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Cats and Their Claws

This article originally appeared on PETA Prime.

We cat lovers all have the same issue. What to do with our sweet little ones when they go on clawing around! We all know that declawing is a no-no, so what to do?

Here is an excerpt from my book Making Kind Choices, which discusses the issue. 

Cats have to scratch as surely as birds gotta fly, for reasons buried deep in their psyches, like marking territory, as well as for play, exercise, and nail conditioning. However, rather than take a hatchet to a hangnail and remove kitty’s claws (and ligaments, muscle, and bone, for that is what happens in “declawing” surgery), there are simple, non-invasive solutions to worries about the furnishings. Those solutions, unlike declawing, do not lead to “out of the litter box” experiences, neuroses, and spinal problems. Of course, if everything must be pristine and perfect, a house isn’t a home for any living being!

Kind veterinarians will not declaw. As Dr. Nichols Dodman of the Tufts University School of Veterinary Medicine says, “Declawing is abhorrent and inhumane,” and as Dr. Louis J. Camuti, who has practiced veterinary medicine for 40 years, puts it, “I wouldn’t declaw a cat if you paid me $1,000 a nail.” Declawing is illegal in England because it is cruel, and it should be here, too, but commerce sometimes gets the better of compassion.

The reasons not to declaw are too numerous to count on one paw. It can make cats who were once full of life lifeless, withdrawn, and upset, and you will not be able to turn back the clock. Also, cats naturally walk like ballerinas on their “points,” but declawing throws them off balance, forcing them to learn to walk in a very different way, which can cause irreparable and painful damage to the spine.

There are other problems that arise from declawing, but suffice it to say that alternatives to declawing are the only things acceptable to a kind cat companion.

Here is how to avoid tatters:

It is the little hook on the end of your cat’s nails that is responsible for pulling threads and tearing at things, so that hook has to be worn down or snipped off. Then, bingo, the problem is solved.

  • Get as many scratching posts as you can (the horizontal ones work as well as the vertical), trying different surfaces and styles. Put catnip on them once in a while to make them super inviting. Don’t just buy ones at the store; try to pick up the occasional log, the taller the better, or a large fallen branch. Shake it out well to dislodge insect life, then leave it outside, in the sun if possible, and up off the ground on a piece of newspaper for a couple of days, just to be extra sure. Make sure any log you bring home is anchored so that it can’t fall on your cat while being used.
  • Smear a little cologne or flea dip on any fabric area where you do not want your cat to scratch. Sometimes covering a piece of furniture temporarily with contact paper or something else that’s slippery will stop the behavior.
  • If you have a steady hand and good eyesight, buy a pair of cat nail clippers and use them. Gently squeeze each nail out, look for the quick (this is vital), and snip off the hook only, just above the quick. If you are unsure, go to a gentle veterinarian or groomer and insist on staying with your cat while his or her nails are clipped.

There you have it, friends. Hope this works out well for you and your companions.

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  • Melly says:

    If you are using SoftPaws or whatever brand of those you use, and your cat cannot retract their claws, you ordered too large of a size. I stick with kitten size for my Bella even though she’s a big cat because it fits her claws best and she can still comfortably retract the claws to where you don’t see them except when looking for them. Also some cats will just learn in this time that scratching those cardboard scratchers is the only way to satisfy their urge. It gets them in the habit so they never really try couches and the like again.

  • Yvonne says:

    I’ve had cats my whole life and always declawed them until I found out how it’s done. I now have 5 cats, only one is declawed and the rest are not. They are good about clawing on what I want them to, although they do forget once awhile! I love them and would never even THINK of doing this cruel thing to them. Wish I found out years ago. Side note to Bluezinnia, many shelters have discounts for seniors so don’t be afraid to go to them and see if you can find another kitty friend. So many need homes. You sound like a good kitty parent!

  • ilove my kitty says:

    I am all for the idea of trimmimg cats claws. The other reason, besides all the other reasons mentioned for not declawing, is that claws are the only defense cats have, with out them they cant protect themselves in a tough situation. i personally think that “soft claws” are at detriment to the cat for this reason.

  • Carol ramage says:

    I was sick at heart when 2 of my otherwise sweet compassionate daughters chise to declaw their cars. I viewed the procedure as inhumane and brutal. It fell to me to be the caretaker of one kitten during convelesence. I wish I had had accsess to the PETA information about declawing when my children were considering the procedure. Education serves to conteract (when commonsence fails) what societies deem acceptable.

  • Lori says:

    I foster homeless kitties, and sometimes have more than 20 in my home. I would never declaw, and refuse to adopt to anyone who even seems likely to. We have 2 who came to us declawed. They are dears, but completely un-adoptable due to extreme neuroses. The best part is, the woman who dumped them due to behavior issues brought on by declawing, eventually got 2 more kittens, and declawed them too. (I would call her a heinous bitch, but don’t like to insult female dogs that way.) Clipping nails is the only way to go. Only the front claws need to be done, and it keeps your furniture, and body parts, from being shredded.

