Are you familiar with the expression: “Taking a sledgehammer to crack a nut”?
Essentially this means using over-the-top effort to achieve a simple end. A great example of this is declawing cats.
OK, so what we want to achieve is the sofa not being shredded, but is surgically amputating one-third of each toe a proportionate way to achieve this? We think not!
Keep in mind, that whilst you may think declawing is the answer to stopping your cat from scratching the sofa, she may start to exhibit other undesired behaviours after surgery. For example, imagine the pain from having your toes amputated and then the amplified pain from digging in a litter tray afterwards. Declawed cats often associate pain with using the litter tray and start toileting outside the box, which as you’d expect just makes everyone miserable.
We’re not saying you have to give in and accept that being a cat guardian means shredded soft furnishings. No, far from it. We want all cats to lead happy fulfilled lives, and since clawing is a natural feline behaviour what we want is to find an appropriate way for cats to scratch that keeps everyone happy.
But enough of what not to do, let’s take a look at the alternatives to declawing.
1. Soft Nail Covers
The new sofa is ready for delivery and you need a quick solution to your cat’s shredding habit. In the short term, one fix is to use Soft Paws or other soft nail covers. These are small latex caps that slide over each individual nail, a bit like putting a knife in a sheath. At the very least they’ll buy you time to investigate other longer term solutions.
To use, simply clip the tips of the cat’s claws, apply the adhesive supplied with the nail caps, and slide a tip onto each claw. Claw clipping is super easy with a co-operative cat. It’s a good idea to get your cat used to you handling her toes first, by giving attention and rewards. Gently press the top and bottom sides of each toe, which pops the nail out. Then using small claw scissors, cut off the curved tip but leave the broader triangular part untouched.
Applying the nail covers is non-painful and it’s not hard to train your cat to let you handle her paws to apply them. Simply get her used to your touching her feet every day, followed by a treat. That way she associates toe-touching with treats, and will purr through the procedure. As a rule of thumb the nail tips need replacing (or fall off) after about 4 – 6 weeks.
2. Alleviate Stress
Scratching is normal feline communicative behaviour. When a cat scratches she does two things:
- Deposits Scent: She daubs scent from her paws onto the object, laying down a marker that this is her territory.
- Visual Signal: The gauge marks send out a message to other cats that this space is taken.
The more stress a cat is under, the more compelled she feels to scratch furniture in order to assert her presence. Thus, by decreasing stress you can cut right down on her need to scratch. So how do we do this?
Watch your cat and analyse her behaviour. For example:
- Does she spend time watching neighbourhood cats in the garden?
- Do stray cats scent mark in your yard?
- Do you have a multi-cat household and do they all get along?
Once you identify what’s most troubling to your cat you can take steps to do something about it. So for the cat stressed by the neighbours, try blocking the view or prevent her perching on that window ledge. Contact your local animal welfare organisation about the strays. And ensure harmony amongst all your house cats.
Stress is common in multi-cat households, so here are six easy steps to help harmony.
- Food and water bowls – don’t have them side by side but in separate locations.
- Individual food bowls – give each cat their own food bowl, located in different parts of the home.
- Individual litter trays – follow the rule of one tray per cat plus one spare tray. (e.g. for three cats you need four trays)
- Provide hiding places in each room – a stressed cat may claw. . . or hide away.
- 3D space – provide walkways off the ground (such as shelves) so the cats can more easily avoid crossing each other’s path.
- Synthetic Pheromones – use a Feliway diffuser, a synthetic feline pheromone that sends out messages saying everything’s fine and there’s no need to stress about life.
3. Vertical or Horizontal Scratching Posts
When you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em and provide plenty of scratching posts for your cat to indulge her inner diva. Know that some cats prefer to scratch horizontally (think ‘hacked up carpet’) whilst others are vertical scratchers (think ‘shredded sofa or chair legs’). By orientating the scratching post appropriately, your cat is more likely to use it.
Here are some top tips for using scratching posts:
- Anchor the scratching post so that its firm and won’t move when the cat uses it.
- Make sure it’s tall enough. Cats like to arch and stretch their backs whilst scratching, so the post needs to accommodate this.
- Provide plenty of scratching posts: One isn’t enough; the cat needs to strike whilst the iron is hot rather than walk to another room. Locate posts by entrances and exits, and also by her bed, as these are all scratching hot spots.
4. Pander to Purr-sonal Tastes
A final tip for scratching post success is to provide something she really likes to get her claws into. For the carpet scratcher, to heck with it – nail some carpet off-cuts to a plank. Anchor your post down and sprinkle it with catnip. Then praise her like crazy when she goes to scratch on it.
Don’t just stick with what’s available at the pet store. Get inventive and go DIY. If your cat likes scratching wooden furniture, try offering her some softwood to sink her claws into, or sisal rope. Believe it or not, some cats will go loopy when the rope is wound around, whilst others prefer it in lines up and down. It’s all a matter of purr-sonal taste.
5. Mental Stimulation
Last but certainly not least, interact with your cat. Play with her at least twice a day, and keep her mind busy by feeding her using puzzle toys. When your cat’s mind and body are pleasantly tired, she’s more likely to settle down for a snooze than scratch and vandalise the furniture.
And finally. . . no-one wants their house ruined by a destructive cat, but before you even give a thought to declawing (which is a barbaric and inhumane practice in our view), please be 110% certain that you’ve done absolutely everything possible to find appropriate ways for your cat to scratch – after all, clawing is a purrfectly natural feline behaviour.
What alternatives to declawing have your tried to stop your cat shredding your sofa and scratching in all the wrong places?