Last Updated on
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.
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
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.
2 – Offer Scratching Posts
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.
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.
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.
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.
6 – Trim Nails Regularly
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.
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.
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.
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.
Featured image credit: Jupri, Pixabay
Roland has been an animal lover all his life, with cats holding a special place in his heart. He is owned by three felines: Wheely, KitzKitz, and Nugget (all rescues) who bring all the laughter and mischievousness one can expect from the feline master race. As the creator of ExcitedCats, his mission is to assist in the search for the best gear to help improve the health and wellbeing of cats everywhere.