Cats’ nails do not grow the same way as dogs. Most dogs’ nails grow out like ours do. They continue to lengthen until you cut them back or they wear them down naturally while walking around. Cats have retractable nails, so they won’t wear down from walking. Cats also need their nails to remain sharp at all times, since in the wild they need them for hunting and climbing trees to escape predators. To maintain their sharpness, cats’ nails grow in layers. When a cat is sharpening his claws, what he is actually doing is removing the old outer layer.
Cats have a natural instinct to sharpen their claws. If they are not given something they are allowed to sharpen them on, then they have no choice but to use something you’d rather they not sharpen them on, such as your sofa.
Not all sharpening posts, or cat trees, are created equally though. First, the tree should be tall enough for the cat to reach up and stretch out full length on. Also, it should be stable enough that if the cat hangs all of its weight on it, it won’t tip over. There are a variety of materials as well. Many cats have a preference for natural wood or sisal rope on their cat trees. Cats often like carpet as well, but try not to get a cat tree that has material similar to your furniture.
The easiest way to teach your cat to use its cat tree or post is to have it waiting for your new cat when you bring them home. The tree should be in a room where your cat will spend a lot of time. A cat tree with platforms where kitty can rest will make it even more attractive as cats like vertical space. You can have dangling toys on the tree to attract your kitty, or sprinkle catnip on it. If you catch your cat clawing something you don’t want it to, try gently picking it up and taking it to its tree. If there’s a particular piece of furniture your cat seems to be attracted to, try to make it less inviting. A couple of easy ways to do this are by placing double sided tape on the area the cat is scratching or spraying it with some type of citrus smelling spray, since cats tend to dislike that odor.
With time and patience on your part, most cats will learn to use and love their cat tree and watching them play on it can be entertaining for you as well.