So apparently being sick is bad for me, but good for the blog. Three posts in two days! Don’t expect that too often! LOL
Ever had a perfectly good scratching post that your cat has only shredded one section of? And then they stop using it, because their favourite part is toast? Or maybe your cat has completely shredded the entire thing, and the only “perfectly good” part left is the basic wood frame!
Instead of throwing the scratching post out and buying a new one, why not save yourself a bunch of money and save some space in the landfill by refurbishing your old scratching post?
Meet my cat: Ryokuu!
Ryokuu means “Early Summer Rain” in Japanese. I chose the name because we got him in early summer, his coat is the exact blue-grey of a rain cloud, and we have a family tradition of giving our cats Japanese names as part of my Oriental Obsession. We adopted him from an animal shelter (Adopt; Don’t Shop!), and he is seriously the best cat! Sweet, friendly, good with kids, and I just LOVE his seafoam green eyes!
He doesn’t seem to like carpet as a scratching material though, and that was all our scratching post had on it! Our old scratching post, that is. The actual post part had been almost completely shredded by our previous cat, leaving very little carpet and a lot of exposed wood. Not only did I feel bad about giving Ryokuu a largely non-functional scratching post, but it looked like crap, too.
Another reason to refurbish a cat post for a new pet is that cats release territory-marking pheromones from glands in their front paws when they scratch. Your new cat may feel threatened by the smell of the old one, and depending on his or her personality, may not want to use the scratching post at all, or may urinate on it to claim it as his own! Neither scenario is desirable, so. . .
Step 1: Rip all of the old material off of your scratching post.
These are the tools you will need to strip the scratching post. From left to right: Linesman Pliers (or other heavy-duty pliers), a Utility Knife, and a pair of Needle-nose Pliers. Since I was completely re-covering my cat post, I took all of the old carpet off. If you were only doing the post part, that is all you would need to strip.
(Unfortunately, I forgot to take a “Before” picture! Just imagine very cheap beige carpet on a simple Base-post-platform style of scratching post.)
I cut into the carpet with my OLFA knife. The carpet was not glued onto the wood; it was only stapled onto the underside. It was stapled very well though, and cutting the carpet into sections gave me something to hold onto with my big pliers. You probably want to wear gloves while you do this job, and you want to do it outside or in your garage or something. Those little carpet bits get EVERYWHERE, and you will probably find plenty of dust and dirt and who-knows-what hiding under the carpet layer.
Once you have cut the carpet, it will basically just be dangling in sections. Grab these sections with your heavy-duty pliers (one at a time) and yank ’em off! Some of them can be pretty tough, which is why just pulling with your hands is not sufficient. You need serious grip!
When you have pulled all of the old carpet off, go in with your needle-nose pliers and pull out all of the old staples. Make sure you keep track of where you put them, and dispose of them carefully. Wouldn’t want to step on one at a later date!
(This part took me about an hour, and was the most difficult. I was sore afterwards from all that pulling!)
Once your scratching post is bare, examine it. Is it nice and sturdy, made out of plywood and 2 x 4’s? Or is it plastic and cardboard? If the latter, then it is probably not worth re-covering. Recycle the cardboard bits, trash the plastic, and buy or build a better cat post. Mine, happily, was the former.
Time to refurbish the scratching post!
Step 2: Gather your supplies.
You will need: Rope (if your cat doesn’t like carpet for scratching), a Staple Gun, Staples that fit your Staple Gun, your Utility Knife again, a Hammer, and, of course, some Carpet (not pictured). If your cat only scratches the upright post parts of their structure, then you could use virtually any tough material for the base and platform(s). Canvas, thick denim, upholstery-weight fabrics, heavy-duty felt, etc. I wasn’t sure what Ryokuu’s scratching habits were, so I went with carpet. Conveniently, my parents had just moved into a condo and re-carpeted some of it, so I asked for any leftover scraps and got a piece that turned out to be the perfect size! I also already had the rope (pictured above) in my craft supplies box. I honestly don’t know what it’s made of, but it’s some sort of natural material. Jute, maybe? It’s been in our family for YEARS, and no one has ever used it for anything. It’s kind of rough, so if Ryokuu doesn’t like it, I may buy a spool of 3/8″ sisal rope on EBay and see if he’ll go for that. A friend of mine also saw some at Home Depot once, which would save me the shipping costs!
I really should have used 1/2″ staples for this job, but that would have required me to buy a new staple gun and staples, and I was trying to do this project “on the cheap.”
Step 3: Place your carpet piece upside-down on the floor and trace around your platform(s) with a Sharpie, allowing space for the carpet to wrap around the entire platform. I placed mine near the back because I knew that the little back piece had only to wrap around to the edge of the post. I first tested it by actually wrapping that side of the carpet around the platform to see where it would hit the post, adjusted as needed, and then traced the platform shape. The cut lines I drew afterward, and they are pretty much just guesses. You will be trimming any excess later, as you staple things down, so don’t worry too much about measuring and mapping it all out perfectly.
