Save your furniture and buy a cat scratcher for your favorite household member. Scratching for cats helps groom their nails and mark their territory with scent. We tested eight popular cat scratchers to see which stood up to the test with six cats and their humans.
If you’re on a budget, the Coching – Scratching Pad is a reinforced corrugated cardboard that doesn’t wear down as quickly as other cardboard pads. On the flip side, if you’re looking for a modern-looking scratcher, we recommend the stylish Fukumaru – Activity Tree, made of jute and wooden materials.
We’ve been cat owners for several years and are always around cats and cat parents. Just like products for humans, we consistently buy and test new variations of cat accessories to find the best-designed and most durable items for our favorite family members.
While we understand each cat is different, we have access to test items on several cats of different breeds, sizes, and demeanors so we can find the best accessories, like cat scratchers. In the past, we’ve tested automatic litter boxes (like the Litter-Robot 4), cat toys, cat trees, nail clippers, litter mats, and even cat food. When it comes to our pets, we go above and beyond with our testing requirements to make sure we pick the best items.
Most cats have textural preferences for their scratching surfaces. Scratchers are often made of corrugated cardboard, sisal rope, woven sisal, jute, or polyester carpet. Sisal rope or woven sisal are often the most popular because the rough texture allows the cat’s claws to grip the material during scratching and helps with grooming. Sisal is also extremely durable and long-lasting.
Carpet (often polyester carpet) is the softest material, but the woven texture still allows cats to grip the fabric and scratch. This material doesn’t last as long as sisal. Corrugated cardboard can also mimic a softer, bark-like texture for cats who prefer a different material. It’s also important to mention that cardboard (whether cheap or reinforced corrugated cardboard) disintegrates into smaller pieces and is often messier than other fabrics.
Build quality and durability
While corrugated cardboard falls apart quicker than sisal or carpet, remember that all scratchers are meant to be used and will break down eventually. However, buying from reputable brands known for their build quality is still important. Scratchers with reinforced corrugated cardboard, like from the brand Coching, won’t disintegrate as quickly as cheaper cardboard designs.
We love the height for vertical scratching posts because it gives cats room to scratch and stretch on instinct. But you must also have sturdy and heavy bases to prevent cats from toppling the scratcher. We also prefer posts to be glued and stapled securely to prevent cats from hurting themselves.
Shape & size
Cat scratchers come in many varieties, like vertical posts or horizontal scratchers. We suggest choosing a scratcher that allows your cat to scratch and stretch in their natural preference. For example, if your cat tends to scratch a couch while standing on their hind legs, we suggest buying a vertical scratching post.
Scratchers come in many affordable prices, but sometimes these prices can dictate the material used or the design of each scratcher. We found cheaper scratchers tend to be made of cardboard or have less durable builds than more expensive scratchers. Modern designs like the scratchers from Fukumaru were often more expensive.
Other features you should consider are extra toys that help entice cats to use the scratchers more than your expensive furniture. Some scratchers are made for multiple cat households because they offer more posts or different scratching areas. If your cat loves being in high places, it’s also useful to have scratchers with platforms or different levels to sit on top of to entice them to use the scratchers.
How we selected
We picked a variety of materials like woven sisal, sisal rope, jute, cardboard, and carpet in horizontal and vertical scratcher designs all under $50. Many of these scratchers are from popular brands, and we also received recommendations from other cat parents. In total, we tested eight different types of scratchers to see how they would fare against our five resident cats.
How we tested
In the span of three months, we analyzed each scratcher in three categories: ease of assembly, durability, and design. We tested these scratchers with the help of six cat testers:
Gob: Ginger cats are known to be playful and aloof, and Gob is no different. This five-year-old kitty loves to snuggle as much as he likes to get his wiggles out by chasing or scratching vertical posts. He’s currently 12 pounds and measures 19 inches.
Kit Kat: Our 11-year-old senior cat is also our biggest kitty at 18 pounds and measures __ inches. He loves to give the biggest stretches on vertical posts and is always on the hunt for scratchers tall and sturdy enough for his stature.
Jelly Bean: Our tiniest cat, Jelly Bean dwarfs her brother Kit Kat at eight pounds and __ inches in length. She’s five years old and prefers cardboard scratchers for her delicate little paws.
Marshmellow: As an ex-street cat, Marshmellow now spends the day looking forward to her next meal, kicking scratching posts, and sleeping on cat trees. She’s five years old and 15 inches long.
Mizuki: This six-year-old grey calico is 12 pounds and measures about 20 inches long. She loves a good treat and typically loves scratching on vertical posts or cardboard scratchers.
Mikasa: Two-year-old Mikasa is also a grey calico like her older sister Mizuki and is 10 pounds and 18 inches long. She’s a little bit more reserved but also loves cardboard scratchers.
