Alternatives to Declawing a Cat
When a cat scratches people or furniture, the owner may consider surgical declawing. Some viable alternatives – training, deterrence, and claw blunting – are examined.
There are methods to prevent or at least greatly reduce claw-induced destruction that does not involve surgery. However, these methods require life-long effort and by no means prevent all claw damage.
If the owner is determined to keep the animal and surgery is for whatever reason unacceptable, the only solution is to invest in one of those “life-long effort” methods, which include the following:
Some owners love their cats to the point that they shrug off shredded curtains, ruined rugs, and tattered furniture as part of the relationship. It’s in the cat’s nature.
Some cats can be trained to leave the furniture and people relatively unscathed. Successful training depends on how much time you have to train your cat not to scratch your furniture as some cats require more or less effort than others.
For people who aren’t home all day to keep an eye on the cat, training may be a losing proposition.
Deterrence – Preventing a Cat from Scratching
There are methods that attempt to block or counter the cat’s tendency to scratch or to restrict it from scratching in certain areas.
Chemical Deterrents – Chemicals (such as citrus oils) or citronella candles are applied to or used by areas where the cat is inclined to scratch. Since the cat dislikes these odors, they are less inclined to scratch in their presence. These can be a useful adjunct to training or substitution.
Physical Deterrents-The cat is physically prevented from accessing the scratchable furniture by the use of a cloth cover, cardboard, aluminum foil, etc. Another type of physical deterrent is double-sided sticky tape placed on an area where the cat wishes to scratch; the theory is that the cat dislikes the feeling of the tape and won’t scratch. At least as long as the tape is there. Physical deterrents may help during the training period but look tacky and are not a long-term solution.
Sonic Deterrents –Some devices such as the CatScram detect motion and emit ultrasonic waves said to be inaudible to humans but uncomfortable to cats. These deter the animal from a designated area rather than specific behavior. A loud noise such as a clap or coins shaken in a tin can may also act as a deterrent.
Negative reinforcement is a deterrent used as a part of the training. Squirting the cat with a water pistol is a common deterrent for scratching furniture, carpet, or drapes and always assuming that the water gun is loaded and handy whenever necessary.
Deterrents are more or less successful but should only be regarded as temporary measures and part of a long-term training program.
Substitution – Use a Scratching Post or Scratch Box
A scratching post or other surface is provided for the cat as a substitute for scratching the furniture; this needs to be combined with training, with positive reinforcement (petting or cat treats) given when the cat properly uses the scratch surface.
Claw Blunting (Clipping, Soft Paws or Soft Claws)
In this method, the cat is allowed to continue its instinctive scratching behavior, but the resulting damage is reduced by blunting the claws. There are two main methods, clipping and covering the claws.
Claws are clipped regularly – Proper clippers are inexpensive, and most cats will accept regular clipping if done firmly but gently. Vets and pet groomers will also provide clipping services. The clipping removes the sharp tip of the claw, but it regrows in ten to 14 days.
Claws are covered with a plastic cap that is glued in place. Soft Claws and Soft Paws are two brands of cat claw caps. Like clipping, this requires repeated treatments. The caps last 4 to 6 weeks, and a year’s supply costs between $40 and $60 USD depending on the frequency of replacement.
Training and blunting appear to offer the most satisfactory long-term solutions for owners who decide against surgical declawing or in those countries where the surgery is not permitted. For owners who lack the time and persistence for training; however, only surgery or blunting offer an alternative to acceptance.