Solution column : Alternatives to declawing 1
Why do cats scratch?
The action of scratching a post or carpet allows the cat to perform maintenance of its claws. Contrary to popular belief, scratching objects does not sharpen claws, but wears them out. At the same time, the cat takes the opportunity to stretch. Even cats that are declawed on the front « do their claws », just to stretch.
There are two types of scratching: voluntary and involuntary. Among voluntary scratches, there are those related to marking and physical comfort (stretching). Involuntary scratches are mostly spontaneous, such as when the cat is playing, trying to grab hold of something, jumping, etc. These scratches can accidentally injure the adopter during daily manipulation, playtime or when the cat climbs (on one’s legs, for example).
Why do cats scratch some places in particular?
Inside its paws, the cat has glands that produce fatty acids, which are deposited everywhere. However, no study shows that the cat consciously knows that it deposits these fatty acids. This is an involuntary action. By scratching, it is likely that the cat is leaving an olfactory message which we don’t understand, perhaps in the form of pheromones. However, this hypothesis has not yet been demonstrated at the moment.
Therefore, what we can observe concretely is that the cat tends to often scratch the same place. If several cats use the same spot, we can talk about routine scratching.
How can I avoid unwanted scratching?
First of all, you must purchase a scratching post, which must meet certain criteria:
- It must be as stable as a tree! Those offered in stores are often not stable enough; their base is rarely wide enough to provide proper stability.
* If you already own a scratching post and feel that it is not strong enough, you can slide its base under a leg of the sofa. Thus, the scratching post will be stable and in addition, it will be at the right place!
- The scratching post must be tall enough to allow the cat to stretch all the way. A height of 90 cm and a width of 10 cm are ideal.
- The scratching post should be covered with your cat’s favourite material: carpet, cardboard, wood, sisal rope, fabric, etc.
Cat trees make excellent scratching posts, provided they meet the aforementioned criteria.
Some cats like to do their claws on horizontal or inclined surfaces. In these cases, just get a horizontal or inclined stratching surface which meets the same criteria.
Once you have the scratching post, you must install it in a strategic location. The location of the scratching post is very important. Ideally, it should be placed at the entrance of a room, at the corner of doors or walls, near the corner of the couch (which is often placed exactly at the right location), in a visible place in the cat’s rest areas, etc.
Finally, the number of scratching posts should not be taken lightly. The more cats you have, the more scratching posts you need.
Another solution to avoid unwanted scratching is the use of claw covers, such as Soft Paws. They are small plastic sheaths, sometimes coloured, installed on the previously trimmed claws of a cat. Very effective, these claw covers ensure the integrity of your furniture as well as that of your arms and legs.
The use of claw covers requires regular maintenance of the claws by the adopter. Most veterinary clinics offer an installation service; you just have to ask!
|The last and not least solution is trimming the claws. This is the least costly and best solution to unwanted scratching. Nevertheless, you should still own a scratching post, because the cat needs to stretch.|
Yes, but my cat doesn’t use the scratching post I bought!
This is not the first time we hear this sentence! Here are some ways to help your cat take to its scratching post.
The first three steps are to buy a stable scratching post (or stabilize it further), place it in the right location and make it attractive by adding your cat’s favourite material. You can play around the scratching post, so that your cat accidentally scratches it and discovers its joys.
My cat has already torn the couch to pieces even if the scratching post is in front of it, it keeps using it!
Don’t panic. We’ve heard this one too. Here is what we advise! First, if your cat has already damaged the sofa, corner of the wall or other furniture in your home, you need to do some repairs (sewing fabric on the cough, sanding or repainting the wall, etc.) in order to remove the visual stimulus.
Second, you need to make the surface uncomfortable for the cat. In order to do so, you can cover the area with double-sided adhesive tape, a plastic cloth or aluminum foil. These repellents can be used on the ground or directly on the coveted surface.
Let’s talk about repellents. Whether it’s a store-bought liquid or a home-made hot sauce and lemon juice solution, be aware that this is not the most effective way to end unpleasant behaviour or keep the neighbour’s cat away. All repellents must be reapplied often and in huge quantities (especially outside). In addition, your cat may like the taste of the repellent, hot sauce or lemon juice, which would be completely counterproductive. Eventually, the repellent could hurt your pet (heartburn, it got some on its paw then in its eye, wounds in the mouth, etc.). It’s better to use « fixed » materials such as aluminum foil, tape, plastic cloth, etc. in order to avoid these unfortunate and potentially expensive situations.
If you don’t want to keep foil in your living room for eternity, we strongly suggest that you offer an alternative to your cat, such as a stable, high and satisfying scratching post, either purchased of home-made. Place it near the coveted spot. To get the cat used to its new scratching post, play around it and drop in some treats or food. You can also sprinkle some catnip on it!
If, despite these tips, you still have problems with unwanted scratches, do not hesitate to contact us; we have more than one trick in our bag!
1 The term « declawing » is used in every day language as an alternative to onyxectomy, which is the removal of a cat’s claws.