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Cat Life: Humane Alternatives to Declawing

A number of countries around the world and an increasing number of cities and states within the United States are banning declawing. Declawing is an inhumane and unnecessary procedure that amputates a cat’s toes at the first knuckle. If you are new to the #pawsneedclaws movement, the hashtag will help you find a long list of negative effects declawing has on cats, so we won’t rehash it here. So what do you do if you have a cat that scratches you, your kids and/or every piece of furniture in your house? There are a surprising number of humane alternatives to declawing we would love to share with you.

1. Regular Nail Trims – Most cats are ready for a nail trim every 1-2 weeks, depending on how fast their nails grow. It’s helpful to know that younger cats tend to have faster nail growth while cats over 8 years old tend to have a bit slower nail growth. However, it can vary by individual. As often and as young as possible, get kitty used to “paw massages” where you rub their feet and articulate their claws without trimming. The goal is to get kitty used to having their feet handled to make it easier to trim nails. Like human nails, avoid going too low and getting the colored part (the quick) and only trim the clear part.

2. Soft Paws/Claw Caps – Claw caps are flexible caps that are applied over the cat’s claws to prevent them from scratching. There is a learning curve to applying claw caps so it might help to schedule a time with your vet to have them trim claws and apply the claw caps the first few times and teach you the best way to do this. When applied correctly, claw caps last an average of 4 to 6 weeks.

3. Scratchers, Scratchers and More Scratchers – Providing your kitty with a variety of scratching textures (sisal, cardboard, carpet) and elevations (floor, post, door hanger) gives them plenty of options for appropriate places to scratch. If the scratcher doesn’t have catnip scent, you can buy a catnip spray to attract kitty to the scratchers and away from furniture. Don’t skimp on scratchers! The more options kitty has, the less likely they are to scratch where you don’t want.

4. Feliway – Feliway is a synthetic version of the pheromone cats release when they rub their cheek on an item or person. This pheromone helps mark their territory and helps them feel more peaceful and calm. You can get Feliway in a spray or a plug-in diffuser. If you get the diffuser, make sure you have one for every 600-700 square feet of space in your home or you risk the pheromone not being strong enough in the space to work properly. Being calm and happy can reduce undesirable scratching.

5. Sticky Paws – Cats enjoy texture when they scratch–unless it’s sticky texture! Sticky Paws comes in a roll or in sheets and is applied in areas your cat is attracted to that you don’t want scratched. When kitty goes to scratch and encounters sticky texture they dislike, they look for something else to scratch (like one of the many scratches you have for them).

6. Going for Walks – Some cats are territorial and prefer to stay indoors, while others are adventurous and enjoy the stimulation of outdoors. If your kitty is the adventurous type, training them to walk with a harness and leash could be a good way to provide them with excitement and fun that reduces their desire to scratch indoors. A few key things to remember–train kitty well inside on walking with the harness and leash before going anywhere outside, always pick kitty up when a dog is nearby to avoid confrontation and injury, stick faithfully to the schedule for kitty’s flea/tick/heartworm preventative, make sure kitty is microchipped and info is up to date just in case kitty gets away from you and make sure kitty is current on all vaccinations for outdoor play.

There are lots of humane alternatives to declawing your feline family members. It’s a myth that declawing is a simple and harmless procedure. Check out the hashtag #pawsneedclaws or follow kitty celebrities like City the Kitty to learn more about the risks and negative effects of toe amputations for cats.