Maggie A's Meanderings




 Sep 1, 2015

25 Cat Rope Scratchers for Shelters

25 Cent Cat Rope Scratcher for ShelterEvery cat in a shelter should have a scratcher.

Having something to scratch is important for cats' psychological and physical health as scratching is an instinctive behavior and depriving a cat of scratching is detrimental to them.

I've come up with a scratcher that only costs 25 CENTS EACH (plus sales tax, if you aren't a sales-tax exempt non-profit).

Yes, you read that correctly. No, I'm not kidding.


That's the price if you get the sisal rope from Wal-Mart where it's $4.97 which is the cheapest I've found it. (The building supply stores like Lowe's and Home Depot charge more.) Sisal rope is the same natural rope used on cat scratchers sold in stores. The rope is available retail in different lengths and widths.

From there you have to make the scratchers yourself. But plenty of people like to do crafts. This is crafts for a very good cause.

The resulting scratchers are tough and the cats absolutely love them. I've been making and putting them out at the local shelter for a year and a half. When I hang a scratcher, there will be a curious paw reaching out for it. (Some of the bolder cats don't even wait for me to hang them, but reach through the bars to try to grab the scratcher away from me.) Now how long the rope scratchers survive depends upon how hard they're played with. Usually they last as long as the cat is there.


Part 1 -- The scratcher has just been placed in a cage

If you have problems with the embedded video, here's the direct link for Part 1:

Part 2 -- The kittens have figured out that the scratcher is a toy

If you have problems with the embedded video, here's the direct link for Part 2:

I know that there are mini-cardboard scratchers available. Just one time I saw a site offering them on special at $1.00 each. Normal prices are from $1.38 each [50 for $68.95] all the way up to $4.32 each [6 for $25.90]. The reality is that many shelters on a tight budget who get thousands of cats a year can't afford that.

My cat rope scratchers are $250 per 1000 cats.

I actually prefer my design of free-hanging rope scratchers to the mini-cardboard scratchers............

My Rope Scratcher Design:
Allows a better view into the cage. (Important if you only have small cages as people need to be able to see the cats.)
Doubles as a toy.
       The free end can be batted and swung.
       The rope can be caught and pulled up if within reach of a ledge.
       Cats can dig their claws in and tug on the rope to their hearts' content.
Really amuses people when they see the cats playing with them. (As I put them out at the shelter, I couldn't tell you how many positive comments I've gotten on them after people have seen the cats use them.)

So share this information with your local shelter or anyone you know who works with shelter cats. And if you'd like to help yourself, then instructions are below..............

Kittens playing with their brand new rope scratcher


sisal rope
SISAL ROPE - 1 coil of 100 feet by 1/4 inch 

Measuring Tape

I suggest doing this either outside or over something like an old sheet or a tablecloth as bits of the rope make a small mess.

How long it takes is up to you. I've made so many of these that working at a normal pace without trying to hurry, I can make a batch of 20 in under half an hour. Of course that depends on how much time I spend chasing the cat or getting the rope away from the cats or convincing someone to move off the pile of rope which is apparently a nice, comfy spot for a stretch. Then sometimes they decide this newly made scratcher is the exact toy they want to play with, so, of course, Momma has to play with them. That's life with cats...........if you're lucky. 


  1. Cut the coil of rope into 20 five-foot lengths. (Be sure to remove the tape on both ends of the rope.)
  2. Double one end of the rope. Wrap the rope around the doubled section until you have 6 - 10 wraps. Insert the end you've been working with through the loop at the bottom of the wraps. Tighten everything.
  3. Double the rope on the other end and tie a simple knot in the doubled rope leaving a loop. Tighten everything.
  4. To install put the loop on the inside of a bar on the cage. Pass the end with the wraps through the loop so it goes around the bar. Pull tight and push into cage.
  5. Stand back and watch the cats play.


