Answered by PDSA Vet Nurse Nina Downing.

Dear PDSA Vet: I’ve bought my cat a scratching post but she seems to prefer the corners of my new sofa. How can I encourage her to use the post instead? Cyan

Your new sofa smells new and strange and your cat is trying to leave her scent on it. Scratching is a normal behaviour for cats - it’s an important part of conditioning their claws and communicating with fellow felines – but it can be frustrating for us! Make sure she has a variety of vertical and horizontal scratching posts in various locations, so she’ll be less tempted by your sofa. Ensure the posts are high enough and sturdy – your cat should be able to fully stretch up on her hind legs, and the post should support her full weight when she leans against it. You could also spray catnip or a pheromone spray onto the scratch posts to get her attention and put one next to your cat’s sleeping area as cats like to scratch as soon as they wake up.

Dear PDSA Vet: Is it wrong to hold a rabbit on its back? Sara

Rabbits tend to feel anxious when being handled by their owners, as their natural instincts as a prey animal still run strong. Though we see this as a form of love and affection, rabbits feel safer when you pet them on the floor rather than picking them up for a cuddle. Unfortunately, handling your rabbit on their back can be a very distressing experience for them – their response is often to ‘play dead’ to protect themselves, as they would in the wild. You can safely hold your rabbit by placing one hand under its chest and the other under the hind legs, holding them securely against your body. Try to avoid handling small furry friends for long periods of time, as they love to play around and run free.

Dear PDSA Vet: My six-month-old gecko seems to be losing weight, and he keeps lying flat on his tummy. I’m quite worried, is this normal? Bernard

I’d recommend taking your gecko to the vet to be checked out, ideally one with a special interest in reptiles. A possible cause of this problem is ‘metabolic bone disease’ which is sadly common in reptiles due to a low calcium diet and lack of appropriate ultraviolet light. Your vet will be able to perform a thorough examination, provide any treatment and offer their support to help improve your gecko’s living environment and dietary needs if required. Reptiles are wonderful pets, but there’s a lot to consider to make sure they live a healthy and happy life. I’d always recommend seeing a specialist when you notice any changes in behaviour, as it’s best to get an expert opinion.

Dear PDSA Vet: My cat frequently rolls on her back to reveal her stomach, but when I stroke her, she attacks me – should I avoid giving her stomach rubs? Simon

Unlike dogs, cats aren’t begging for a tummy rub when they roll on their backs. Though it may seem like an open invite to pet their stomach, it’s actually just your cat showing they trust you. Petting the stomach is a common mistake among cat owners, but you’ll be pleased to know that laying on their backs around you is a sign of a strong bond. Cats are independent characters and their expressions can be hard to read. I suggest you avoid the temptation of tummy tickles entirely, as the claws will often come out! For more guidance on cat behaviour, visit us at

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