Meet My (Fur) Babies & Check Out our DIY Scratching Post

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Somebody drew attention to the fact that I have a cat picture on the homepage of my blog, and have shared cat pictures in my previous post (a meatloaf recipe), but never explained or introduced my cats to you guys.

So here goes.

Prepare for a fun post about cats, and little tutorial for a making a scratching post (since I didn’t want to give you guys a completely impractical post). It doesn’t really have anything to do homesteading…

Well, actually I think cats have a lot to do with “home” part of homesteading, but that’s just me.

Meet Shadow

Our cat Shadow dressed up in a Christmas hat and mittens.
Shadow, all dressed up for Christmas! He didn’t enjoy this, but we sure enjoyed watching him get the clothing off.

Shadow is a 16 year old black long-haired kitty, and he is the sweetest kitty I’ve ever seen in my life. My husband got him for a birthday present when he was in the 4th grade. Shadow has seen many other cats come and go, many houses moved in and out of, and many home renovation projects begun and completed. We like to refer to our house as his “retirement home” although honestly….he has to endure new kitties and home renovations projects here too!

Shadow, sleeping on a Christmas throw
Shadow’s long black fur is beautiful in person, but it can make taking photos of him challenging. Here, he stands out against a Christmas throw.

Shads is in excellent health for an old boy, and although he sleeps a lot and needs some help with grooming these days (his fur tends to mat…), he is still spry and full of energy! He loves to play with little mouse toys, and his favorite treat is roast chicken. Even though he’s my husband’s kitty, he has completely fallen in love with me and sits on my lap every night before I go to bed. Oftentimes, he’ll get so excited about being petted, that he’ll start making little “ow” meowing noises and burrowing his head into my arm.

Our cat Shadow, sitting on top of a lunchbox.
Shadow, sitting on top of my husband’s lunch box, showing the world how handsome he is.

He’s good. In fact, he’s so good that the only “bad” thing he has ever done is crush my Christmas cactus…and he just sat on it in order to see out the window. Ever since we made him a little perch in the same window, he’s left every single plant alone. You can even tell him to “get down” from a counter or table, and he’ll go with no protest. How many cats listen that well?!?

Meet Hestia

Our cat Hestia, sleeping in the linen closet
This little girl likes to get her fur on as much clean laundry as possible – even that involves sleeping in the linen closet!

Hestia (or Hess for short) is our 2-year-old little rotten-butt kitty. My husband and I got her when she was 9 months old. We were looking for a companion to stimulate Shadow while we were away at work, and fell in love with Hess the minutes we picked her up – she put her paws on our faces and purred. So of course, we brought her home.

We-ell, she is a sweet little thing, and she likes to sleep with us. She still purrs whenever you pick her up, and paws at your face. In fact, you can do pretty much anything to her, and she will purr. But she’s also a little butt! She is a food obsessed kitty, and it is a constant battle to keep her away from the trash, grease jar, table, fridge, stove, and anywhere else there might be food. We’ve come a long way in her training…and in our ability to lock things up that she might get into!

Hess, sleeping after her surgery with a Cone of Shame.
“Conehead girl” after her surgery. Hess loves to play with laundry while I am folding it, and I think that was her intention here…although the she was so sleepy from the anesthetic that mostly just slept on it!

Her little food obsession was actually a really big problem a few months ago, when she ate a Nerf dart and got a little plastic piece stuck in her stomach. We ended up having to take her in for surgery to have it extracted, and she had to wear a cone for two weeks. We’ve since learned that she sees “foam” as “food” for some unknown reason.

 

Out cat Hestia, playing in an empty box from a bushel of apples.

Hess got in this box voluntarily, and thoroughly enjoyed playing with anything that came near the opening.

 

 

Despite her rottenness, we love Hess dearly. She is full of energy, and we play with her every day. We’ve also figured out two different ways to call her. First, we make a kissing noise whenever we feed the cats, so if we kiss, she’ll come running to us. This has been useful a couple of times when she has gotten outside. We made up a different call to call her when we want to pet her or play with her. Surprisingly, she actually will usually come when we call.

DIY Scratching Post

Our DIY scratching post - the finished product.
Here is our scratching post. This is an old picture and wasn’t taken for a blog, so please forgive the poor lighting and random sweatshirts on the chair! You can see the cat carrier we brought Hess home in, in the background.

