Alternatives to Declawing Cats

By Ashley Watson

declawing-catsMost veterinarians and animal behavioral specialists agree that declawing a cat should not be the solution to a cat scratching the furniture or carpet. There are other ways to protect your furnishings that are less harmful to the cat. This post will cover ways you can encourage your cat to use scratching posts and other tips. It will also present some strong arguments against declawing, unless under extreme circumstances.

The Truth About Declawing Cats

Most pet owners don’t realize the truth about declawing cats. It isn’t simply removing the claws like trimming the cat’s nails. The standard procedure involves amputating the last bone of each toe, which according the Human Society, would be like the equivalent of “cutting off each finger at the last knuckle” in humans.

declawing-catsIn addition to this, declawing cats can also create other behavior problems. Your cat may start biting or stop using the litter box. Even for an indoor cat, the front claws are still needed for defense if the cat accidentally gets outside and is threatened by other animals (declawing also prevents the cat from climbing to safety out of the reach of a dog or other animal). Because the cat feels defenseless, this distress can also turn into hostility toward people or other pets.

Declawing cats is banned in Europe, and the Humane Society of the United States opposes declawing except for extreme medical conditions or the removal of tumors.

What are the alternatives? The main alternatives to declawing are training cats early in life to use scratching posts and pads, along with learning how to trim the cat’s claws often. Here are some of the ways you can avoid declawing and still save your furniture.

Offer Several Scratching Surfaces

Scratching is a behavior that is perfectly normal for cats. They scratch to remove the dead claw husks, stretch, and mark their territory. So if you don’t want your cat ruining your furniture, give your cat plenty of options for scratching posts or pads.

declawing-catsKeep in mind that every cat is different. Some cats prefer vertical posts because that’s the way they stretch, or they may prefer to stretch horizontally, or they might like to alternate between vertical and horizontal posts. Some cats prefer wood, while others might like carpet, cardboard, or rope.

By giving your cat plenty of options, she is more likely to gravitate toward her preferred scratching surface and use it, as opposed to ignoring something she doesn’t like and using the couch or curtains instead. You can rub catnip into the post to encourage her, or place the post in a place she’s most likely to use it, such as by her favorite chair or near a windowsill she uses as a perch. Try to find taller posts with perches on top if there’s no place for your cat to sit and look outside. Perches are very important to cats, so if the only place for your cat to view the outside is on the back of the couch, she’s more likely to use the couch for a scratching surface.

Train Kittens Early

declawing-catsIf you have a kitten, start encouraging her to use a scratching post early, as soon as she starts scratching. Cats are also creatures of habit, so if you make too many changes at once, such as introducing new pets, or moving furniture, then your cat is more likely to get upset and mark her territory by scratching. This is why it’s important to make sure there are plenty of appropriate scratching surfaces to use instead of scratching furniture.

Trim Your Cat’s Claws

This is something most cat owners neglect to do, or don’t want to do because their cats don’t like it. Have your vet show you some tricks to trimming your cat’s claws without upsetting your cat. Buying special nail trimmers–which can be found at your local pet store–is recommended because regular clippers can cause the cat’s nails to split. Make sure you know what you are doing before you trim your cat’s claws. You can cut them too short and hurt your cat.

Lastly, you can try sprays, special double-sided tape, or other deterrents. Here are the three key points.

  1. Offer Multiple Scratching Surfaces
  2. Train Cats While They Are Young
  3. Learn to Properly Trim Claws

What are some of the ways you have discouraged your cat from ruining your furniture? Share your success story on Facebook.