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Pet Care. Pet Training. Pet Stories.
Pet Care. Pet Training. Pet Stories.

5 Better Alternatives to Declawing Your Cat

05/04/2012 by Wendy Rose Gould
May 4th, 2012 by Wendy Rose Gould

No matter how much we love our purring, playful kitties, the truth is that they sometimes exhibit frustrating behaviors. One of the most destructive — both to people and their belongings — is when cats use their claws to scratch furniture, carpet, clothing, and skin.

It’s no surprise that stopping your cat from scratching things after a single instance of destruction or harm becomes priority number one. For some, the only solution they can think of is to declaw, but there are many alternatives to consider.

Today we’re outlining why declawing shouldn’t be your first choice and providing you with a handful of effective, non-harmful ways to curb scratching.

Does Getting Declawed Hurt a Cat?

The short and quick answer is yes. Declawing cats is incredibly painful at the time they’re removed, throughout recovery, and even as the years go by. It’s a very serious and invasive surgery that involves minor amputation of the last digit on each toe to prevent the claw from growing back.

In other words, it’s not a simple manicure or a quick fix. To put it into perspective, declawing is akin to amputating human fingers at the last knuckle.

Below are some of the primary drawbacks of declawing cats:

  • Recovery isn’t easy: Because declawing causes pain and discomfort, your cat must take pain medication, and activity must be restricted in the days and weeks following their surgery. In addition to constant vigilance and routine medication administration, you must also watch for signs of infection.
  • Long-term medical complications can occur: Declawing a cat can affect tendons in the legs. This causes the cat to overcompensate and use its hind legs, which leads to front-leg muscle atrophy.
  • Your cat’s sense of balance will be off: Claws help felines grip while taking off and landing jumps. It can take cats a long time to adjust, and some never will.
  • Declawing can lead to emotional stress: A cat’s natural defenses are its claws. Removing them can make the animal feel defenseless, leading to hostility, household accidents, and increased irritability.
  • A declawed cat cannot go outside: Without its claws, a cat is unable to defend itself in the outdoors. If you pet gets in a cat fight outdoors, it’ll probably lose, which can have devastating medical consequences.

5 Alternatives to Declawing Your Cat

Such a drastic surgery is not an ideal way to stop cat scratching, especially when there are so many other effective alternatives to declawing. Before having your cat declawed, use the following methods to curb their scratching.

1. Get a Scratch Pad or Post

The biggest mistake pet parents make with their cats is trying to stop them from scratching completely. The desire to scratch is in a cat’s genes, handed down from ancient kitties. Cats scratch to exercise their front leg muscles, mark their territory, and to keep their claws sharp by shedding the dull outer sheath.

You can often curb scratching completely by simply providing them with a corrugated cardboard scratch pad or post. Most cats will gladly use either, since it feels amazing compared to the other surfaces they have access to! To make it even more alluring, rub catnip on it and give your cat a treat every time they use it. You can also try placing it next to an area they often scratch.

2. Use Anti-Scratch Spray on Their Go-To Spots

If your cat continues to prefer your furniture for their scratching outlet, make their go-to spot undesirable. One option is to use an anti-scratch spray on the area, which has a scent that makes them want to stay away.

You can also try making your own concoction of citrus-scented spray (cats hate the smell of citrus!) which will get rid of their scent markers and deter them due to the new scent.

You can also try covering scratched-up spots with aluminum foil or double-sided tape while redirecting their attention to their new scratcher.

3. Scare Them with Water or Loud Noise

Another form of negative reinforcement is using a spray bottle or making a loud noise every time they scratch a no-no spot. This harmless solution frightens them, and will eventually curb the behavior. Simply use a spray bottle with plain water — or even a water gun — and spray your pet every time you see him or her scratching a non-designated spot.

Alternatively, make a loud noise, such as clapping your hands together. Scratch prevention techniques also work best if you start when your pet is a kitten.

4. Trim Their Toenails Regularly

Keeping your cat’s claws trimmed helps in two ways. First, it curbs scratching in general since trimming their toenails removes the dull outer sheath that cats are trying to remove by scratching in the first place.

Also, because their nails aren’t as sharp, they aren’t nearly as destructive, which reduces any damage caused by scratching. You can buy kitty nail clippers at any pet store, or you can take your cat to get professionally trimmed about once a month by a groomer.

5. Synthetic Caps

Another way to curb damage caused by scratching is to put synthetic caps over each of their claws. These are available at most pet stores and they can last for one to two months. Sometimes they fall off and you’ll need to replace them. They can also cause some discomfort and annoyance to your feline, so try the other alternatives mentioned above first.

The Bottom Line on Declawing Cats

Before you declaw your cat, consider the alternatives. Surgery is painful and can have long-lasting effects on their physical and emotional wellbeing. Regular nail trims, easy access to inexpensive scratch posts, and non-harmful deterrents are all effective alternatives.