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Cats love to scratch and more importantly, they seem to love to scratch everywhere we don't want them to! Keeping a cat from scratching a box spring may be tough, but it's not that different than deterring your cat from scratching the furniture. One important thing to remember is that scratching is a natural behavior for cats, so while you can encourage your cat to scratch in an appropriate spot, it's not something you can stop them from doing completely.
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Why do cats scratch?
Cats scratch for a variety of reasons. It is a natural instinct that can be controlled but not removed completely. Cats scratch because it stretches the muscles of the legs and spine, which is both anatomically necessary and feels good for the cat. Cats have scent glands in their paws, so scratching helps release their scent and marks their territory. Another important reason for scratching is that cat claws grow in layers, from the inside out. Scratching removes the outer sheath of an outgrown nail and allows the new nail to emerge and keeps claws sharp and groomed.
Observe your cat's scratching style
If your cat is scratching the box spring, it's likely that they like to scratch in a vertical manner, meaning with their paws stretched out above their head. Another problem you may be having is the cat somehow climbing into the box spring and using it as a hideout. If that's the case, first start by patching up any holes and cutting off loose threads.
Finding an alternative scratcher that mimics what they like about the box spring could be an important part of retraining them. Place the scratcher near the bed where they like to scratch. The ASPCA suggests that covering the box spring sides or frame with something your cat will find unappealing, and then giving them a replacement scratcher, could work to retrain them. Try covering the box spring with double sided sticky tape, aluminum foil, sheets of sandpaper or a plastic carpet runner with the pointy side up.
Get a new cat scratcher
A board-type cat scratcher propped up near the box spring or even affixed to the frame of the box spring could stop your cat from scratching on the box spring itself. Try the Whisker City Double-Wide Cat Scratcher cardboard 2-pack and place it strategically near the box spring. A door hanging scratcher, like the Whisker City Sisal Door Hanger in a fish shape could also be placed in the offending spot to give your cat an alternative. Once they get used to the new scratching surface, you can slowly move it away.
If your cat is scratching the box spring because they have figured out a way to go into it and hide, perhaps the need is for a new hiding place or bed. Try placing the Boots & Barkley Scratch Cave under the bed, to give them a place to hide and scratch instead. Yet another alternative is a toy that satisfies their desire to scratch. The Hartz Cattraction Gator Scratch Cat Toy has many features that cats love. It's attractive, with a combination of silver vine and catnip. It is covered in a plush carpet fabric that lets their claws sink in. It has a rope section for scratching, a feather for hunting, and a crackly sound they can't resist.
Encouragement and treats
Cats notoriously don't like the smell of citrus. Spraying the box spring with Nature's Miracle No-Scratch Cat Deterrent Spray or placing cotton balls soaked with it under or around the bed may keep them away. Make the new toys or scratcher as appealing as possible by putting them in a location they like, tempting them with catnip, and rewarding your cat with a treat and praise when they use the new scratcher. Use a good quality, sharp nail clipper like the Shiny Pet Nail Clippers to keep your cat's nailed trimmed every couple of weeks. Trimmed nails without a sharp point will do less damage if they do scratch where they aren't supposed to.
Encourage your cat to interact with the new scratcher by sprinkling it with catnip. The ASPCA urges cat owners to not drag a cat to the new post and try to put their claws on it. this scares them and could cause them to not only avoid the scratcher but you also. Try keeping your bedroom door closed unless you're in the room with your cat and can stop them from scratching the box spring.
Once you find a scratcher your cat likes, keep it, even if it looks shredded and unsightly! They love objects once they are really torn up so their claws can sink in, and they love that it smells like them. Also, don't punish your cat for scratching — they can't resist the urge, so it's not something that punishment will improve.
Helping your cat learn alternatives to scratching the box spring requires a combination of encouragement to scratch in a new place and on a different surface. Restricting their access to the bed room while also providing an alternative can help. Removing access to the box spring by patching it up if necessary is a first step. Keep your cat's nails neatly trimmed because they may have less urge to scratch and their claws will do less damage when they do scratch.