How do I keep my cat happy, but protect my furniture?

Scratching is a normal behavior that allows your cat to condition his claws and mark his territory. It also provides a nice stretch. Of course, when your cat’s scratching is on furniture or your favorite stereo speakers, it quickly becomes intolerable. The ideal management is to not allow a problem habit to develop.

Alternatives to surgey

  • Regular trimming of your cat’s claws minimizes the amount of damage scratching can do.
    • We would be happy to teach you how to trim your cat’s nails at home.
    • If that's not for you, you can bring your cat to the clinic for regular trims.
    • Because claws re-grow and re-sharpen quickly, you may need to trim them weekly.
  • Nail shields or caps, such as Soft Paws, are blunt acrylic covers which are glued onto each claw.
    • The claws can still be retracted and extended normally, but the cat cannot snag them in your drapes or upholstery.
    • The nails will continue to grow, and periodically the caps need to be replaced as the growing nail pushes them off the toe.
    • This typically takes 3 – 6 weeks.
    • Unlike declawing, this is reversible.
    • If your cat goes outside in the summer but is inside in the winter, shields or caps may be a good option for you.
      • When your cat is in his living inside phase, you cap the claws.
      • Otherwise, you can allow him to retain his normal defenses when he’s primarily outside.
      • If you have difficulty keeping kitty still for applying the caps, we can assist you at the clinic. Just don’t forget to bring your nail caps with you!
  • Place scratching posts in rooms frequented by the cat, and encourage the cat to use these instead of your furniture.
    • Temporarily place a deterrent on your furniture
      • Texture deterrents include tin foil and double sided tape.
      • Odor deterrents include perfume, citrus oil, and diluted vinegar.
    • Make the scratching post as attractive as possible, to help keep the cat’s attention on appropriate scratching places.
      • Sprinkle catnip on the base.
      • Hang toys from the post.
      • Hide treats on or around the scratching area.
  • Cats often prefer a combined scratching, climbing, play, and sleep area to smaller posts.
    • There are many “cat trees” available at pet stores or online.
    • If you're handy (or know someone who is), you may consider building a custom cat tree for your home.
  • Some cats, especially older cats with a long habit of scratching on furniture, can be difficult to train. If you’ve tried trimming and training and just cannot keep the scratching under control, you may need to consider surgically declawing. While not our first recommendation, it is preferable to banishing an indoor cat to the outdoors, and all the hazards (predators, illness, fights, and cars) that threaten outdoor cats.

Declawing

  • What is involved in declawing?
    • Declawing consists of amputation of the entire last knuckle of each toe under general anesthesia. Typically only the front feet are declawed. The feet are bandaged, and the patient will be hospitalized for several days to protect the surgery sites and allow healing. Oral antibiotics and/or pain medication may be prescribed for five to seven days after surgery. Most cats are “back to normal” within seven to fourteen days, but older and heavier cats may have a prolonged recovery time, because they will necessarily be putting more pressure on the healing areas with every step they take.
  • How should I take care of my cat after the surgery?
    • To ensure a safe and speedy recovery for your cat, follow these guidelines:
      • Replace the normal granular litter with shredded strips of paper or a specially formulated dust-free pelleted litter for the first five to seven days. If your pet refuses to use the paper litter, you may add one-quarter (1/4) cup of regular clay litter that has been shaken to remove any clay dust. Never use clumping litter during this period. This is important because small granules of litter can enter or adhere to the surgical sites and cause an infection or delay healing.
      • Restrict your cat’s post-surgery activity to the best of your abilities. This is difficult, at best. As much as possible, though, discourage your cat from jumping on furniture and counter tops for the first week after surgery by blocking the access to these areas. If you see your cat on a counter top or high furniture, help it down. Cats primarily use their back legs to jump up, but may injure the surgical sites when they jump down and land on their front paws.
      • Occasionally a cat will break open one of its incisions and a few drops of blood may ooze out. The blood should clot rapidly and form a small scab. Notify the hospital if you observe continuous bleeding from a surgical site. Do not attempt to clean the paws or administer any topical medications without consulting a veterinarian.
  • Under what circumstances should I contact my veterinarian about my newly declawed cat?
    • Your cat’s feet appear very swollen.
    • Your cat's feet bleed frequently or profusely.
    • Your pet is reluctant to walk after four to five (4-5) days at home.
    • There is a change in your cat’s general health or behavior.
    • Your cat stops eating for two consecutive days.
  • Are there any negative aspects to declawing my cat?
    • As with any surgical procedure, there is a small risk of anesthetic complications.
      • Poor reaction, or allergic response, to the sedative or anesthetic, or to the pain medication can occur.
    • There is also a small risk of infection in the surgical site. Again, this is a risk with any surgical procedure.
      • Your veterinarian will perform the best possible sterile procedure, but feet are by nature likely to become dirty or exposed to bacteria on the ground and in the litter box.
  • Will my cat behave differently after declawing?
    • In most cases, after the initial healing period, a declawed cat will act and walk no differently than a cat with claws.
    • They may even still make scratching motions against a scratch post, as if they still had claws.
    • There are many anecdotal reports that declawed cats have a higher tendency to bite, since their primary defense (swatting or scratching) is now ineffective.
  • Can my declawed cat still go outside?
    • Probably not. After declawing, it is advisable to keep your cat indoors.
    • Several studies have shown that, while declawed cats are not at greater risk of getting bitten or injured in a cat fight, they may have a decreased ability to defend themselves against other predators such as dogs.
    • They are also likely to be less adept at climbing to escape trouble, or may be able to get up a tree but not back down.
  • If you have any questions or concerns about your cat or the surgical procedure, please contact our office.

Links to external resources

American Veterinary Medical Association's "Welfare Implications of Declawing of Domestic Cats"

American Veterinary Medical Association's offical policy on declawing felines.

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For general questions, or to sign up for email reminders for your pet's vaccinations, please feel free to contact us at inquiries@chewelahveterinaryclinic.com.