A common complaint of cat owners is that their feline friends are prone to scratching inappropriate items, such as a brand-new leather sofa, a set of curtains, or even a leg. To eliminate this behavior, cat owners may turn to declawing. However, this practice is controversial and has been outlawed in many countries, and a recent push to end declawing in the United States has been brought forward by many veterinary organizations, including the American Association of Feline Practitioners

Although declawing your cat may seem like an easy way to prevent inappropriate scratching, it can lead to lameness, arthritis, and other long-term complications, like litter box avoidance. Instead of declawing your cat, try the following alternatives from our team at Pet Emergency Clinic and Referral Center to encourage your feline friend to express their natural behavior in a more agreeable fashion.

#1: Frequently trim your cat’s nails to curb their clawing

Regularly trimming your cat’s nails can prevent injury to you or damage to your household items. Some cats may require more frequent trims than others, so keep a close eye on your cat’s nails to ensure they remain short. If you are uncomfortable trimming your cat’s nails, your primary care veterinarian or a groomer can perform this quick procedure.

#2: Apply nail caps to eliminate your cat’s destructive scratching

Nail caps, like Soft Paws, can provide an immediate, though not permanent, solution to your scratching problem. While you train your cat to scratch in the appropriate areas, nail caps will protect you and your belongings. These vinyl nail caps are glued to your cat’s existing nails by placing an adhesive inside the cap and sliding it over the nail. They’re easy to apply at home because you only need to gently press on your cat’s paw to push the claws out, then slip the cap into place. Once applied, nail caps will remain in place for about four to six weeks and will fall off with natural nail growth, so they will need to be reapplied to prevent scratching.

#3: Provide the perfect scratching post

Your cat likely has a preference when it comes to scratching surfaces. Provide your cat with a multitude of options to ensure they always choose an appropriate scratching surface over your furniture. Offer your cat corrugated cardboard, sisal, and wood scratching surfaces that are horizontally or vertically placed. Some cats also may prefer an angled scratching surface, or a combination of all three. When placing a scratching post, ensure it has a wide, heavy base so it doesn’t wobble or tip over. If your cat feels unstable while using it, they will seek a sturdier option, which likely will be your furniture.

If your cat likes to spend time or does most of their scratching in a certain part of your house, place appropriate scratching materials there. Position a scratching post next to the surface you don’t want your cat scratching, or apply a deterrent to make the post especially appealing. 

Keep in mind that your cat’s scratching surface should be big enough to accommodate them when fully stretched out, since they will stretch to their limit when performing nail care and leaving behind pheromone scent markers.

#4: Create an unpleasant surface by applying a deterrent

Making the surface your cat likes to scratch unattractive should cause them to seek alternative scratching options, such as a true scratching post. Double-sided tape and aluminum foil can cause your cat to shy away from a previously preferred scratching surface, as can citrus-scented sprays, like a mixture of lemon juice and water.

#5: Attract your cat to an ideal scratching location

Does your cat go crazy for catnip? If so, sprinkle dried catnip or spray catnip oil on scratching posts or pads to attract your cat. Another attractant option is Feliscratch, a synthetic derivative of the pheromone that cats naturally release from between their toes as they scratch. This product is scientifically proven to attract cats to scratch in areas where it has been applied.

#6: Train your cat to scratch in the appropriate spot

Give your cat praise, pats, and treats when you see them scratching appropriate surfaces, like posts and pads. Instead of yelling at your cat or spraying them with water when you catch them scratching inappropriate items, calmly move them from the undesirable location and put them by or on the surface you want them to scratch. Once they start scratching there, praise and reward them.

By using these alternatives to declawing, you can prevent inappropriate scratching in your home and preserve the bond you share with your cat. If your beloved feline friend falls ill or becomes injured during the night or on a weekend, our Pet Emergency Clinic and Referral Center team is here for you—give us a call.