Cardboard Cat Scratchers Work Really Well If Used Correctly

Most cats love scratching something, and a cardboard scratching post or matt is good for your cat and saves your furniture from damage.

However, some cats need training to use a scratcher.

Start by observing the cat’s scratching habits, so you can buy the right scratcher for your cat.

If you have a cat, you have a cat that scratches. Somewhere, sometime, kitty stretches his or her claws, paws, and legs, digging into a rug, couch, curtain, or another favorite scratching object.

This article will give you information about why cardboard cat scratchers are a good choice for keeping your kitty from shredding your household furnishings.

Cardboard cat scratchers work great for most cats. I say most, because some cats prefer other scratching materials and aren’t interested in cardboard.

But a majority of felines like the feel and sound of scratching on a cardboard cat scratcher.

Other cats prefer scratchers made of rope, sisal, carpet, or wood. Many cats enjoy having a variety of scratchers in different parts of the house.

The important point before getting a cardboard cat scratcher is to pay attention to what, how, when, and where your cat likes scratching. After that, you can try different types of cat scratcher surfaces and structures until you find one your cat likes and uses.  

Here’s what to look for in your cat’s scratching habits to get the best scratching post or mat for him, her, or them.  


1. Observe whether your cat prefers scratching horizontal or vertical surfaces

Cats have personal preferences, just like their owners.

Most cats like vertical scratching posts, but not all do. Some prefer a horizontal surface. Many don’t like a scratching surface set at an angle, but others do.

Watch closely to see whether your cat seems to prefer horizontal or vertical surfaces.

If your cat mostly likes scratching on rugs and carpets, you are probably best off investing in a horizontal cardboard cat scratcher.

If your cat prefers digging into curtains, chair legs, and comforters hanging over the edge of the bed, get your kitty a vertical scratching post.

Upright post-type cat scratchers should have scratching material up to about 32 inches high, so your cat can scratch while standing on its hind legs.


2. Watch when your cat scratches

Cat owners notice that different cats scratch at different times. For example, some like scratching right after they wake up.

Others scratch as a way of communicating and marking territory, by scratching when people or other animals come into a room or when everyone is sitting around talking.

If you want to get your cat to switch from scratching your furnishings and use a cardboard cat scratcher instead, pay attention to when your cat scratches.

Then be sure to have a new cardboard scratcher available at the right time and place, and encourage them to give it a try.


3. Take note of where your cat likes to scratch

Cats often like scratching in a prominent spot, for example, in the center of a frequently used room and places where people and cats walk.

Other cats look for a preferred surface type, like the edge of a wooden step or a window sill.

If your cat likes scratching for all to see in the center of the room, be sure to put your new cardboard cat scratcher near her favorite spot.

If your cat consistently prefers certain types of surfaces, no matter where they are, look for a cat scratcher with a surface of similar density and depth and put it in a location near where your cat already scratches.

Cats sometimes get board of a scratching post being in the same place all the time. Some cat owners like to move the scratcher around from time to time to keep their kitty interested.

Many people use two or three cat scratchers in different parts of the house.


4. Match the material your cat likes to scratch

People who study cats tell us most of them prefer loosely textured surfaces for scratching. However, I have a cat that mostly likes to scratch wooden posts and boards with a fairly hard surface. Each cat is different. Get your cat a scratcher to match its preferences.

If your cat is a kitten, you will have an easier time training it to use a cardboard cat scratcher. If the kitten does not want to use a horizontal matt, get an upright post instead.


5. How to Get a Cat to Use a Cardboard Scratcher

If your cat does not seem interested in using a new scratcher, try sprinkling catnip on it to entice them.

You can also gently take one of its front paws and rub it on the scratcher. Transferring some of the cat’s scent to the scratcher can make the animal feel more comfortable and familiar with the new object.

It may take a while for your cat to start using a scratcher, so don’t be discouraged if she doesn’t use it right away. The appealing texture and height of a standing cat scratcher will likely entice your cat to give it a try sooner or later.


6. Make sure your cat scratcher is stable

One thing all cats prefer is a scratching surface that is stable and won’t fall over or move around while the they do their scratching.

Look for upright cardboard cat scratchers with a solid base or frame for holding the scratching surface steady. Stability matters most for upright scratches and less for horizontal ones.

The exception to this is cat scratching spheres and cardboard toys.

Some cats like scratching a moving target, and if so, these types of cardboard cat scratchers will keep them entertained.


7. Understanding why your cat likes scratching

Scientists have looked into why cats like to scratch cardboard and other surfaces. Cats in the wild, like lions, tigers, and bobcats also like scratching and can give us some clues on this animal behavior.

