Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Cats on the furniture: Why do they like your beds better than cat beds?

Maggie the cat sleeping on a chair in my office

By my count, there are 9 cat beds in this house. This afternoon, not one cat bed had a cat in it. Instead, the cats were all cuddled up in my chairs.

Let me be clear: The cat beds are all padded, clean and comfortable. They are all in cozy and draft-free spots in the house. And the cats have used them before. But in general, the cats just seem to prefer the human seating arrangements.

No matter how I try, I can't convince the cats to give their own beds the majority of their attention. Maggie is the worst offender. She's so bad, in fact, that we must keep the bedroom door closed or she will spend the entire day sleeping on my pillow (and I'll spend all night wheezing).

So what's the solution?

It's possible that cats sleep in these spots because they like the way a favorite human smells. Sleeping in a person's sitting spot is a way to stay connected to that person, even when the person is gone. You can help with that by lining pet beds with old shirts or laundry. That scent might linger, and you could help the cats to stay connected while in their own beds.

Also, some cats sleep in human spots because humans keep them warm. These cats will leap into your chair as soon as you get up, so they can suck up some of the warmth your body has left behind when you stand. These cats might love a heating pad or a warm bed. That way, they can stay in it all the time without fighting you for it.

But in general, keeping ALL cats off the furniture at ALL times just isn't realistic. Cats want what they want, and sometimes, that means they want your spots.

There are things you can do to make it tolerable. I place towels or blankets on the favorite furniture, so I can remove those coverings when guests arrive. No one likes to leave a visit covered in foreign pet hair, after all. I also vacuum the furniture frequently, so pet dander doesn't accumulate in the furniture. As a rule, it's hard to get pet dander out of thick cushions (like mattresses and pillows), so it's best to keep cats out of the bedroom if you have allergies.

Many cat owners complain that their cats use the furniture to sharpen their claws. I think all cat owners have dealt with this problem from time to time. The answer, for my cats, is to give them more stimulation. When I moved from a small condo with no view to a large house with a squirrel-infested backyard, the scratching ceased. I also trim my cats' nails regularly. When their nails are short, they're less likely to feel inclined to sharpen.

Would I like my cats to sleep in their own beds? Of course. But if I share and they share, it's not so bad.