Declawing cats is a very controversial topic for both veterinarians and cat owners. Recently, the AVMA changed their policy on declawing cats to add “… the procedure is a major surgery that should only be performed after alternatives have been sought to prevent destructive clawing.” Many countries around the world have banned the surgery calling it animal cruelty.
Title Photo Credit: Beatrice Murch via Flickr
Why is there controversy over declawing cats?
The procedure for declawing cats involves amputation of not only the claw but the bone up to the first knuckle. This amputation can be very painful for the cat and lead to disfigurements of the paw. Cats walk on their toes and so having the first knuckle and claw removed changes the way they walk. Arthritis is very common for declawed cats. Aversion to litter boxes is also common. For these reasons, many animal lovers would consider declawing cats cruel.
On the other side of the argument, it is believed that declawing cats is a necessary evil. Scratching is one of the most common causes of cats being surrendered or euthanized. Cat owners who choose to declaw usually do so not for a medical benefit to the cat, but rather to save furniture, carpet, and other home trappings from being clawed. This leaves some people claiming that it is better to allow the declawing of cats as long as it will keep them from being euthanized.
If you don’t want to declaw your cat, try some of the humane alternatives below. Don’t feel like you have to try just one, they work great together!
Humane Alternative #1: Cat trees & Scratchers
This is the alternative that you will probably want to circle, highlight, or star. Your cat needs to scratch. Scratching is a very natural part of life for cats. It is used to help the cat stretch fully, to mark territory and to sharpen their claws.Even cats that have been declawed will continue to go through the motions of scratching.
Providing your cat with an appropriate place to scratch will alleviate the need to scratch your furniture. It’s the same kind of idea you have with providing a litter box (an appropriate place to go to the bathroom rather than on your carpet). Train your cat to scratch the cat scratcher so it knows what it is allowed to scratch.
It doesn’t matter whether this is a store bought cat scratcher or something you made at home with wood, carpet, and sisal rope. You don’t have to spend hundreds of dollars. Just make sure that it is long enough or tall enough that your cat can stretch all the way out on it and scratch. It will likely need to be about your hip height or higher. If you choose a cat scratcher that has carpet, try to find one that has a different type of carpet than what is in your home. Replace the scratching areas as they get worn down.
Just like when you are living with other humans, you have to make compromises. You may find that your cat needs more than one scratching post in your home in order to be happy. Placement of the scratcher(s) will also be something you need to work out with your cat. Your cat will probably want to put its scent where it gets the most of your scent – the couch, your bed, computer chair, etc. Placing a scratcher near those areas could curb the need to scratch those pieces of furniture.
Humane Alternative #2: Nail Covers
Nail Covers are small latex caps that you glue on top of your cat’s claws. These tips blunt the claws in a way that they can’t cause too much damage with them. The tips grow out as your cat’s nails grow out and they eventually break off. They can last up to 30 days. What is really fun is that nail covers come in a variety of colors so you can pick your cat’s purrrfect manicure. For the macho mancats out there, there are clear caps.
Don’t be intimidated by having to put the caps on your cat’s nails. Many veterinarians and groomers are willing to do it for you. Just make an appointment to have it done when you have your cat’s claws trimmed.
Humane Alternative #3: Keep the Nails Trimmed
Keeping your cat’s nails trimmed will not keep them from scratching, but it will cut down on the amount of damage they can do. You don’t have to trim much, just the very tip. Trimming can be done at the veterinarian or groomer, but you can also do it yourself. Getting your cat used to you holding their paws is the hardest part.
Humane Alternative #4: Cat Aversives
Once you have an appropriate scratching place set up for the cat, you can start discouraging the cat from using inappropriate places as a scratching post. Place a material like aluminum foil or double sided tape over an area the cat is prone to scratch. Cats don’t like the feeling of those materials. A plastic carpet runner or chair mat with the spiky side up is also effective.
Be careful about using scare tactics with your cat. If you yell at the cat or push it off of the arm of your chair, the cat may link these punishments to you and not to being on the couch. You don’t want the cat to feel that it can’t trust you.
Humane Alternative #5: Feliway
One of the reasons that cats scratch is to mark territory. They have scent glands in their paws. If one cat has marked an area with their scent, another cat is not likely to mark that same spot. Feliway is a product that mimics cat pheromones. Using this product on furniture (it does not have a scent to humans) and carpet can keep the cat from feeling the need to leave their scent in that area.
What do you do to keep your cat from scratching in places you don’t want them to scratch?