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6 Humane Alternatives to Declawing Your Cat

A cat’s claws are used for mobility, balance, exercise, and even defense. They are essential to the wellbeing of a cat, even a domesticated one, but nobody wants scratched furniture and carpets. Unfortunately, this has led to a lot of cat owners having their pets declawed.

Declawing is an invasive and painful operation that takes a lot of time to recover from, and that may even leave a cat with physical and behavioral problems.

Fortunately, humane and non-invasive alternatives can protect your belongings while also ensuring the good health of your cat.

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Alternatives to Declawing

Cat declawing is inhumane, and it is illegal in a lot of countries around the world. It is also now illegal in a growing number of states across America. If your cat does scratch, and you want to stop the behavior without putting them through declawing, consider the following 6 alternatives.

1. Training

cat being trained on beach
Image Credit: Gideon Ikigai, Shutterstock

Most cat owners will scoff at the idea of training their feline friend. Cats tend to be very independent and aloof, and while they might be highly intelligent, they use this intelligence to determine the best way to ignore you, rather than to obey your commands. But training is possible.

Cat scratching is a behavioral activity. They get into the habit form a young age, and it is difficult to change that habit.

Your aim during cat training is to teach your cat what is considered good behavior and what is bad. What they can scratch and what they can’t. Ensure that they have surfaces that they are allowed to scratch and try putting them in various locations around the house. You can also make surfaces like sofas and carpets less desirable.

Once you have set the house up, look for signs that are a precursor to scratching. If you know that they head to a particular area to scratch, redirect him from the area and to one of the permitted scratching areas you have set up. When they scratch a permitted surface, give them praise, and reward them for their desirable scratching.

Training your cat can be a long process, and the key is persistence.

Above all, remember that your cat isn’t scratching the sofa to misbehave. To them, it is natural, and if you want them to change this habit, you will have to work at it.

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2. Offer Scratching Posts

cat on the scratching post
Image: Pxfuel

You should assume that your cat will always want to scratch. If you want to prevent them from scratching undesirable locations, provide them with plenty of safe options. The most common way to do this is through the use of cat scratching posts. These can be bought, or you can even make some yourself, but they need to be desirable and well placed.

Although they will appreciate the thought, cat scratching posts do not have to be overly complicated to be effective.

Cats lean up to scratch at as high a level as possible. A scratching post that is too short does not permit this stretching movement, and your cat will probably ignore it. Ensure that any post you buy is tall enough and has a well-textured surface right the way down the post.

There’s a reason your cat chooses the sofa, table leg, or carpet, and that is the texture of the material. Choose something with an abrasive but not sharp surface. Sisal fabric is considered the best quality because your cat can scratch right the way down the post without the interruption of bumps that naturally occur in wound rope.

And lastly, choose your cat scratching post location carefully. One of the reasons your cat scratches is to mark their territory, and they will want to scent areas where they spend a lot of time, and where you spend a lot of time. If your cat has already had a go at scratching furniture and other surfaces, you can try placing a post nearby, although this can make it difficult to identify when they are about to scratch an undesirable surface. Place one near their bed or the area they sleep and have one in the living room if you have a cat that likes to spend time on your knee or in your company.

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3. Pheromone Diffusers

Cats release a pheromone when they scratch. This pheromone naturally calms the cat, and it also highlights that they do not need to scratch that area again. Buy sympathetic pheromone sprays and spray areas that you don’t want your cat to scratch. Your cat won’t find it necessary to scratch that area again, so it could save the corners of your chairs. These pheromones are also used by owners of cats that employ territorial urine marking, but there have been a number of reports that it also prevents unwanted scratching.

gray shorthair scottish cat scratching
Image Credit: Zzzufa, Shutterstock
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4. Safeguard Surfaces

Cats need a textured surface in order to enjoy a good scratch. They instinctively know which surfaces are best, and even if they don’t know straight away, they won’t go back to a surface that offered disappointing scratching. Carpets, sofas, and table legs are prime candidates because they are textured, and they tend to be secure and wobble-free, which is everything you should look for in a cat scratching post.

  • Foil – Apparently, cats hate the way aluminum foil feels when they scratch it. It has no rough texture, and your cat won’t try scratching it twice. If the area you’re trying to protect is not too prominent, you can try covering it in foil for a while, just to teach the lesson. You can even use tin foil to stop your cat from jumping on some surfaces:
  • Double-Sided Tape – Double-sided tape has a flat and smooth surface, at least initially. Good quality tape is also tough and difficult to get off. It can be bought in clear or colored variants, and it is very easy to apply.
  • Citrus – Most cats do not like the smell of citrus like orange or lemon. With that said, most of us have known at least one cat that hates fish, and that loves human food, so while your cat might hate citrus smells, they might be attracted to it, so find out first. Then, if they dislike it, make some fresh lemon juice, dilute it with water, and spray it on the surfaces you want to protect.
  • Motion-Activated Sprays – Motion-activated sprays can provide doubly effective. They have a strong aroma that is especially pungent to the sensitive nose of your cats. When activated, some give off a hiss that sounds like an angry or aggressive cat. Place these facing the items you don’t want wrecked for the best results.
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5. Vinyl Nail Caps

Vinyl nail caps are like false nails. You glue them over your cat’s claws, and they sit unobtrusively on your cat’s feet. Although some felines do not take to them, most cats tolerate them surprisingly well, and after a few days of adjustment, they will usually not even notice. Your cat will still try and scratch, but the caps cover the sharp claw and prevent the damage caused.

