What Is the Best Material for a Cat Scratcher?

I’m sure that many people think cats are evil masterminds. Even when they curl up in their beds as cute little furballs, they seem like they’re taking a quick rest before they start scratching and gouging your furniture again! 

The good news is, cats don’t hate your furniture. Scratching is normal behavior that cats practice to hone their claws. If you pick the right cat scratcher, you’ll effectively divert their attention to save your furniture for good. 

What is the best material for a cat scratcher? The best is sisal, as it is a very durable material and the top choice of many cat lovers. For those of you with an older cat, check out some of these scratching posts for older cats.

Let’s take a look at all the options you have for your feline friend.

*This page contains affiliate links to products I recommend. If you purchase something from this page, I may receive a small percentage of the sale at no extra cost to you.

First Things First, Why Does Your Cat Scratch?

Before speaking about the best materials for scratching, you should understand the needs of your cat. Otherwise, you could buy a perfect scratcher, only to find your cat ignoring it. 

We all know cats love to scratch, and here’s some of the materials they will gladly scratch in your home.

Our cats’ ancestors used to live in the wilderness, particularly dense rain forests. At that time, these habitats were filled with all sorts of other predators. To fend off intruders, cats had to scratch as many trees as possible, hoping that those rugged marks would convey physical superiority. 

Nowadays, our lovely domesticated cats typically don’t have the same survival needs. However, they still practice the same behavior because it’s already hardwired in their genes. 

To deliver enough satisfaction, you should pick a material that resembles tree bark. The scratcher should have a rough texture, yet it must not be too firm — your cat must be able to shred the material in order to feel that he left a clear mark. 

Best Materials for Cat Scratchers

How does every material perform against the fierce cat claws? How long will they last? Are there any drawbacks to consider? These are some of the questions that I’ll answer in this section. 

  1. Sisal Scratchers: The Ultimate Choice

I’m pretty sure that you’ve stumbled upon dozens of cat trees with sisal scratchers. Thanks to its heavy-duty nature, sisal can provide endless hours of scratching without losing its integrity. 

Scientists aren’t sure why cats prefer sisal over most of the other materials. It may have to do with the nature of the sisal plant — Agave sisalana. This plant has firm, sword-shaped leaves with a dense arrangement of fibers. Our cats’ ancestors might’ve encountered similar plants throughout their evolution journey, leaving a subconscious attraction in today’s pets.

Woven Sisal vs. Sisal rope

Brands produce two types of sisal scratchers: woven sheets and braided ropes. Although these forms are based on the same material, each of them provides a different experience.

The flat surface of woven sisal lets your cat draw his claws down the scratcher without being interrupted, mimicking the feel of natural tree bark. On the other hand, the dips between sisal ropes will inevitably disrupt the scratching movement. 

Does this mean that sisal ropes suck? Not necessarily. Sisal ropes excel in terms of versatility. You can use them to build multiple DIY scratchers around the home. You can even experiment with the rope orientation to prevent the dips from interrupting your cat’s claws. 

  1. Cardboard Scratchers: The Upcoming Protagonist

At first glance, cardboard may seem too puny to handle cats’ claws, especially when compared with the sturdier sisal, but are they really good?

But just like any paper, cardboard isn’t but a collection of wood pulp. Its soft nature reminds the cats of the softer trees and roots that their ancestors used to scratch. And because most cardboard scratchers come with corrugated textures, cats can use them to clean deeper in between their claws. 

Best of all, cardboard isn’t just beneficial for cats; it’s also helpful for the environment. Most brands make those scratchers from 100% recycled materials. This way, we can dial down on our paper waste, which comprises a whopping 25% of the overall landfill content in the US!

Are There Any Disadvantages to Cardboard?

Although the cardboard’s softness is one of its defining features, it’s also a crucial drawback. Unlike sisal, cardboard scratchers will probably lose their structural integrity in a month or two. 

As you might’ve already deduced, your cats won’t wait until you get a new scratcher. If the old one doesn’t satisfy them enough, they’ll take it out on your valuable furniture. That’s why I always recommend buying a set of three or more cardboard scratchers

If you think you can put up with the low durability, you must make sure that the cardboard you’re buying is free of chemicals, inks, and fragrances. In addition to their toxic effects, these impurities may deter your cat from using the scratcher altogether.

  1. Carpeted Scratchers: The Devil in Disguise

Carpet scratchers provide the best of both worlds: They have a heavenly softness that’s comparable to cardboard, yet the pile presents a quite hard challenge for your cat’s claws. 

Where’s the catch, you might ask? Well, your cat can’t really tell the difference between the carpet of his scratcher and the carpet of your home. If you have wall-to-wall carpeting, getting carpeted scratchers would be an absurd call. 

If you decide to opt for a carpeted scratcher, try to pick a low-pile model. The high pile doesn’t tear that easily, which will yank down your cat’s claws. 

  1. Wood Scratchers: Nature’s Choice

Sisal and cardboard scratchers are fantastic, but nothing beats natural wood. After all, that’s the material that developed the whole habit in early cat species. 

