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How to Make a DIY Scratch Board for Your Cat

Cat scratch boards can do more than keep your cat off the furniture. Here are a few ideas for fun scratching boards for your cat that you can make yourself—one of them for free!

August 8, 2023 4 min read
How to Make a DIY Scratch Board for Your Cat

Along with meowing, purring, hunting, and taking naps, scratching is a fundamental part of the daily routine for every healthy cat.

Cats use their claws to communicate "This is mine!" The act of scratching with their claws or kneading with their paws also releases pheromones that they and other cats can sense, although humans can't. 

Cats use scratching as a pain free method of keeping their nails trimmed. They scratch at your furniture just to get a good stretch, with no concern that they are shredding the upholstery on your expensive furniture. They just love to scratch.

In this article, we will start with an idea for a cat scratch board at a price you are sure to find attractive—free! Well, almost free. You won't have to spend any money out of pocket for this DIY cat scratch board, as long as you have a few used cardboard boxes and duct tape.

The Cardboard Cat Scratch Board You Can Make for Free

For this DIY scratch board you will need:

  • 3 large or 5 medium-sized cardboard boxes. They need to be at least 4" wide.
  • Duct tape or masking tape.
  • Scratchy fabric or heavy paper (although you can make this scratching board without them).

You will also need a box cutter and a ruler or straightedge.

Cut the boxes into either 4" or 6" inch strips. All of the strips will need to be the same width.

Roll a strip of cardboard as tightly as you can. Attach the next strip of cardboard to it with duct tape or masking tape, and roll some more. Continue this process until you have a round roll of cardboard at least 16", but preferably 20" or 24" across. Secure the last edge with a double application of duct tape. Your new scratching board will be cylindrical, not flat, but your cat will love it!

Your cat will be happy with the cardboard scratching board if you stop there, but you can also cut a piece of cloth or heavy paper the same size as the board and glue it on top to make the board look better.

Working with Sisal for Your DIY Cat Scratch Board

Sisal is a more durable material for cat scratch boards than cardboard. Sisal is the fiber of the agave plant. It's grown in tropical countries without pesticides, herbicides, or fertilizers, and it is available as a fair trade commodity to support small farmers.

Cats love sisal rope because of its tree-like consistency. Cat owners love sisal rope because it gives cats something to scratch other than your furniture.

Sisal is available as sisal mats, sisal carpets, and sisal ropes.

There's really nothing to do to use a sisal mat. Just place the mat on the floor or over an area you want to protect. The disadvantage of sisal mats is that they are small (usually around 24" by 18") and expensive.

Sisal carpets have an interesting application. You can use them to turn a wooden box or a wicker basket into a massaging cat bed. You can simply set sisal carpets into the bottom of a wicker basket, or you can attach sisal carpet to wood with tacks or nails. Cats love sisal carpets for scratching.

Use sisal rope to make or repair climbing toys for your cats. You attach sisal rope with glue. Elmer's glue won't give you enough traction. Gorilla Glue works much better. Use 1/4" rope to repair small climbing toys or 3-3/8" rope to wrap around the base of a climbing tower.

DIY Cat Scratching Post

For this project you will need:

  • A wooden base
  • A wooden top
  • 12 feet of 2 x 4 lumber
  • Saw for cutting the 2 x 4 lumber
  • Hammer
  • Nails
  • 150 feet of 1/4" sisal rope
  • A hot glue gun and glue cartridges
  • 8 screws
  • A screw gun

If you don't have screws and a screw gun, you can use long nails and a hammer. Leftover round wooden spools make a great base and top. A home improvement center or a friendly home hobbyist may have them, and they can also sell you the dowel. You will need a larger spool for the base and a smaller spool for the top.

Cut the twelve feet of  2 x 4 lumber into two 6' pieces, or have them cut it for you at the hardware store. Nail them together, long flat side to long flat side, to make a post.

Attach the base to the post you just made with four screws or four nails. Place the base on the ground and attach the top of the scratching post with four screws or four nails. Now set the scratching post on a work table.

Nail one end of the rope to the bottom of the post. Start winding the rope tightly around the post. Make sure every turn of the rope is snug against the turn of rope beneath it. Every three or four turns, apply a squirt of hot gun glue to the side of the rope that touches the post. This way you can make sure the rope sticks to the post. Be sure to wrap the rope tightly around the post, so it is mostly friction holding the rope to the post.

At this point, you have a scratching post! You can wrap the outside of the base with some extra 1-1/2" sisal rope and outside of the top of the scratching post with some 1" sisal rope so your cat can do stretches at the base and easily climb to the top of the scratching post to take a nap. Attach the beginning and the end of the rope with more screws.

More DIY Cat Scratch Post Ideas

Looking for more ways to give your cats a new scratching toy?

  • Find a piece of fallen tree with a fork in it. Nail the larger end to a wooden base to keep it stable, and place a platform covered with sisal carpet to give your cats their own treehouse.
  • Line a basket with sisal carpet. Give your cat a place of her own for stretching, scratching, and taking naps. It’s OK just to drop the piece of carpet inside the basket, no nailing, tacking, or gluing required.
  • Don't throw out worn out scratching posts. Re-wrap them with sisal rope as described above.

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