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You absolutely can teach your cat to not use your furniture as a scratching post — but before we delve into the specifics of how to change your cat’s behavior, let’s start by talking about why he may be doing this in the first place.
Since cats often scratch to shed their outer nail sheaths, regular nail trims might help reduce the scratching. But there could be something more serious going on: Retreating beneath the sofa could indicate that your cat isn’t feeling well, either physically or emotionally. A cat who is fearful, anxious or stressed may take shelter under a couch or bed to escape an upsetting situation — for example, a new baby or new pet in the home. And cats will often mask pain or illness, so your cat may be hiding, because he’s sick or injured.
In either case, the first step in dealing with the behavior is to schedule a visit to the veterinarian to determine if your cat is suffering from an undiagnosed medical condition, is in some type of physical discomfort, or if he’s anxious or stressed about something in his environment. Your vet may also refer you to a veterinary behaviorist for extra help as needed.
Once your cat has a clean bill of health, you can start to address the behavior. The goal is to redirect your cat’s scratching away from the furniture to something more cat friendly, like a designated scratching post.
Cats will frequently scratch furniture, because they lack acceptable replacement activities and spaces that suit their tastes. Teaching your feline to stay clear of the furniture will require providing cat-specific spaces that are more desirable than the area under your couch.
Create resting and play spaces that cater to your cat’s preferences, including spaces where he can sleep, hide and survey his surroundings. Burrow beds, tunnels, cat trees — especially those with covered areas and den spaces — allow your cat to watch the action in your home — or escape from it, if needed. Tunnels and boxes also provide spaces to play or just chill. Your cat’s crate or carrier can also serve as a quiet resting place when he wants to be alone.
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