Your cat doesn’t have to have pink nails: nail caps come in a variety of colors, glue on to your cat’s nails, and are definitely worth a try. However, the caps will be shed when your cat’s next set of claws grow through, so you will need to reapply them whenever this happens for the best long-term results.

british cat with fake nails
Image Credit: Pixabay
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6. Trim Nails Regularly

cat getting nails trimmed
Image Credit: AlexanderDubrovsky, Shutterstock

Declawing and nail trimming are very different. Nail trimming is humane, does not hurt your cat, and should not prevent them from undertaking any of their daily duties. Shorter nails cause less damage, but there are a couple of caveats to this technique.

Firstly, you will have to keep their nails trim, which will mean getting into the habit of cutting them roughly every two weeks. Secondly, and most importantly, your cat may be reluctant to let you trim their nails, and some will be highly and extremely uncooperative. Ensure you get a good set of nail clippers, ask your veterinarian for tips and advice, or consider taking your cat to a specialist groomer that will do the job for you.3 cat face divider

Why Cats Scratch

Cats scratch for a lot of reasons. Their claws grow in layers. As a new layer grows, the old layer is shed. Scratching enables your cat to get rid of this old layer, which is why you can often find discarded claws near scratch posts and other scratching areas.

  • In the wild, cats use their claws as an effective means of defense. Even as domesticated animals, they can be prey to dogs, other cats, and wild animals like coyotes and foxes. A swipe on the nose from a cat claw can act as an efficient deterrent, giving them time to get away and making any attacker think twice.
  • Claws are also an offensive tool used for hunting. Your feline naturally preys on small animals like birds and rodents. They use their claws to bring prey down.
  • Claws are used for balance. Cats naturally climb trees and other surfaces to reach elevated positions. They do this to hunt birds, to get away from predators, or because they’re inquisitive animals. Their claws enable them to be able to safely traverse almost any surface, preventing them from falling and becoming injured.
  • Cats actually scratch as a method of marking their territory. As well as the visual marking, cats have scent glands in their paws, and as they scratch, they leave their mark behind. This can prevent other cats from moving on their territory and helps protect their home.
  • Although your cat might be domesticated, scratching is hardwired into their DNA. Essentially, cats scratch because that’s what cats do. Even if you keep a house cat, she still needs to keep her claws sharp for balance, will want to scent her property, and she will use them to safely get up on surfaces.

What Is Declawing?

Declawing is the surgical removal of cats’ claws. As we mentioned above, cats claws grow in layers. This means that cutting the claw off will only have the desired effect for a short time until their new claws grow.

To counteract this, declawing not only requires the removal of the claws themselves, but the cat is placed under general anesthetic, and they have the third phalanx bone removed from each claw. This is the equivalent to having the tips of your fingers removed. And then being expected to walk on your hands.

Once the procedure is complete, your cat will require a lot of recovery time. Their bone will need to mend, and so too will their skin.

Even if the procedure does go well, your cat will still be in considerable discomfort following the operation. They will be unable to walk on their paws, and this can lead to long-term problems. Your cat may stop using a litter tray because the rough texture of the litter causes them pain. They may lose the confidence to go outside because they have no natural defense against predators.

Your cat may avoid standing on areas of the feet that are painful. This naturally changes their gait and the way that they walk, and if they persist with this, it can lead to joint pain and complaints like arthritis.

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Final Thoughts on Humane Alternatives to Cat Declawing

Cat scratching can be damaging and irritating, but it is natural behavior for your feline companion.

You can consider training your cat or trimming their nails every two weeks. However, not all cats will be open to either of these ideas. You can also buy caps that you glue over the claws to protect surfaces from scratching, and you can use materials like double-sided tape or aluminum foil to help protect your most prized surfaces.

Always provide your cat with posts and surfaces that they are allowed to scratch, place them in a prominent position, and ensure that they are good quality posts that are textured, tall, and well-placed if you want to enjoy the best results.

Since declawing is a highly invasive, potentially painful, and inhumane method of preventing scratching, we always recommend using the viable alternatives to the procedure instead.

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Featured image credit: Jupri, Pixabay