Declawing cat last resort for scratching
Charlie, my newly adopted 1-year-old cat, especially enjoys clawing my curtains and bedding. What can I do to prevent that?
Answer: For cats, scratching is as natural and pleasurable as a good stretch is to humans. The act stretches their bodies and flexes their feet and claws; and it helps to work off energy.
Scratching also removes the dead outer layer of cats' claws and serves as their primary means of defense. And scent glands on their paws enable them to mark territory.
Train Charlie to scratch acceptable objects. Provide objects for scratching that are appealing and convenient from your cat's point of view, such as rope-wrapped posts or corrugated cardboard scratching boards laced with catnip. Make sure the new scratching object is stable and will not fall over or move when he uses it. Place it near the inappropriate object that he's scratching.
Cover the off-limits object with something unappealing: double-sided sticky tape, foil or a plastic carpet runner with the pointy underside up. Don't remove the cover until he consistently uses the appropriate scratching object for several weeks. After that you can gradually move the scratching object to a location that you would prefer.
Punishing Charlie does not resolve scratching problems, and it does not teach him what is appropriate to scratch. If you do catch him in the act, punish him in a way that prevents him from associating the punishment with you - for example, make a loud noise by shaking a can filled with rocks, or use a whistle to startle him.
Q: What if behavior training does not work?
A: An alternative is Soft Paws - plastic caps that are glued over a cat's paws - sold at the Hawaiian Humane Society. The glue is nontoxic, and it wears away over about two months.
Declawing is recommended only as a last resort. The surgical procedure has risks, including anesthetic complications, hemorrhage, infection and pain. If it comes down to a choice between getting the cat declawed or relinquishing your pet, get only his front claws removed.
The Hawaiian Humane Society welcomes questions by e-mail, email@example.com. Indicate "Pet Ohana" in the subject line. Or, write "Pet Ohana," Hawaiian Humane Society, 2700 Waialae Ave., Honolulu 96826.