Constructing an attractive cat tree?
April 28, 2006 4:56 PM   Subscribe

Catfilter - I'm looking into constructing a cat tree (well, a scratching tree) and I wonder if there are any secret recipe to make my cat scratch the tree only (Indoor cat, scratching walls since 1994).

I can't blame the cat for scratching the walls if I do not provide fun stuff to scratch to it... But should I just trust the cat's 6th sense to find interesting things to scratch? Thanks.
posted by Bio11 to Pets & Animals (13 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Catnip! Get One of these, put catnip on it and it will be like a Republican senator at an oil company dinner.
posted by TheRaven at 5:04 PM on April 28, 2006

Best answer: If your scratching tree includes having a thick hemp rope wound around the posts then add some dried catnip (roll the rope in the catnip before attatching it). Some cats aren't affected by or attracted by catnip so if your cat isn't then get hold of some Feliway which will make the post smell like your cat. As your cat likes to scratch wallpaper (often a big territorial activity) you could cover some of the scratching post with wallpaper!. Putting some Feliway on the places in your home where you cat rips up the wallpaper might reduce the ripping too.

The herb Valerian, is a big attractant for most cats. If you can stand the initial stink, then rub some of this on the tree as well. Valerian contains similar scent molecules to that emitted by feline anal glands. Luckily it fades to human noses pretty quickly.

Encourage your cat to use the tree by playing with him/her there, give treats as a reward during play. Attach dangly things to make the tree interesting. It might be a good idea to place the tree right infront of the bits of wall your cat likes scratching most.

Don't be disheartened if your cat treats the tree with utter disdain at first, they usually take a while to get used to new things, especially if they get the impression they are 'supposed' to be using them ;)
posted by Arqa at 5:14 PM on April 28, 2006

I made a tree with some success, but my cat never gave up scratching the sofa too. I think the problem was that she likes to hang out with me, but my ugly tree was stashed in the corner and I'm hanging out on the sofa.

Try greeting your cat on the tree as soon as you get home. Mine got used to that, and would always be waiting for me there when she heard me come in. Pretending to scratch it myself also got my cat interested. Spend a lot of feline social time on tree-related activities. My cat's favorite is fetch: I put her favorite toy on a tree platform, which she immediately bats off, and I chase after it. Hours of fun.
posted by hydrophonic at 5:55 PM on April 28, 2006

If the cat is scratching something other than the tree, I pretend (or not, as the case may be) to be angry, take him to the tree, and glide his paws over it the way he scratches, then instantly stop pretending be angry and be pleased and reward him (even though I was making him make the motions)

He gets the message - that he's not supposed to scratch things that aren't the tree, so it generally works, but cats, like dogs and children, will be aware that when you're not around, the rule is unlikely to be enforced, and so sometimes lapse, so it's not 100%, but it does seem to let them know that they're meant to use the tree alone.
posted by -harlequin- at 6:00 PM on April 28, 2006

Best answer: I wrapped the posts of my homemade cat tree with sisal twine and my cat scratches this surface exclusively, and without any training. To keep it wrapped tightly I had to nail the twine down every few revolutions. Like Arqa said, it definitely takes time for cats to use these things.
posted by istewart at 6:35 PM on April 28, 2006

Response by poster: Thanks to all for your answers.

I'll build my contraption tomorrow. I'm planning to drill holes in a 2x2 piece of pine wood, fill them with catnip, and then wrap tightly some hemp rope around.
Mixed with some "best practices" training, I hope it will do the trick. If not, I'll dig a bit further with feliway.
posted by Bio11 at 7:19 PM on April 28, 2006

When my family made a homemade scratching post, we used carpet remnants rather than sisal. One benefit is that catnip can be sprinkled in the tiny gap between the carpet and the 2"x4". This is especially handy because catnip loses potency and needs to be renewed every so often.

If you just introduce the post, the cat won't necessarily go for it. Or maybe it will, but it'll also keep scratching other stuff. Does your cat go for toys dangling on the end of string? If so, play with it for awhile when you introduce it -- dangle the toy or the end of the string right above the top of the post, so the cat will have to run up the post to bat at the toy.
posted by booksandlibretti at 8:08 PM on April 28, 2006

If you really want the cat to use your new construction make it look like a couch or easy chair. Make it look like something that you don't want the cat to scratch. Then place it so that you can just barely see it out of the corner of your eye when you have finally settled in to watch some TV. (in other words just far enough away so that the cat will think he is gonna get away with it) Guaranteed the cat will use it.
posted by Gungho at 6:06 AM on April 29, 2006

Um, crucial bit here. Absolutely no staples. Cat claws will get caught in them eventually and you will have a bloody mess and an angry cat. Don't ask me how I know this.
posted by bilabial at 6:41 AM on April 29, 2006

One thing to add: Cats often want their primary scratching place to be near their primary sleeping place.
posted by winston at 7:51 AM on April 29, 2006

My sister and i each built cat trees based off of this site and they worked out wonderfully. We used the bottom left design. My two cats love the tree, and use it for all their clawing needs. The posts have sisal rope wrapped around them which is where the cats do their scratching. It's quite big, and might be overkill for what you want, but i had fun making it and it works well for me and my cats.
posted by escher at 11:54 AM on April 29, 2006

We have one of the predecessors to this design, with deeper, almost semicircular beds at home and the cats spend much of their time in it. My grandmother also has one, which her cat loves. One thing you'll notice is that the poles are bare wood. This can get slightly messy, as splinters end up on the floor, but it's not too bad, and the cats really like the wood and scratch it very heavily. If you're building something like this yourself, don't use treated wood, of course. Our cats seem to much prefer the bare wood to the small part of the tree that has a hemp rope wound around the pole.

Our old scratching post used carpet remnants, and that also seemed to work pretty well. Again, be prepared to replace the carpet every few years and deal with bits of carpet fluff on the floor around the post.
posted by musicinmybrain at 1:08 PM on April 29, 2006

I've heard from several cat owners that sisal rope should be used for the scratching areas, rather than carpet. If your home has carpet, cats may think ALL carpet is ok to scratch--this may not be the case for your kitty, but I'm not sure I would want to find out.

I would suggest rope around the lower areas (legs, or trunks of the whole thing) and keeping the carpet to the "hang out" or napping areas up top.

Good luck!
posted by dael at 7:09 PM on June 20, 2006

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