Scratching Out the Options:  Alternatives to Declawing Cats

Posted by VitusVet on Apr 22, 2016 3:42:00 PM

As long as we have been keeping cats indoors, people have been looking for a way to stop them from scratching up the furniture. Unfortunately, this has often resulted in declawing cats.

Recently, however, we have begun to recognize how much of an impact this procedure can have on our feline friends. While declawing cats may be necessary in some situations, it is important for cat owners to understand why cats claw and do their research about cat declaw alternatives so that they can make the best decisions for their beloved pets.

Kitty’s Got Claws

Scratching is part of a cat’s natural behavior. While it isn’t always ideal when we are sharing a living space with our cat companions, there are some good reasons that your cat may want to put out her claws.

Cats scratch in order to:

  • Maintain claw health and remove old nail sheaths
  • Scent mark their territory
  • Visually mark their territory
  • Stretch
  • Feel good

Some cats scratch more than others, but it is a fundamental action that all cats participate in. It is important to consider how declawing a cat can impact the animal.

Declawing is more than a nail trim. When a declaw surgery is performed, the last joint in each toe is surgically amputated. While many cats do just fine, there is a risk of chronic pain, infection, and anesthetic complications.

It is also important to remember that declawed cats have fewer defenses than their fully-clawed counterparts. A cat who has been declawed should always be kept indoors.

Declawing may impact cats behaviorally as well. There are several studies that show cats who have been declawed have a greater tendency to have behavioral problems including biting and litter box issues.

Alternatives to Declawing Cats

Before choosing to declaw your cat, be sure to take a look at all of the cat declaw alternatives that are available to owners. Be sure to:

Encourage scratching where appropriate – Because cats need to scratch, it is important to provide appropriate places for them to do so. Be sure to provide scratching areas throughout your home. Cats often like to scratch near their sleeping spots, but pay attention to areas where you notice your cat clawing already.

Change it up – Cats can be finicky and may have a preference for a certain scratching surface. Try scratching posts, pieces of cardboard, wood, or carpet remnants. Be sure to secure them to a vertical surface. The piece should be tall enough for your cat to fully stretch out.

Provide plenty of interaction – Daily interactive playtime and cat appropriate toys can go a long way to diverting your cat’s attention. Avoid playing directly with your hands so as not to endure accidental scratches or encourage play clawing.

Train your cat – A little praise goes a long way. Positively reinforce your cat for scratching in places that you approve of. Try using verbal praise, affection, catnip, treats, or even playtime.

Care for your cat’s nails – Cats need pedicures, too! It does take a little work to maintain a cat with claws, but it is often worth the effort. Trim your cat’s nails once every 7-14 days to minimize any damage they may cause and maintain health. Some cats also will wear artificial nail caps such as Soft Paws, which can be both cute and functional.

There are some great cat declaw alternatives available. With a little research, you may be able to find one that suits your household and let kitty keep her claws.