Scratching is a natural behavior for cats that serves many purposes, but that doesn’t mean declawing is the answer. In fact, when a cat is declawed, not only are their nails removed, but also some of the bones of their toes—comparable to amputating a human’s fingers at the last knuckle. Declawing can lead to long-lasting physical and emotional pain for your beloved feline. Fortunately, many declawing alternatives are available for your cat, and our Just Cats Clinic is here to share some of our favorites.
#1: Keep your cat’s nails trimmed — Regular nail trimming may not be your cat’s favorite, but trims will keep your cat comfortable while preventing inappropriate scratching. Take the following steps:
- Be prepared — Before trimming your cat’s nails, select feline-specific nail trimmers, to prevent the claws from splintering. Gather your cat’s favorite treats, or slather canned baby food or anchovy paste on a LickiMat to provide a tasty distraction.
- Stay calm and positive — Start slowly, and take breaks. Try to trim your cat’s nails in a quiet, calm environment, and provide positive reinforcement in the form of praise, pets, and treats.
- Ask for help — If you’re feeling nervous about trimming your cat’s nails, ask our veterinary team for advice or a demonstration, or contact us to schedule a nail-trimming appointment.
#2: Use nail caps on your cat’s nails — Nail caps are a great option. They can be applied to the sharp tip of your cat’s nails as a protective shield, but still allow your cat to walk normally. They also allow your cat to engage in normal cat behaviors, such as stretching, scratching, kneading, and climbing, without injury to your furniture and decor. Nail caps come in fun colors, are effective, and can last for weeks to months. The caps will eventually fall off as your cat’s nails grow, and the outer layers are shed.
#3: Provide cat scratching posts — Scratching is a natural and necessary behavior for your cat and serves the following purposes:
- Dislodging old nail growth, exposing the new, sharper nail underneath
- Claiming their territory, along with the use of pheromones
- Stretching out their limbs to prevent back pain
- Relieving stress—scratching can soothe cats who are scared or anxious
Ensuring your cat has access to appropriate scratching surfaces in your home will help to discourage them from scratching your furniture. Corrugated cardboard, sisal, and wood are all attractive scratching materials. Invest in a quality cat tree for vertical scratching, and carpet pads and cat toys that offer horizontal scratching options.
Place scratching posts in areas where your cat normally scratches. If the legs of your favorite chair are decorated with nail etchings, place a scratching post nearby, and redirect your cat to the post any time you see them flexing their claws near the chair.
#4: Encourage your cat to use appropriate scratching surfaces — Your cat may need some enticement to get in the habit of using appropriate scratching surfaces, such as a cat scratching post. Sprinkle dried catnip or spray catnip oil on your cat’s scratching posts, to entice your cat and reinforce positive scratching habits. You can also spray Feliway spray on surfaces you do not want your cat to scratch.
#5: Engage with your cat often to fight boredom — Without outlets for their natural behaviors, and social interactions with their humans, cats can develop bad habits, like destructive scratching. Ensure your cat’s basic needs are met, and provide an enriching environment with plenty of opportunities to play, hunt, stalk, and interact with you. Some suggestions include:
- Feed your cat from a food puzzle or interactive feeder, to encourage them to work for their food.
- Use a variety of toys to identify your cat’s prey preference. Some cats prefer chasing a battery-operated robotic bug, whereas others prefer pouncing on a feather wand.
- Provide a cat cat tree with climbing and hiding features that allows your cat to survey their “domain” from above. Cats enjoy watching household comings and goings from the safety of a high perch.
- Provide a perch that allows your cat to watch the birds and squirrels outside your window.
If your cat’s scratching habits are driving you crazy, contact Just Cats Clinics for more information about humane alternatives to declawing.