Ease of assembly
During assembly, we paid attention to how detailed the instructions were to follow if the scratchers came with any tools to make assembly easier, and how fast it took to put them together. The smoother the assembly process, the closer they ranked out of 10 per category.
We ranked all the scratchers out of 10 in three categories: material choice, stability, and if it can be repaired. Materials like sisal and jute scored higher than corrugated cardboard because they are stronger materials and have less tendency to disintegrate within a couple of months of testing. We ranked its score lower during testing if a scratcher moved or tilted over. We noted if repairing scratchers were easy or possible. Some materials like cardboard couldn’t be repaired because they disintegrated, but sisal rope or jute can be replaced easily, and they ranked higher.
Scratchers are necessary for many cats, but that doesn’t mean they have to be ugly. We ranked the design of each scratcher on three specifics: aesthetics, size of the scratching area, and extra features like toys or platforms. Aesthetics include offering different colors, sizes, and overall design. The more of these characteristics each scratcher has, the higher they scored out of 10. Scratchers also scored higher if they had a larger-sized scratching area because it allowed cats to scratch from more areas and lasted longer. Extra features like toys that enticed cats to scratch more or platforms were scored higher out of 10.
SmartCat - Ultimate Scratching Post
The SmartCat – Ultimate Scratching Post is our favorite because of its durability, stable base, large scratching surfaces, and extra high platform for our cats to perch. Made up of woven sisal material and hardwood, this 32-inch tall scratcher is our tallest and heaviest post. It’s also the most expensive coming at just under $50.
Assembly for the SmartCat was fairly easy and fast. The post came already assembled, and you just needed to attach it to the wooden base with two screws. We liked that it also included tips on introducing your cat to the scratcher at the bottom of the base.Read more…
Our resident cat testers loved scratching on the woven sisal on this tower. The stability of the wooden base performed perfectly. Even our biggest boy, Kit Kat (18 pounds), couldn’t tip over the scratcher during his grooming periods. After several weeks of testing, the SmartCat hardly frayed, even with three cats constantly using the posts to scratch.
The only issue we saw with the SmartCat was that it would be difficult to repair, and the company doesn’t sell any repair kits, so you would need to either replace the sisal carpet yourself or buy a new tower. However, we can safely assume that this scratcher is our most durable and lasts longer than other scratchers we’ve tested. That means you are most likely paying a premium upfront price but get a longer-lasting and durable scratcher.
MECOOL - Scratching Post
Our cats also liked using the MECOOL – Scratching Post because of its tall vertical size and extra rough sisal rope. Our tester Gob prefers scratching on sisal rope (as opposed to the woven sisal on the PetMaker), and he frequently likes the taller post to stretch and scratch. Gob also prefers soft fabrics to scritch his face and body on, and we like that the base and toys are made up of plush fabric.
One issue with this scratcher is that the base isn’t completely stable if the cat scratches too high. If Gob is too excited during playtime and scratches the post too quickly, it tends to move or slightly tip without falling over. We’ve solved this issue by placing the scratcher over an immovable rug to help it stabilize during playtime, but if you’ve got a bigger cat that likes to climb, this scratcher may not be for your household.Read more…
This is a great scratcher for most cats that like to groom their claws on rougher textures like sisal rope. At under $30, this is an average-priced scratcher in different sizes and colors. Its easy assembly makes it even more enticing. We also like that the sisal rope lets us easily repair the scratcher as it wears down.
Coching - Cardboard Scratch Pad
We liked the Coching – Cardboard Scratch Pad for our kitties that preferred cardboard because of its reinforced corrugated cardboard that didn’t wear down as quickly and it also worked great as a cat bed. This pad is a good option if your cat also likes to scratch horizontally.
What makes Coching different from other brands is that it’s made of reinforced corrugated cardboard. This material means it can take a beating (or a clawing) from cats without wearing down as quickly as cheaper cardboard brands we’ve tried. Composed of recycled cardboard, it’s more environmentally friendly–something we approve of while searching for new accessories.Read more…
Each scratch pad has two sides, so you can elongate the life of this scratcher by simply turning it over. Our cat testers, Jelly Bean and Marshmellow loved using this scratcher and sleeping on it during breaks. It’s a two-in-one accessory! It’s best to place this scratcher on a rug or carpeted surface to prevent it from moving during scratching.
This scratcher needs no assembly; all you have to do is open it from plastic packaging. The Coching also comes in several shapes, sizes, and patterns to fit in style with many different homes. If you’re on a budget, the $14 Coching – Cardboard Scratch Pad is a good choice because it doesn’t break the bank and still offers a sturdy surface area or even just a new bed for your cat to lie on.
Fukumaru - Activity Tree
For cat parents who love modern furniture, we recommend the Fukumaru – Activity Tree. This cat scratcher offers a sleek and minimalist design of jute and wood. If your cat is a climber, you can buy more Fukumaru wall accessories to make a jungle gym for your kitties.