  • ottsunshine says:

    Before bringing your pet into the vet, ask if they declaw cats, if they do tell them that you will be looking for a vet that does not declaw cats because it’s cruel. If your furniture is more important than your cat, you should not have the privilege of having one. It doesn’t take long to train a cat not to jump on counter tops, scratch furniture, etc.. Like children you have to stay at it and have patience. Love your pet.

  • ravynsdaughter says:

    We’ve discovered that our cats LOVE scratching on corrugated cardboard. We have yet to figure out why , but they will scratch a plain cardboard box over anything else anytime. We simply leave a few small boxes where they can scratch to their hearts content. They are free and ripped cardboard recycles as well unripped.The trick seems to be to have the box weighted (we just leave them in our laundry room with a few canned goods in them) so it doesn’t move while they scratch.

  • Kathi says:

    I have six cats. Trimming toenails works for me. Also, have plenty of things throughout the house they can use.

  • paxton says:

    well….when it comes to it, who do you love the most, the cat or the furniture? I just regard all my stylishly tattered things as reminders of all the incomparably dear companions who’ve left their mark(s)….

  • Bluezinnia says:

    To Nick Henry…reguarding Soft claws…informative…but funny, since you and your wife own them…I could not help but chuckle! Guess your kitty got away with alot! Just kidding, thanks for the smile! And God Bless your little kitty! Soft Claws or not:)

  • Bluezinnia says:

    Aww…nice article…I lost my cat this year…but she was the best…I’m still crying over her loss..and wondering if I should adopt another…Lucy, did respond to my commands, No..and stopped…I think she just continued when she wanted my attention to tell me something…I listened, and it worked…gosh I miss her so much.I want another kitty so bad, just don’t know if I can afford it, since I’ve retired…but having a loving pet, means everything…especially since I live alone…it would be good to have another kitty in the house…And then I think I should have 2 kittys…it’s ashame everything has to be so expensive…when on a buget…I’ll figure it out…animals bring such great joy, but also great sadness at the loss…But since i lost Lucy kitty, I really feel the need to adopt a new kitty…but it just comes down to income as retired person goes…I’ll probably give in…even if it means eating beans n’rice…so my new kitty can suffice! I haven’t found her yet, was hoping she’d just show up on my doorstep..now if I go to Humane society…that breaks my heart, cause I will want them all!

  • Angel says:

    I have two kitty’s. I knew the risks and dangers of declawing andi declawed one anyways, it was a BIG mistake. his poor feet became infrected soon after surgury and was leaves a amounts of blood where ever he steped becauseofthe infection, then we gave give laser healing treatments to help with pain,and pain killers and anti biotics forthe infection. when it finally did heal and he walked the kitchen where there is hard floor i heard a tap noise. i looked and he bone was expose the wound healed and attached to his paw bone. so he had another surgury to stretch the skin and stitch it over the bone on his paw. It wasall very expensive and very painful for my kitty to endure and me to watch him endure. So when we got a second cat i now use the softcaps, I can’t believe how well they stay on. and you can get them for pennies on ebay.

  • vlizard says:

    re: Nick.Henry
    soft claws poses a serious problem. cats retract their claws and soft claws are thick vinyl casings that get glued on, and cannot possibly get retracted. this would mean the claws are never retracted. just because you can stick your tongue out doesn’t make it comfortable to do it 24/7. Clipping nails is easier and less uncomfortable for your cat and also more hygienic as the cat cannot get into the join to clean away litter and dirt properly from these “gloves”. I personally find these things near as an abomination as declawing.

  • Ana says:

    ohh, im for trimming also! 3 cats with furniture :) i have to trimm

  • Ana says:

    hello, you have mentioned ”out of the litter” issue… my cat is stressed and does it constantly on my rug, carpet even pants…:( can i get rid of this bad habbit?

    many thanks

  • sandy feet says:

    double sided tape on the furniture worked for us.

  • sylvana Hansen Harris says:

    very useful article indeed!!!

  • Nick.Henry says:

    They now have a product called ‘SoftClaws’. They are basically a small “glove” that fits over the nail to protect your furniture. They are completely humane, but can be a pain to put on! My wife and I own them.

  • Justin says:

    I think the best way to handle it is to stay on top of trimming their claws. I use toenail clippers and come in at an angle. Even my most unruly cat lets me trim his claws (with minimal biting in the process). Of course I give him treats after, so that helps smooth things over. Plus it’s a double-win because not only is the furniture damage nullified but when they give you a little massage afterward it doesn’t feel like they are giving you a tattoo. :)

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