Feline declawing is one of the most controversial elective procedures veterinarians perform. Outlawed in many countries around the world, states across the U.S. are now also banning declawing. Cats occasionally need a claw or toe amputation because of trauma or a disease process, and declawing is preferable in these instances to provide pain relief, and promote healing. In all other situations, declawing should be avoided, since claws are a vital part of your cat’s health and well-being. Not only are they a defense mechanism, but they also provide balance and mobility, while allowing your cat to mark their territory through scent glands located in the paw pads.

While we would hate to see you surrender your beloved companion, the Mill Creek Animal Hospital team would much rather see your cat rehomed than declawed, if your best efforts cannot prevent their destructive or aggressive behavior. But, before you give up on your feline friend, try the following methods to prevent them from scratching.

#1: Learn to trim your cat’s nails

Although it may seem frightening, you can certainly tackle your kitty’s toenails. Most cats do quite well with nail trims in the comfort of their own home, when paired with a tasty bribe. Prevent your cat’s claws from developing into sharp hooks with routine nail trims—ideally, every four to six weeks. To trim their nails, distract your cat with canned food smeared on a table, or place them in your lap. Gently press on the toe to extend the nail out of sheath, and trim off the sharp tip. Cats have clear nails, so you can easily see the sensitive quick inside the nail, and avoid cutting this blood supply. If you’re worried about getting too close to the quick, simply cut the tips off every month or so, to keep the nails trimmed back. 

This video is an excellent visual aid that teaches you how to trim your cat’s nails—no matter how grumpy your kitty. You can also call Mill Creek Animal Hospital, and we will show you in-person how to trim your cat’s nails, so you can perform this task at home.  

#2: Enlist professional help in trimming your cat’s nails

Hey, we get it—nail trims can be scary, for you and your pet. If your cat refuses to cooperate for a nail trim, or you’re worried about clipping the quick, let us know. Our team can trim your cat’s nails using a variety of low-stress handling methods, and for cats who are truly terrified about nail trims, we offer oral and injectable sedative options that will ensure a smooth experience.  

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

To keep your cat from clawing your furniture, try vinyl nail caps. These brightly colored caps—Soft Paws makes one great product—fit over your cat’s nails with a dab of glue, preventing your feline friend from scratching inappropriate objects. As the nails grow out, the caps will fall off, and will need to be reapplied after a nail trim. We’d be happy to help apply nail caps to your kitty’s sharp claws.

#4: Provide plenty of appropriate scratching outlets for your cat

If your cat is destroying your leather couch, but doesn’t have access to a scratching post, you can’t blame them for their natural behavior. Scratching fulfills many important behaviors for cats, such as nail care, scent marking, and stretching. Most cats prefer sisal-rope scratching posts, although some enjoy tearing at carpet, so first offer a variety of surfaces to discover which material your cat likes best. Position multiple posts around your home to ensure your cat always has easy access to a designated scratching area. Also, offer horizontal and vertical scratching posts, with the vertical post extending above your cat’s stretched-out height. 

#5: Use attractants to encourage your cat to use proper scratching devices

Synthetic feline pheromones can entice your cat to investigate a chosen scratching post, and leave your furniture alone. The pheromone FELISCRATCH by FELIWAY sends territorial signals, encouraging your cat to scratch on the sprayed surface. For cats who have been inappropriately scratching for a long time, pair FELISCRATCH with the classic FELIWAY, spritzing the original pheromone in areas you don’t want your cat to scratch. You can also encourage your cat by rewarding them for scratching appropriate objects. 

#6: Avoid engaging in rough play with your cat

Tiny kittens are adorable when they stalk, pounce, and attack their siblings, but those mini claws and teeth will soon be attached to a much larger cat. Avoid roughhousing with your kitten, or adult cat, with your bare hands, as this will encourage your pet to pounce, bite, and scratch. Use a feather wand or fishing pole toy when playing with your cat, to keep your hands well out of the way, and stop the play session if your feline friend becomes too rough. 

Are you at your wit’s end about your cat’s destructive or aggressive scratching? A comprehensive physical exam and workup may uncover a medical issue. Give us a call to schedule your feline friend’s appointment.