Shadow was de-clawed before my husband’s family adopted him, so we didn’t have to worry about our furniture getting scratched up by him. We didn’t want to declaw Hess though, because declawing can damage a kitty’s paws and be super painful. Since cat stuff is STUPID expensive at the store, and often of poor quality, we decided to build her a scratching post instead of buying one.

Materials:

  • Square piece of plywood. We just used a scrap from the garage
  • 4×4 post, cut to the height you want. You can use a scrap piece if you have one; we didn’t and bought one at Menards.
  • Sisal twine (find this at any hardware store or buy it here). You want a very rough surface for the cats to scratch. Buy more than you think you’ll need – it takes a surprising amount to cover a post and you can always return any unopened packages.
  • Carpet. We used a scrap we had kicking around that was leftover from carpeting a bedroom, but you can also buy scraps for a discounted price at your local hardware or big box store, like Home Depot.
  • Staples & Staple Gun
  • Some screws.

Directions:

This is such a simple project, that these directions are (by necessity) a little vague. We build our post out of scrap materials, and I would encourage you to do the same thing if you can, so adjust the directions as needed to fit your materials.

  1. Cut your post to the desired height. You want it to be tall enough for your cat to stand on her hind legs and stretch her front paws up to her full height.
  2. Cover the base with carpet. Cut a square of carpet that is a bit bigger than the base, so you have overhang on all four sides. Staple the carpet to the underside of the base. The entire top of the base should be covered, but the bottom of the base should be bare wood in the center. Make sure the base is large enough/heavy enough to prevent the post from tipping (we erred on the side of making the base gigantic, and the cats love to sit on it, so bonus!).
  3. Screw the post to the plywood base. Make sure you drill pilot holes before sinking the screws to keep the wood from splitting!
  4. Wrap the sisal twine around the post, keeping the twine taut. Throw a couple of staples in to secure the twine to the post every 4-6 inches, or when keeping it taut becomes unmanageable. Make sure to sink plenty of staples at the beginning and end of the piece of twine, to keep it from unraveling and to prevent a gap between the carpeted base and first row of sisal. We made sure to keep all of our staples on one side of the post – that way, the staples can be “hidden” from view by turning the post so the staples are showing on the ‘wall side’.

That’s it! It’s super easy, and you can adapt it to your supplies and your home. The project cost us about $40…kind of. We needed a 4×4 post for another project, so we bought one WAY larger than we needed and of better quality than you realistically need for a cat scratching post. We also overbought sisal twine, because we intend to the build the cats a cat house at some point, wrapping the legs with twine. The scratching posts in the store cost $40-60, but ours was nicer and larger.

Our Scratching Post Design

You may be wondering why we made the post so big – doesn’t it take up a lot of space? Aren’t a lot of the posts in the pet store small and covered in carpet? Wouldn’t that be cheaper and easier to make?

Yes to all of the above.

However!

We REALLY didn’t want Hess to scratch our furniture. Cats scratching furniture can be a really big battle for a lot of cat owners, and my husband and I are both at work all day – it would be very hard to deter her from the couch.

The solution, according to cat experts, is to provide the cat with a scratching post that is better than your couch. And better than your drapes, chair, bed, and rugs.

  • Height: Like I mentioned before, the post should be tall enough for the cat to stretch to her full height. Anything shorter, and she might prefer the sofa.
  • Material: It needs to be a rough material to work as a scratching post. if the material is softer than your couch (i.e. if the material is carpet), the cat may prefer your furniture. Sisal twine is perfect.
  • Location: Scratching is one way that a cat marks her territory. If the scratching post is tucked into a lonely corner, chances are she won’t want to use it nearly as much as she wants to use the chair in the middle of the living room.

Some cats will use the $20, 12″ high, carpeted posts…but we didn’t want to risk it, because many of them won’t. We just bit the bullet, made the big, nice scratching post, and plopped it down in the middle of our living room. Is it pretty? No. Does it match our decor? Not really, though the sisal doesn’t seem too out of place in our rustic-decorated home. Someday we might re-carpet it to better match the room, but then again, we might not, because…I just don’t care if it matches…

But you know what? Hestia loves it. And the only time she’s EVER scratched our couch was when we had the post stuffed in a back bedroom for a few days while we painted the living room – and I can’t really blame her for that.

Both of our cats, sleeping on the kitchen table.
We love our fur babes!

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