Step 4: Use your utility knife to cut out the carpet piece along the cut lines you have drawn.
Step 5: Wrap a piece of carpet tightly around the wood, and start stapling it down. Use lots of staples! Seriously!
This is how I dealt with that tricky little section on my platform. I did NOT have it all neatly mapped out beforehand! I just cut my carpet with some room to spare on this side, and then cut out little bits as needed. And yes, I was cutting directly on my living room floor. That’s because I hate the parquet, and we are replacing it. . . eventually. No really, we have the new flooring already bought! My husband just hasn’t had time to install it yet because he has this pesky thing called a full-time job. LOL
Just keep on working your way around the edges, stapling the carpet as you go, until. . .
Top part finished! Make sure you put some staples in the middle of any large pieces of carpet (on the bottom only), and LOTS of staples along all edges. I also put several staples on each corner of my platform, and used a hammer to pound them in properly. You don’t want your cat catching a claw in a staple, hurting himself, and then being afraid to use the very scratching post you so painstakingly restored for him!
Here is the cut carpet piece for the base of my scratching post. Note the little cut that allowed me to wrap the carpet neatly around the post. I could have unscrewed the post from the base, enabling me to just place the carpet straight onto the base, and then screwed the post back on, but that would have been WAY more work. All I had to do this way was add a few staples along the cut edge (which is at the back, in an area never touched by cats), and you can’t even see the seam!
As it turned out, I had a fair bit of extra carpet on the bottom of my scratching post base. You can’t leave it like this, because not only do the staples only go through one layer of carpet successfully, but the unevenness makes for a tippy scratching post. Your cat is not going to like that! One of the reasons that cats scratch furniture is because the furniture is so nice and sturdy; it doesn’t move when they scratch it. So get your utility knife out and trim that excess, stapling it down nicely, and make sure the bottom is nice and flat.
Much better! A teensy bit of wood is showing through, but it’s on the bottom, so who cares? That only took 1 hour, and it was surprisingly easy!
Step 6: Now it’s time to wrap the post in sisal (or other) rope. To start off, I wrapped the rope around the post once, and tied it to itself with a square knot. Square knots tend to pull themselves tighter no matter which side you tug on, so they are a good choice for this type of attachment. I also added some staples to the first couple of rows of rope, and I began at the top of the post just in case I ran out of rope close to the bottom. In my experiences with cats, they tend to stretch UP when they scratch, so it was more important that the top of the post be knot- and staple-free than the bottom.
This is actually not the first time that I’ve made a scratching post. The very first one I did was a Construction Tech. (Wood Shop) project in High School! I still have it, though it’s rather worse for wear and needs more than just basic re-covering. Maybe someday I’ll post about that, but for now, the reason I bring it up is that I used rope on that cat tree, and it did NOT turn out well. I basically just wrapped the rope around the posts by hand, using a few nails to try to hold it in place. My cat at the time had been declawed by his previous owners, so he didn’t really do anything to it, but my next cat ripped the rope to shreds in a few days! I didn’t want that to happen again, so when I set out to do this scratching post, I did some online research. I found this very detailed, helpful tutorial; where the author recommends using a hammer to “bang” each layer of rope against the previous one. This ensures a very tightly wrapped rope that can stand up to some clawing! It is helpful to flip the whole cat tree upside-down for this part, since it’s much easier to hit a hammer down on something than to twist your hand awkwardly in order to hammer up.
I followed his advice, and while it definitely made the post-wrapping part the most annoying aspect of the entire project, I agree with the author that the results are worth it. This bit took me about 45 minutes, but it sure felt like longer than that!
Just as I thought, I did run out of rope near the end. I still had some shorter pieces in my craft box though, so I tied each piece to the other with a square knot, and then stapled once on each side of the knot to help it stay put. I made sure that all of the knots were on the back side of the post, and also near the bottom, where they are highly unlikely to ever be seen or scratched.
Ta-da! The finished scratching post! It looks at least four times better than it did before, and it even looks better than it did when it was new, thanks to the higher-quality carpet. Possibly the best news of all: I did the whole project for NOTHING!! That’s right; I basically got a new cat post for free. I already had all of the tools and materials, and the whole deal only took me about 2.75 hours.
Now if only Ryokuu will scratch it instead of our doorposts. . .
*UPDATE* Ryokuu finally used the scratching post! I guess it only took a month, but he really seemed to enjoy it once he got going, and I was sure to praise him and pet him a lot. Here’s to hoping he keeps it up!
*UPDATE #2* Once he started using it regularly, he tore through that thin rope in just a couple months. Now I have to re-cover it again. Going to use thick sisal rope this time!