1 OPEN package and CUT strings around rope Do not remove rope from wrapper. It's easier if you just pull the rope out as you go.
2 FIND end of rope from INSIDE of coil. REMOVE TAPE from end of rope. Don't try doing this using the end on the outside of the coil. The rope always seems to tangle.
Both ends of the rope are taped with clear tape which you'll need to remove as you don't want a cat accidentally eating it.
3 MEASURE 60 INCHES (5 feet) of rope Since I make many, many of these I have cut a piece of cord to length and use that as my measure.
4 CUT ROPE with scissors This is rope #1
5 USE ROPE #1 to MEASURE and CUT rope #2 - rope #18
6 CUT remaining rope IN HALF This is rope #19 and  #20. Depending on how precise your cutting is and if the coil is a little longer than 100 feet, you may have two extra long pieces of rope. I use them in the taller cages.
7 REMOVE TAPE at final rope end

NOTE: Make sure you always work WITH the natural direction the rope curves in
1 Measure rope MEASURE 28 INCHES from RED END of rope For your benefit, I've taped first end of the rope RED and the second end of the rope BLACK.
The RED END is going to be the rope that you'll wrap around to form the coiled wide section.
You don't do anything with BLACK END until step 11.
2 Bend the rope BEND THE ROPE at the point you measured so rope FOLDS BACK along itself This will double the rope.
3 Measure rope MEASURE 5 INCHES of DOUBLED ROPE from the point where you bent the rope
4 Start wrapping rope WRAP the rope around the doubled rope working your way back TOWARD THE BEND The bend is now forming a loop from the doubled rope. You're wrapping the rope around this loop.
5 Wrap rope Get SIX TO TEN WRAPS around doubled rope
6 Pass end through loop PASS RED END THROUGH THE LOOP at the end of the wraps Don't worry if you have a big loop leftover. You'll be getting rid of it in the next step.
7 Pull rope PULL the SECTION of rope before the wrapped section
This will make any extra loop disappear.
10 Pull in opposite directions SIMULTANEOUSLY PULL BOTH RED END and SECTION before wraps TIGHT It's important that everything be tight.
11 Measure rope MEASURE 12 INCHES from the BLACK END of the rope
12 Bend rope BEND THE ROPE at the point you measured so rope FOLD BACKS along itself This will double the rope.
13 Tie overhand knot TIE a SIMPLE KNOT in the doubled rope being sure to LEAVE A LOOP A simple knot is the basic overhand knot everyone knows. 
14 Pull knot tight TIGHTEN KNOT
15 Finished rope scratcher PULL BOTH ENDS TIGHT
16 REPEAT steps 1 -15 nineteen more times
Don't get all obsessed trying to make them identical. They're going to vary. As long as you have a heavy, wide end with the coiled wraps and a loop on the other end that's big enough for the wide end to pass through when you put it up, they're fine.

1 Pass loop behind the bar PASS the LOOP END behind a horizontal bar on the cage
2 Pass wrapped end through loop of scratcher FEED the WRAPPED END UP through the loop so the scratcher encircles the bar
3 Pull the rope scratcher up PULL UP on the WRAPPED END
4 Feed knot through loop FEED the LOOP KNOT through the LOOP
5 Pull scratcher tight PULL TIGHT
6 Installed cat rope scratcher PUSH the rope scratcher THROUGH THE BARS until it hangs free INSIDE THE CAGE
7 Kitten playing with brand new rope scratcher ENJOY watching cat play with scratcher you made

When I started going to the Escambia County animal shelter looking for my beloved Trilby Kitty, things were in pretty sad shape there. (This was under previous management. It's improved under new management.) Only kittens were kept in the nice room where they could come out to play and had a few toys. All the adult cats were kept in cramped cages and had no toys.

It was such a sad situation that I resolved to do something about it. I couldn't save them all. I couldn't make the cages bigger*. But I could make their lives better while they were in those cages. I decided I was going to make toys for those cats. And I have, thousands of them. (Which isn't easy, not just to make them but to buy the supplies as I'm unemployed and eat a lot of ramen.)

The shelter now calls me "The Cat Toy Lady."

cat playing with rope scratcher

* The shelter plans to cut portholes between cages, thus, doubling the amount of space and giving the cats separate bathroom and bedding areas. (Right now the cats sleep on a shelf over their litter boxes.) It will mean less capacity, but the new manager believes he'll be able to get cats adopted faster so it won't mean having to put more cats down because of the reduced capacity.

For more about cats, there's
"The Devotion of a Cat"
"In the Mind of a Sleeping Cat"
"Attachment in Cats Feline Versions of the Strange Situation Test"
"Cat Thinking -- The Day My Legs Turned Blue"
"His Person's Voice or A Cat Who Will Come When Called"
"The Tree and the Cat"
"Cat Heaven"
"10 Reasons Why the Best "Boyfriend" I've Ever Had Is My Cat"
"The Choice"

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