A scratching post is an excellent purchase for both your cat's health and your general level of sanity. Cats with a good scratching post will use the post to condition their claws, rather than doors and furniture, especially if you introduce your cat to a scratching post early. Scratching posts come in all types of configurations, from plain poles mounted on sturdy bases to cat trees which allow your cat to climb, explore, and rest.
One of the most important things to think about when you buy a scratching post is what it is made from. If you're having a problem with a cat who scratches furniture or the carpeting, for example, you want to avoid a scratching post made from upholstery material or carpeting. Many cats like hemp or sisal scratching posts, since they provide a great scratching material and they crackle pleasantly when scratched. Scratching posts can also be made from cardboard or wood.
Size is also important. Ideally, a scratching post should be long or tall enough for a cat to stretch his or her entire length along it, which can be an issue in small houses or homes with limited space. Some scratching posts are designed to slip over doorknobs or fit in corners, which makes them suitable for homes with limited placement opportunities. In all cases, the scratching post should be sturdy enough that it will not tip or fall while the cat is using it. Look for a heavy scratching post with a broad base, or consider using a scratching post which lies along the floor.
If you have more space, a scratching post with extra features like a cat tower can be nice. Many companies make scratching posts which are bundled with nesting boxes and structures to climb, which can keep your cat fit and entertained. Often, a cat tree will also include various toys to stimulate your cat's imagination, ranging from squeaky mice to fake birds. A cat tower may also include material with different textures, which can be enjoyable for your cat.
When you first bring a scratching post home, you cat may not initially be excited about it. Put the scratching post near the cat's sleeping or lounging area to begin with, and make sure to praise the cat when he or she uses the scratching post. You can also entice the cat with catnip or treats, and you may want to cover inappropriate scratching areas like furniture with heavy plastic for a few days, to encourage the cat to use the scratching post. Once your cat gets used to it, you can move the scratching post to a convenient location. Make sure to replace it as the materials are worn away.