Charles Petzold

Typical Cat Behavior

May 26, 2006
Roscoe, NY

Cats scratch the furniture. It’s a simple fact of life and there’s not much you can do about it unless you have their claws yanked out (a shockingly common practice in years gone by).

I’m not sure what instinctual urge causes cats to scratch the furniture, but I have my own little theory. I believe that cats are trying to get inside the furniture. And I have evidence.

After we got a new sofa for my apartment several years ago, the cats started in on one particular corner in the back, and then one day after a couple years of hard and consistent work, they finally broke through. They tore a hole in the room-sofa continuum through which they could pass unimpeded.

Hole in Sofa

This gaping hole in the back of our sofa is not something we’re proud of. But we have cats, so what are you going to do?

Initially, both cats explored the inside. Vera, the small black cat, wasn’t very interested, but for Noodles, the 18-pound tabby, it became a second home. He spends several hours a day inside the sofa. Of course, he doesn’t do much in there except sleep. He’s a cat.

It will forever be one of the great mysteries of cat psychology why a cat would be comforted in the interior of a sofa but experience total panic inside a carrier designed specifically for transporting cats. We don’t take the cats with us when we go to Deirdre’s house in the Catskills for the weekend, but we take the cats for longer visits. In recent years that’s been the month of December and summers. Two round trips a year.

Neither cat likes to travel, but Noodles is particularly opposed to the concept, and when he gets the cat-carrier vibe, into the comfort of the sofa he bolts and no amount of coaxing can get him out. The car’s parked at a meter outside the apartment, our stuff’s piled on a cart outside the door, and we’re making kissy noises and going “Noodles, Noodles, please come out. I want to hug you.” But he’s too smart to believe that.

In past years, we’ve employed a brute force method to get him out. Deirdre stands guard with the cat carrier at the hole while I get at the other end of the sofa and lift — literally shaking the cat out of the sofa.

We have a better way now. Obviously the sofa’s already totally ruined, so we took a box cutter to the back and cut a couple long vertical slits. And now when it’s time to go, we just reach in and gently pull him from his protective womb.