Why do cats have claws anyway? To answer that question, you have to approach it from the cat’s point of view. The beautiful little domestic cats that we are familiar with today, evolved from wild cats that lived in a hostile world. In order to live from one day to the next, wild cats needed tools to fight off enemies and to kill food. These tools were teeth and claws. Claws on the front feet were constantly sharpened on logs and tree trunks; hind claws were honed with their teeth. Instinct continues to drive the domestic cat to keep her claws sharp at all times. So, how can you train cats not to claw the furniture?
Remove the Claws
Your little cat is growing up and she is using your finest pieces of furniture to sharpen her claws. No matter how many times you yell at her, you throw something at her, you spray her with water etc., she will yield to temptation. It’s instinct – she can’t stop it-she has to scratch somewhere.
Many cat owners resort to having their cats declawed, either surgically or by laser treatment. Onychectomy, or declawing, “—is an operation to remove an animal’s claw surgically by means of the amputation of all or parts of the distal phalanges or end bones of the animal’s toes —amputation of the bone is necessary to fully remove the claw.”(Wikipedia)
The operation is common in North America- but declawing is considered animal cruelty in many countries. Another method of removing the claw is to use laser surgery. The laser removal of the claw seems to give the cat less pain, but regardless, the cat has lost the toe with the claw and the end result is the same.
Declawed cats must remain indoor cats- they have no way to protect themselves outside. Many declawed cats become biters when they no longer have claws.
Alternatives to Surgical Declawing
There are a number of ways to keep your furniture from being torn apart by your cat other than removing her claws.
Vinyl nail caps can be glued on over the regular claw. It is not a permanent alternative. The claws continue to grow and as the cat sheds her claws periodically, new caps must be glued on.
Regular nail trimming will keep the sharp nail ends from tearing furniture. If you decide to use regular trimming, you must learn how to do it without hurting the cat. Have your veterinarian get a professional pair of trimmers for you to use. They are not terribly expensive and will be cheaper than a Vet visit every six weeks. You only need to trim the tiny sharp end of each claw. You never want to trim so far back to catch the quick. If you do it correctly, your cat will eventually let you trim her claws without a fight.
Scratching Posts are a necessity for cats-with or without claws. Most scratching posts are a standard upright pole or post securely anchored on a sturdy stand and covered with carpeting. You should probably have more than one. Place two or three scratching posts throughout the house, so when your kitty gets the urge to hone her claws, she can readily find one.
If your cat is shy about using the scratching post, put some catnip in your hand and rub it around the post -top and sides. She should start scratching on it very soon.
Covering your upholstered furniture with vinyl slip covers will discourage your cat from clawing them. The smooth vinyl is definitely a deterrent. Most cats will leave it alone.
Trees, Condos, Scratchers and Posts
Cats like to climb, jump, and run. Cat Trees and cat condos are built to give cats an ultimate playhouse. And of course while they are climbing and jumping around, they also stop for multiple claw scratching. Some sophisticated cat trees have several ledges, stairs, ladders, tunnels, for curious cats to explore. Cats will tire after a while and find a ledge or tunnel to nap in. Elaborate cat trees come in various carpet colors, so, if you have to live with a cat tree in your family room, at least you can select one that will match your decor. Make sure whatever you get for your cat, or cats, is well-built and sturdy. Above all, you want your cat to be safe.
You can make a Scratching Post or a simple cat stand if you are handy with tools and happen to live near a farm or wooded area. Please have permission to gather or cut on private land. Find a short tree with a good size trunk (maybe 12 to 15 inches in diameter). You might be lucky and find what you need in a wood pile. You need about a four-foot-long section. Leave the bark on it. Your kitty will love it. Find a two by four or maybe a four by four square piece of wood. Nail it under one end of the log. Now you have a small angled log to set on the floor. Your cat will straddle the log, stretch out and hone her claws to her heart’s content. you can also build the standard upright pole. Wrap the upright pole with sturdy carpet and set it in a solid stand. Make sure the scratching post can withstand a cat pushing and pulling on it as she works her claws. If it should topple, she probably will never use it again.
If you are looking for a cat to enliven your life, you might consider visiting a cat adoption center. You will find some beautiful cats that are just waiting for someone to give them a permanent home. You will find both genders, long and short haired, small and large, of all ages. Most of these cats have been given up for adoption because their owners could no longer care for them. Many of these cats have already been declawed by their former owners. You will be giving a cat a home, without having to face the clawing issue.
Training a Cat
Training a cat to do, or not to do something, is a daunting task. Cats are independent creatures and will do what they want to do. If what you want and what they want happen to collide, consider yourself a lucky cat owner. On a personal note, I have lived with cats all my life. I never had one of my cats declawed. I have pretty successfully used the alternatives listed in this article. For a number of years I have adopted shelter cats that have already been declawed. Cats are delightful creatures and are always ready with surprises. Your life with a cat will never be dull.
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