Scratching is a natural behavior for our feline friends. It is their way of marking their territory, not only with the claw marks, but also by the scent glands on their paws that leave their own special scent. It is also a way for them to stretch those muscles after a long nap and also have some fun while they’re at it!
If you have a cat who persistantly scratches your furniture or carpet, declawing may seem like the only solution. However, no matter how tempting it may sound, it is not the right choice, nor is it the only solution. Declawing your cat can cause many physical, emotional and also behavioral complications.
Declawing is a painful surgery, with a painful recovery period, that involves amputating the last joint of your cat’s “toes”. If we were to compare that surgery to humans, it would be like getting the last joint of your fingers removed (ouch!). As you may imagine, this makes it extremely uncomfortable and painful for the cat to walk, since the last joint of her toes are missing. In fact, it can be so painful; she may resort to placing more of her weight on her hindquarters, causing her entire body to be off balance, and later may lead arthritis in hip bones and other joints.
Without her claws, your cat become very distressed as her main means of defense are gone. Feeling stressed and anxious, your cat may develop some undesirable behavior such as urinating and spraying on your furniture, as well as becoming hostile (i.e biting) to people around her (including you), as she may feel threatened with no means of protection.
Some cats may also associate the pain in their paws with scratching in the litter, therefore developing an aversion to the litter box all together. On top of all this, countries like England, France, Germany, Italy and Netherlands have either completely banned the practice of declawing, or consider the act to be extremely inhumane.
As always, there are humane alternatives out there that do not involve maiming our beautiful felines. If you’re trying to stop your cat from scratching all together, your efforts are in vain. Instead, what you need to do is get her to scratch where you want her to, and keep her away from the places you consider undesirable. The number one option is a scratching post that is tall enough to fully stretch her body. The trick is to make it appealing! Try rubbing dry catnip on it, and rewarding her with treats when she uses it. Also, things like regular nail trimming and covering your valuable objects can help your cat in the transition to the scratching post.
Another effective solution is to use SoftPaws, which are lightweight vinyl caps that are glued on your cat’s front claws. They are easy to apply, last for about 6 weeks, and are extremely useful if you’re away from home for long periods of time, and can’t keep a constant watchful eye on your cat.
Overall, declawing is a serious surgery that should not be taken lightly. Remember, your cat’s claws are an integral part of its life, and your cat will have to live for the rest of her life with the decisions you make.
For even more information on destructive scratching, see our Yelp Line page.