem to be as robust as with the higher priced products, so it gets ripped up more easily - this scratcher will last a good few months, but it won't last years. It's light, and tends to move around a bit when the cat is using it (it could be worth fixing it to a surface with double sided tape), and it's a bit small for larger cats - though kittens will go mad over it.
And the winner is .... the Pet Fusion Ultimate Scratcher Lounge. We loved all the others, but this one is brilliant. The design would fit anywhere, while the different scratching areas and curvy cat lounging make it a really flexible product that your cats can use in many different ways.
Price-wise, it's around average for a cat scratcher but seems nicer than many, and the cardboard is heavy duty, tending to get chewed up less than some of the cheaper cardboard scratchers. Plus, it's made from recycled cardboard, so you're doing your bit for sustainability and the environment when you buy it.
If you're in the market for a cat condo, we wholeheartedly recommend taking a look at Go Pet Club's Cat Tree for a cost-effective place for your cat to hang out.
Whichever cat scratcher you decide to buy, whether a traditional cat tower, tree or otherwise, your cat may ignore it at first. It's very easy to attract a recalcitrant cat, though - try catnip, sprinkled or sprayed on to the scratcher, or use a feather teaser to get your cat in the right mood to use the scratcher.