The Fukumaru – Activity Tree was our only cat scratcher that required a power tool because you needed to screw it into your wall. We liked that it came with clear, detailed instructions and most tools, including a drill bit and drywall anchors. It took a little bit more time to set up, but it’s very sturdy and doesn’t move.Read more…
One issue we see is that the extra platform in the middle of the cat scratcher is quite small for most cats at six inches wide. We can see how adding other accessories and items from the activity wall would be helpful for the cat to use the platform, but by itself, it doesn’t offer much stability to stand on.
At just under $40, this is one of our more expensive cat scratchers, and we wouldn’t necessarily suggest this unless you plan on buying other accessories to make a cat wall. However, its sleek and modern design helps create a fun space for your cat and doesn’t create an eyesore.
PETMAKER - Cat Scratcher Post
If you’ve got multiple cats or kittens, the Petmaker – Cat Scratcher Post is a great option because it’s made up of three sisal rope scratching posts and a woven carpeted top and a bottom for perching. There are also plenty of toys connected to the platform to entice cats to scratch and play.
We like that the Petmaker is both a scratcher and a small cat tree. Our tester Gob frequently stretches and scratches on the various posts and then climbs on top for a better view of his bird friends through a window. This platform is stable enough that it doesn’t move when 12-pound Gob jumps straight to the platform from the ground and sleeps on the top for hours.Read more…
Assembly was simple, but it took a moment to line up the holes on the base and platform. It comes with all the tools and screws necessary with easy instructions. At a little over $40, this is one of our more expensive scratchers, but we like this item’s versatility and multi-cat opportunities. It comes in two colors (brown or gray), and its compact size makes it great for smaller houses or apartments.
Fukumaru - 3-Sided Vertical Cat Scratching Post
If you’re looking for a modern-designed cardboard scratcher, the Fukumaru – 3-Sided Vertical Cat Scratching Post is another stylish option. This scratcher includes three corrugated cardboard pads with wood panels for stability that are screwed together to make a pyramid shape.
Fukumaru does a great job designing cat accessories with instructions that are easy to follow and comes with all the tools you need to assemble. It took longer than the other scratchers to assemble, and you needed to properly align the holes before screwing the plastic screws into the cardboard.Read more…
While we liked that the center of the scratcher could also be used as a bed or place for cats to hide, we wished it was heavier to stabilize the scratcher. We found that our cats, who typically preferred cardboard scratchers, didn’t like when the scratcher moved while in use. Once you placed it on a carpet, it prevented a majority of unwanted movement.
SmartyKat - Scratch Up Cardboard
In theory, the SmartyKat – Scratch Up Cardboard sounded great because it allows you to increase the height of an 18-inch cardboard pad to the height of a doorknob. However, after placing it on several doorknobs, it was simply too high to use and moved around frequently when we tried to entice the cats to use the pad.
While the cardboard on the SmaryKat was also reinforced and corrugated, many of our cat testers didn’t like how high it was to use (or unstable on the doorknob) and left it untouched. Even our cats that loved to scratch vertical cardboard pads, Mizuki and Mikasa, didn’t bother stretching up to scratch the new cardboard surface. We eventually removed the cardboard and placed it on the floor, which also was unenticing.Read more…
Our testers assumed this was due to the smaller scratching area and lack of space for the cat to grip the cardboard properly. At $5, this was our cheapest model; however, we wouldn’t repurchase this because it’s too small and unstable.
Catinsider - Cactus Cat Scratching Post
We were so excited to try the Catinsider – Cactus Cat Scratching Post because it was so cute, and we liked a similar design of cactus cat trees by PAWZ. However, we quickly realized that the quality of the Catinsider was not the same caliber as our previous cactus tree.
We noticed that the staples connecting the green sisal rope along the posts were visible, and the rope was already fraying. The cactus’s top portion was also bent, making the design look like a sad cactus. After assembly, we realized that the short string connecting the toy to the scratcher was also shorter than our other cat trees and scratchers–making the toy less enticing because it couldn’t move around too much during playtime.Read more…
As much as we didn’t like the quality and design of this scratcher, our cat testers did enjoy stretching and using this item. However, after a few weeks, we noticed the sisal rope wear down and slump at the bottom. During rough scratching, we also noticed that it tended to tip slightly like the MeCool scratcher–even though it was a lot shorter in height.
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Bryan Vu, Editor
Bryan is our cooking and kitchen expert, with more than 15 years of experience of cooking and testing kitchen products. When outside of the kitchen, he enjoys woodworking, photography, videography and figuring out how to live a more eco-friendly lifestyle. He thoroughly enjoys discovering the best, whether it’s ingredients or equipment, and finding products that can stand the rigors of daily use.