Should You Declaw Your Cat?

You’ve recently become the proud parent of a cat or a kitten and are shocked to come home from work and find your newly upholstered sofa torn in several places. You’ve heard that people often have their cats declawed in this situation, but should you do it? My answer, and the answer of most veterinarians, is a vehement no!

The declawing procedure done on cats is a form of mutilation, irreversible and very painful. It involves removing the last joint of your cat’s “toes.” Other complications can occur, and the pain may never subside. One of my clients has a cat that is still in pain seven years after her surgery. The cat often keeps one paws off the ground, limps around and licks the area where she was declawed. The client says if she could do it over, she would have never had the surgery, because of the pain it has caused her cat for many years.

Cats claws play a vital role in their life. Claws enable cats to mark their territory, defend themselves, exercise their front quarters and escape trouble by climbing a tree. Declawing can also lead to physical, emotional and behavioral complications, causing the cat to bite when faced with a minor threat. Balance is also affected by the inability to grasp with their claws.

In addition, the claws play an imported part in a cat’s grooming routine. Cats perform repeated scratchings get rid of skin irritations, dislodge dead hairs, and comb out tangles in the fur. Without claws, a cat cannot scratch itself, and the grooming suffers as a result. If you have ever had an itch that couldn’t be scratched, you understand how it feels to a declawed cat.

My cats learned not to scratch the furniture rather quickly. I simply bought several sturdy scratching posts and put them around the house near the furniture my cats liked to scratch. As soon as I saw them begin to scratch on furniture, I would say “no!” in a stern voice (you may also squirt them with a water gun), and put their claws on the scratching post. I would praise them whether they actually scratched the post themselves or not. I also rubbed some catnip on the scratching post, and whenever I caught them using it, I would immediately praise them. It only took a few weeks until they understood.

If your cat is more stubborn than mine were, there are many other steps you can take. Cats often scratch objects as a natural way of trimming their claws, so keep your cat’s claws short by using a cat nail trimmer on a regular basis (your veterinarian can show you how to do this). When selecting furniture, a closely woven fabric is the best, since cats find this type of fabric difficult to pierce with their claws.

There are also numerous products that can help keep your cat from destroying your furniture. One of my personal favorites is an inexpensive product called “Soft Paws.” Several of my clients have used these with great results. Soft Paws are lightweight vinyl caps that you slip over your cat’s own claws. They are rounded, adhere to the claws for four to six weeks, and prevent the cat from damaging furniture. However, they should only be used on indoor cats, since they inhibit a cat’s ability to scratch and defend itself. To learn more, visit www.softpaws.com.

Other products that may help include cat repellents. These repellents can be sprayed directly on furniture without harming it. Additionally, apply double-sided tape along the sides of the furniture. Your cat’s paws get stuck on the tape, and this bothers them. There are also mini-alarms you can purchase that will produce a sound, annoying to cat, when it scratches your furniture. Or try placing a line of balloons on your furniture. When your cat goes to scratch, the balloons will pop, scaring your cat.

Remember, your cat depends on you for love and protection. By taking the steps listed above, you can protect your cat’s well being while protecting your furniture.

Karen Hirsch has over 17 years’ experience working in animal rescue. Some of her rescues have included ferrets, rabbits, dogs, cats, chickens, flying squirrels and birds. She currently has two cats, three dogs and two birds, all prior strays, and owns a pet sitting business.

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