Researchers believe the main reasons cats scratch are:

  • Marking territory. Your cat may like seeing the marks it leaves behind on the leg of a chair, a rug, or a cardboard cat scratcher as a way of letting others know it’s part of her territory.
  • Greetings. Cats often scratch when they first come into the presence of other cats or humans as a way of communicating and saying hello.
  • Sharpening claws. When domestic or wild cats scratch, they clean and sharpen their claws, remove dirt and old layers from the claw surface, keeping them ready for hunting.
  • Stretching muscles. Much like humans like to stretch when they wake up, cats appear to enjoy the feeling of stretching their legs, feet, and back when they engage in scratching.

Observing your cat and understanding the reasons it likes to scratch can help you pick the best cat scratcher, place it in the optimum location, and be present at the right time to help him learn to use it.


8. Making Your Own Cardboard Cat Scratcher

If you don’t want to spend money replacing cardboard cat scratchers every time your cat shreds another one, you can make your own at home for minimal cost.

A good size for a mat-type cat scratcher is approximately 10 to 12 inches wide by 20 to 24 inches long.

Heavy, corrugated cardboard works best. The tools and supplies you need are:

  • One, approximately 24 inch by 36 inch piece of heavy, corrugated cardboard
  • Sharp razor knife
  • A 24 inch straightedge or ruler
  • Non-toxic starch glue

These are the simple steps to make it

  1. Cut the cardboard into strips about 2 inches wide and 24 inches long, using the knife and straightedge.
  2. Put a line of glue down the center of one strip, then place another strip firmly on top. Keep the glue in the center of the strips so it doesn’t run out to the edges where the cat will be scratching.
  3. Apply glue to the top of the next strip and continue until all the strips are glued together.
  4. Place the stack of glued strips on its side and put a heavy weight on it, until the glue is completely dry in about 24 hours.

After the glue is dry, you can put the mat on the floor for your cat. Turn it over once she shreds one side. Throw it away and make a new one before they shred into the glue at the center.

To keep your homemade cardboard cat scratcher tidy, you can put the mat inside a low cardboard box to help it hold together better.


9. Buying a Cardboard Cat Scratcher

Cardboard cat scratchers come in all sizes and shapes from tiny to huge and price points from bargain to exorbitant.

Some designs have interactive toys built-in, multiple levels, and scratching posts of different heights and materials.

Here are some of the more popular types of cardboard cat scratchers that might be good for your cat.

Flat cardboard mats are the most popular and economical cat scratchers. Most are about 1.5 to 2 inches thick and 10 by 20 inches in width and length.

Some commercially available mat scratchers come with a plastic or cardboard box for holding the mat together.

Cardboard cat tree scratchers don’t last forever, but you and your cat will have fun while they do.

Cat tree scratchers made from cardboard and other materials have several stories where cats can perch, lounge, and scratch.

Cat hammocks and lounges provide comfy, concave spaces for kitty to sit or lie down. But the surface of the lounging area is made from corrugated cardboard or another scratching material, providing dual-use fun for your cat.

Cat condos can be simple with a single ‘apartment’ or complex with multiple cubbies for multiple cats or one cat who likes to move around.

Cubbies provide secret hiding and napping spots – sometimes with plastic bubbles as windows for the cat to look out from.

The walls and floors of the condo units are made of scratching material.

Cardboard cat spheres look like a basketball made out of cardboard, and kitty can rip into it while chasing the ball around the house.

Wall mounted cardboard cat scratchers are a great idea if your cat likes vertical scratching, but you don’t want a free-standing scratching post taking up space on the floor.

Wall-mounted scratchers provide plenty of stability, and you can attach them to the wall at the optimum height for your cat to reach.

You can even find cardboard cat scratchers with vertical, horizontal, and angled scratching surfaces in one structure. This cat scratcher design won the Cat Fancy Editor’s Choice ‘best new product’ award in 2014.

When you buy a prefabricated cardboard cat scratcher, tree house, scratching post, or other structure be sure to check that:

  • The structure is made from non-toxic materials and ink that are safe for cats
  • The structure is sturdy enough to hold the weight of how ever many cats will use it
  • Products are made from recyclable materials and are easy to dispose of after the cat shreds them.

Many cat scratcher trees, condos, and other products come with free cat toys, bags of catnip, or other cat treats included.


10. Durability of a good cardboard cat scratcher

A good cardboard cat scratcher made of heavy-duty, corrugated cardboard can last for two years or longer, depending on how many cats are using it. Cardboard scratches made with softer types of material won’t last as long.

If you clip your cat’s claws once in a while, a cardboard cat scratcher will last longer than if the cat is trimming its own nails on the scratcher.

Many cardboard cat scratchers are reversible. So when one side gets beat up, you just flip it over, and kitty gets some more use out of the other side. This is a nice advantage of many cardboard cat scratchers.


11. Cat scratchers and a cat’s age

A survey of cat owners asking about their cat’s use of a scratcher found cats under nine years old preferred tree style and multi-level structures.

Cats over ten years old preferred vertical posts, mats, and carpets.

Almost 90 percent of respondents also said their cat used a cat scratch at least once per day, and 42 percent of people gave their cat a cardboard cat scratcher. 


Writer: Mary Innes

Read about me