But just like carpets, wood scratchers might indirectly encourage your cats to ruin your wooden furniture. Then again, being an entirely natural product ensures the highest satisfaction without any chemical side effects. 

Vertical vs. Horizontal Scratchers 

After making up your mind on the material, you’ll be left with another tough decision — vertical vs. horizontal scratchers. 

Generally speaking, most cats seem to prefer vertical scratching posts. It’s not clear why, but scientists believe that it’s the closest thing to the trees that their ancestors used to scratch. On the other hand, horizontal pads allow for a broader scratching area — your cat can sit comfortably on the floor while swaying his paws back and forth. 

So which one should you get? If possible, get both! 

Each orientation targets specific muscle groups in your cat’s body. While standing, your cat will strengthen and stretch the muscles of the shoulders and hindlimbs. Horizontal scratching focuses more on the back muscles. 

Angle Scratchers

If you don’t have enough space for two scratchers, you can suffice by getting an angle scratcher. The moderate elevation allows cats to stretch different muscle groups in their bodies by varying their stance. Your cat may even hop onto that scratcher to focus more on their forelimbs.

The Best Cat Scratchers on the Market

In this section, I’ll review some of the unique cat scratchers of 2020. If you haven’t picked any of the products I recommended earlier, you’re guaranteed to find a suitable option here. 

Coching Cardboard Cat Scratcher: Budget Pick

Coching Cat Scratcher Cardboard Cat Scratch Pad with Premium Scratch Textures Design Durable Cat Scratching Pad Reversible
  • Unique Design: Premium scratching textures design, our cat scratching pad more closely mimics tree bark. Different touching experience makes it more irresistible for the cats. More importantly with...
  • Save Your Furniture: Satisfied cats‘ scratching instinct, bring your favorite furry friend the healthy claws, a place to release stress and great exercise. Saving your furniture and carpets from...

To enhance your cat’s comfort, Coching ditched the traditional vertical and horizontal orientation. Instead, they built this ingenious cardboard scratcher with a curved design that invites your cat to take a quick nap after a tiresome scratching session. 

Unlike most cardboard products, this scratcher features varying densities and texture. This should be ideal for fussy cats who tend to get bored easily. 

Best of all, Coching uses 100% non-toxic cardboard to build these scratchers. They even use cornstarch to make the glue that holds the cardboard sheets together. 

Pros

  • Chemical-free
  • Varying texture
  • Enhanced durability

Cons

  • Some customers reported receiving flimsy products

PetFusion 3-Sided Vertical Cat Scratching Post: Best for Multiple Cats

PetFusion 3-Sided Vertical Cat Scratching Post (Standard Size, Warm Gray). [Multiple Scratching Angles to Match Your Cat's Preference]
  • CATS LOVE IT: (I) A scratcher, play area, & SO MUCH MORE. (II) Incl premium USA organic catnip leaf. (III) Natural scratching healthy claws, great exercise, & stress reliever . . . (better overall...
  • THOUGHTFUL DESIGN: (I) Vertical based on your cat's preference or to compliment horizontal scratching; also features a cubby hole for exploration & play. (II) Curves provide numerous stretching &...

If you have more than one cat, getting a single scratch post may force them to fight with each other to mark a broader territory. The good news is, you don’t have to buy more than one scratcher. 

This state-of-the-art scratching post features three cardboard sides that can be simultaneously used by three cats. The inside surfaces are also made from cardboard to let your cat relax and scratch at the same time. 

At first glance, this scratcher might seem a bit overpriced. But the fact that it can replace three scratchers indeed makes its cost much more reasonable. 

Pros

  • Reasonably priced 
  • Compact design 
  • Sturdy, dense cardboard

Cons

  • The standard size might be too small for adult cats

PetFusion Ultimate Cat Scratcher Lounge: Best Design

PetFusion Cat Scratcher Lounge - Walnut Brown, 1 Level (PF-CL1)
  • CATS LOVE IT: A scratcher, lounge, & SO MUCH MORE (see video on left). Incl premium USA organic catnip leaf. Natural scratching = healthy claws, great exercise, & stress reliever ... (better overall...
  • THOUGHTFUL DESIGN: Curves make for easier scratching & a more comfortable place to rest & play. Naturally attracts cats. Interactive

Unfortunately, most cat scratchers don’t fit well with the style of your home. If this problem sounds familiar, you should check this scratcher from PetFusion. 

Instead of the regular shapes, this scratcher resembles the infinity symbol. The dark brown finish adds a warm touch that will complement most interior designs.

Thanks to its large, curved surface, your cat can use it as a soothing lounge after hours of feisty scratching. 

Pros

  • Unique, stylish design
  • Dense cardboard
  • Can be used by more than one cat at once

Cons

  • Expensive

The Final Word

So, what is the best material for a cat scratcher? That comes down to your cat’s preferences. If he likes rough surfaces, weaved sisal should be ideal. If he leans more toward softer surfaces, cardboard should suit him well. 

Carpeted and wood scratchers aren’t that straightforward. I wouldn’t recommend them because they can coax your cat into harassing your furniture.