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Scratching & Declawing: Options & Alternatives
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Some cats use their claws destructively indoors by clawing the furniture or carpet. For those cats, there are solutions to help curtail this habit.

Scratching

Scratching is a completely natural and normal behavior for your cat. It helps sharpen their claws, acts as a scent and visual marker, and aids in stretching.  Scratching is important to cats and feels good, however it can be destructive to a household and hard to control. By providing your cat with alternatives to your furniture, you can help discourage destructive scratching.

The first step is to provide some acceptable scratching material for your cat. Cat trees are ideal because not only can your cat scratch it, but it also gives them something to climb and perch on. Cats love high places from which to view their surroundings.  Make sure the cat tree is stable enough for your cat to run, jump, and climb on and has suitable material for their claws to dig into.

There are also horizontal posts available that can be placed on the ground for scratching, as well as vertical posts that hang from the door. These come in many different materials such as carpet, sisal rope, and corrugated cardboard. You may need to experiment to see which kind your cat likes best but a variety of options is ideal to prevent boredom.

If your cat has already started scratching furniture and carpet in your house, you may want to choose a cat tree or scratching post that is covered in a different material to avoid confusion. Sisal rope is usually very popular with cats. You will want to have scratching options placed throughout your home and especially near or in front of spots your cat has already decided to claw at.  You can slowly move the tree or post a little bit each day to where you would eventually like it to be located.

To help entice your cat to use their new post, try rubbing some catnip on it. When you see them scratching a post or playing on their tree, make sure to reward the good behavior with treats. This will help encourage appropriate scratching. It is usually not helpful to force a cat's paws onto a tree or scratching post.

There are a variety of ways to help make areas you do not want your cat to scratch less appealing.  While you are training your cat to use their new scratching materials you can place foil, plastic sheeting, or double sided tape on or around furniture.  Cats dislike sticky surfaces so double sided tape is an excellent deterrent. If you do not want to place double sided tape directly on your furniture, you can place carpet runners with the pointy side facing up in front of anything you want to mark as off limits. Use a water bottle to squirt your cat if you catch them scratching somewhere off limits. While these measures do not look attractive, it is hopefully temporary as your cat establishes appropriate clawing behavior. Patience and persistence are required in order to train your cat to create new scratching patterns.

Soft Paws

There are other options besides scratching posts and cat trees. First, there is a non-surgical alternative using Soft Paws. These are hollow "false nails" that fit like a cup over the claw and are glued in place. They stay on the nail for 4 to 6 weeks, and fall off as the nail grows. Replacement for most cat owners is a simple procedure. You can purchase a set of Soft Paws over the counter. We can glue on the first set of Soft Paws while you watch so you can see how we do it. After that we can continue to apply future sets of Soft Paws, or you can do it yourself at home.

Declawing

Another option is a surgical procedure referred to simply as declawing. This is the traditional method that has been performed to prevent cats from using claws. Declawing is a drastic and permanent solution when all other options have been exhausted. During the procedure the surgeon amputates the claw and last bone in each toe, from which the nail actually grows. It is essential that this bone be removed with the claw. This ensures that all the nail-producing cells are removed, thereby preventing re-growth of the nail. Either a small dissolvable stitch or tissue adhesive is used to close the skin together at the end of each toe when the procedure is completed.

This procedure is performed under general anesthesia and multiple forms of pain medications (local, injectable, oral, and patches) are often used to reduce post operative pain. The apparent degree of pain experienced by a cat varies from case to case. Your cat will stay at the hospital 1 to 2 nights with its feet bandaged and pain level monitored.

Once your cat goes it home it will likely need to continue on some form of pain medication as it is not uncommon for there to be discomfort. Your cat may experience pain for several days or even a week or more post operatively. During this time they will need to be confined in order to prevent trauma to the feet.

Cats rely on their claws for defense and should remain indoors after the surgery. There are reports that some cats show an increase incidence of biting following the surgery (presumably due to lack of claws for defense) but this is not a consistent finding. Any of our veterinarians will be happy to answer questions you may have about this procedure.

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