Your cat is going under the couch because he is nervous or because, for reasons best known to himself, he finds the space utterly fascinating. The solution depends on the reason, so now is the time to play amateur cat psychologist.
Determine why the cat is going under the couch. If the cat is new to your home, the reason is most likely anxiety. This normally will pass with time, so just be patient. Avoid startling your new pet with loud noises and definitely don’t chase him or try to pull him from his hiding place. If he has always done this, he might find the enclosed space comforting, so provide an alternative. If the cat is otherwise confident and friendly, he’s probably just exploring. You can either leave him to it or try a combination of techniques that encourage him to find something else to do.
Position a large cat carrier or puppy crate with mostly dark sides in a corner of the room, if you think your cat is nervous. Open the door and place some of his bedding inside. Alternatively, if the cat is not new and likes you, place some old, preferably unwashed sweaters of your own inside. This makes a dark, enclosed space that smells comforting, providing an excellent alternative to beneath the couch.
Make fascinating places to explore from repurposed cardboard boxes, if you think your cat is just curious. Cut cat-size holes in the sides and place catnip toys or shredded newspapers in one or more of the boxes. Move the boxes and change the toys each day.
Spend more quality time with your cat, regardless of his motivation. Insecure cats will feel more comfortable if you pet them a lot. Let him come to you first though. Playing with a fishing-rod toy made from string, a cane and possibly a small toy tied to the end of the string tends to be a lot more fun for a playful cat than trying to locate imaginary mice below the couch. Doing these also has the effect of rewarding him for not going under your furniture.
Block his entrance, if the accumulating fur is really annoying you or there is something dangerous under there, such as electrical cables. Fill the space with something else, for example storage containers, file boxes or large books that you never read. He can’t go below the couch if there is no space for him.
- If you have adopted a rescue, make sure he is using the alternative hiding place before you block his entrance to below the couch or other furniture, unless there is a hazard. He may have experienced abuse or other trauma or just not be used to indoor living. He very much needs a safe, secure place to hide. Tell other members of your household that he is not to be disturbed at all when he is in the carrier or crate.
- It is normal for many cats to want to find shelter either when they are new to the household or when a major change occurs. If the cat is new, you’ve just moved house or have acquired a new pet, your cat might well spend a fair bit of time under the furniture. But if your cat continues to show signs of anxiety, make an appointment with your vet, especially if the signs are new but there has been no change in your household. Anxiety can be a symptom of a physical illness or a permanent psychological condition. In either case, you can avail yourself of treatments.
Judith Willson has been writing since 2009, specializing in environmental and scientific topics. She has written content for school websites and worked for a Glasgow newspaper. Willson has a Master of Arts in English from the University of Aberdeen, Scotland.