The Scoop about Declawing…and Other Alternatives
By: Erin Bubrick 

Furniture being ripped up and painful scratches on their owners are just two of the realities that feline ownerscat-scratch face.

So, what does one do? Some owners get so frustrated that they turn to declawing their kitty. Before you do so, please read the following facts:

What Is Declawing, Exactly?

Declawing is the amputation of a cat’s toes from the first knuckle up.  It alters the way a cat walks, runs, climbs, and stretches. Declawing could also possibly cause other undesirable traits, such as biting, litter box avoidance, or urination on household furnishings. 

Having worked with cats of all sizes for years, I personally want to note that four-paw declaws are never acceptable because the back claws are not used for scratching.  If declawing is performed, it should be done while a cat is under a year old.  Adult cats will not adapt as well because they are accustomed to having their claws and will not be as resilient to the skeletal changes declawing causes.  Also, declawed cats should be kept inside at all times, as their number one defense mechanism has been taken away.

Why Do Cat’s Scratch Anyway?

  1. They have scent glands on their paws 
  2. It is a form of communication
  3. To stretch
  4. To condition their claws (remove the dead outer sheath of the nail)
  5. To play

So, if you should not declaw your cat, what should you do?  

Luckily, there are a number of alternatives to declawing:

Provide An Appropriate Scratching Surface
An example would be as simple as a scratching post. Scratching posts should be about 30 inches tall, untippable and covered with an appropriate scratching surface, such as sisal rope or sisal material.Sisal is strong enough to provide some resistance to claws, but also provides shred-ability to allow cats the needed sensation and action.  Carpeting is not a good idea because it is too soft to appropriately condition the cat’s nails and can lead to the cat scratching all carpet surfaces.

Your scratching post should be located in the room where cat spends most time.

Cats may be introduced to the post through the use of catnip, rub catnip onto the rope.  Call your cat over and rub your nails along the post.  Praise your cat for scratching the post and reward with a treat.  Cats typically will take to a scratching post very naturally.

Keep Your Cats Nails Trimmed

Keeping a cats nails trimmed prevents them from having the sharp point that makes cat claws so destructive.  Making nail trims a pleasant experience for your cat will help both you and your cat in the endeavor.  Pet your cat’s paws and legs while giving treats; gradually increase pressure so you are squeezing (gently) the paws to expose the claws.  Cut the white tip of the nail, not into the pink portion. Have patience, if your cat isn’t used to being handled or restrained it may take some time.  Kittens can easily be conditioned to enjoy claw-trimming sessions.  

 You can also purchase a product called “Soft Paws”. Soft Paws are acrylic nail caps that are placed over the cat’s nails. Soft paws are completely safe and easy to apply.  Again, the application may take getting used to for both you and your cat.  Each application will vary in how long they stay on, anywhere from two to six weeks.  The cap is blunt, so it prevents the destruction of household items.

Prevent Inappropriate Scratching The PROPER Way

 You have to train your cat where to scratch and where not to scratch.  Inappropriate items may be covered (temporarily) with double-sided tape, aluminum foil, sandpaper, etc.  This will discourage the cat from using this surface because the new surface is undesirable.  

You can also have an object that is noisy you can drop (such as a can filled with pennies).  Only employ this technique when the cat is in the act.  This will frighten the cat and hopefully help them to associate the inappropriate surface with negative things.  

Spraying the cat with a water bottle is another technique.  Again, only use this when the cat is in the act.

Take note of where your cat likes to scratch, what the material is like, if the surface is vertical or horizontal, and what height the surface is.  This will help you to decide what appropriate items to use for your cat.  Make sure the scratching surface is near their preferred scratching location.  Once the cat is using the desired surface, it can be gradually moved (one inch a day) to a location you desire.  

With observation, patience, and hard work you can train your cat to appropriately scratch without having to declaw.