Cats scratch. It is a natural behaviour. Cats scratch to mark territory, they scratch to condition their nails, and they scratch just because it feels good to them. For their own well being we should not try to prevent cats from scratching, but what do we do if our beloved kitten is ruining our furniture, our carpets, and our relationship?
Many people in the past have turned to Declawing as a permanent method of removing the claws and therefore the source of the damage. Declawing cats has become a controversial subject over the years and many vets choose not to perform the surgery anymore, considering it unnecessary cosmetic surgery and not in the pet’s best interest.
Declawing as a surgery involves placing the cat under a general anaesthetic and removing the cats nail up to the first joint – equivalent to removing the top third of our fingers. It involves a recovery time of about two weeks where pain management and special litter are required. Many cats heal very well with no negative after-effects. Today’s medicine has many pain management therapies that mean every cat should have a comfortable recovery period. There are still cases where a cat will experience long term pain in their feet. If a cat is aggressive, the root cause of the behaviour should be examined as declawing will not necessarily solve the issue – many owners find the aggressive cat switches from clawing to biting.
Declawing cats should only be considered when all other prevention methods have been exhausted. If the choice is between euthanasia or surrendering a cat to a shelter and declawing the cat, then discuss the issues with your veterinarian.
Learning to trim your cat’s nails can go a long way towards reducing the amount of damage a cat can cause. It is easiest to begin trimming the nails when the cat is still a kitten but it is certainly possible to “teach an old cat a new trick”. Your Veterinarian and Technicians would be happy to teach you how to trim your cat’s nails. Practice and positive reinforcement makes this task an easy one for owners and cats to learn. In no time even the most resistant felines can be taught to submit to their “pedicure” every 1-2 weeks.
Soft Paws are an extremely effective alternative to declawing. Soft Paws are plastic caps that are glued onto the tip of a cat’s nail. Sounds ridiculous, but they work! The plastic caps are safe, non-toxic, come in a variety of colors and are easy to use! As cats will naturally shed the outer layer of their nails periodically, the caps will fall off after 4-6 weeks and a new set can be applied. A package of Soft Paws has 40 nail caps and usually lasts 4-6 months. Your Veterinarian and Technicians would be happy to show you how to apply the caps, it is a very simple process and can easily be done at home. Visit www.softpaws.com for more information and to see videos on how to apply them. They can be purchased through Moncton Animal Clinic or usually wherever pet supplies are sold. As a bonus, they come in all standard colors as well as with glitter!
Cat Scratching Posts
Scratching is a natural behaviour for cats and so an appropriate object should be supplied for them to express this behaviour. Even declawed cats still exhibit this behaviour. If your cat has been scratching at the arms of your couch or table legs, a vertical scratching post may be preferred. A vertical post should be big enough for your cat to fully extend its body in a stretch. If your cat is scratching at the carpet or matt, a horizontal surface may be preferred. A flat surface should not move when scratched as this may startle the cat.
Multiple scratching posts may be needed especially in multi-cat households. They should be placed in areas where the cat and the family spend time. It’s no use having a scratching post if it is down in the basement where no one ever goes. As cats will sometimes scratch to mark territory, the scratching posts can be placed by doors or the entrances to rooms.
Scratching posts come in all sizes and colors and materials. There are very simple cardboard box type toys that can be found wherever pet supplies are sold and there are very elaborate “cat condos” that involve different materials and levels. Choose what works for your environment. Over time the scratching material will get destroyed and will need to be replaced.
If your cat shows no interest in the scratching post it may not be in the right location – try moving it closer to where the cat spends the most time. Also cat nip can be used to draw the cats attention to the object and can be refreshed periodically.
As you can see, there are many ways to prevent your cat from damaging your belongings. Our goal at Moncton Animal Clinic is to educate owners on the natural behaviours a cat must be allowed to express to be happy and healthy while preserving the human-animal bond.