Declawing cats, or the amputation of the last part of each digit, has been a controversial topic for some time, and many countries are banning, or have already banned, this procedure. More recently, many veterinary organizations, including the American Association of Feline Practitioners, have pushed to end this practice. Our Mill Creek Animal Hospital team has your cat’s best health and well-being in mind, so we want to offer humane alternatives to declawing. Instead of turning to declawing, or watching your cat scratch your furniture, hands, and legs, try one of these six alternatives.

#1: Trim your cat’s nails every six to eight weeks

Trimming your cat’s nails may seem more difficult than clipping a dog’s claws, but cat nails are typically clear, so seeing the quick is easy. The main challenge is getting your cat’s nail to extend from the paw. With slight pressure, the claws will easily extend for trimming, but the bigger problem is that your cat may not appreciate their paw being held and mildly squeezed. However, a high-value treat (e.g., canned tuna, spray cheese, or a tasty paste like Churu puree) can be an excellent distraction while you handle your cat’s paws. If trimming your cat’s nails is stressful for you or your pet, contact our Mill Creek Animal Hospital for help.

#2: Provide attractive scratching surfaces for your cat

Create a cat-friendly home with plenty of attractive scratching options for your feline friend. Offer vertical and horizontal options that allow your cat ample room to stretch when scratching. Invest in a quality cat tree for vertical scratching, and special carpet pads and cat toys that offer horizontal scratching. Corrugated cardboard, sisal, and wood are all great scratching materials that your cat will find attractive. Also, ensure your cat’s scratching toys are sturdy and stable. If your cat scratches on a tower or tree that topples over, they’ll likely find a more stable option—one you may not approve. 

#3: Apply nail caps to your cat’s claws

Treat your cat to a manicure and pedicure by applying nail caps. These PVC or plastic caps cover the claw’s sharp tip, while still allowing your cat to walk normally. You can buy packages in a rainbow of colors and glue them on at home, or a groomer can apply them. Nail caps are effective and last for a month or longer, depending on how fast your cat’s nails grow.

#4: Use an attractant to draw your cat to appropriate scratching surfaces

Many cats go nuts for catnip, so use that to your advantage. Sprinkle dried catnip or spray catnip oil on your cat’s scratching posts and pads to entice them to use these appropriate scratching options. Another great product is Feliscratch, a synthetic derivative of the pheromone that cats release naturally from between their toes when they scratch. Apply Feliscratch to the areas you want your cat to scratch. 

#5: Use positive reinforcement to train your cat to scratch appropriately

Pets learn well with positive reinforcement, so give your cat plenty of praise, pets, and treats when you see them scratching their posts and pads. If you catch your cat scratching your furniture or another inappropriate surface, do not squirt them with a water bottle or yell. Instead, calmly move them from the undesirable location and put them by or on the surface you want them to scratch. Once they scratch there, praise and reward them.

#6: Provide environmental enrichment to alleviate your cat’s boredom

Cats often scratch destructively because their needs have not been fully met. If your cat cannot perform natural behaviors, like scratching, they may develop serious behavior and medical issues, such as anxiety and feline idiopathic cystitis. Ensure your cat has the proper resources to perform their natural behaviors (e.g., scratching posts, climbing towers), and you’ll notice a decrease in inappropriate scratching. 

Has your unruly kitten or adult cat been terrorizing your household, leaving slashed curtains and bleeding arms in their wake? Rather than turning to declawing, contact our Mill Creek Animal Hospital team for humane alternatives to this procedure.