My two cats have all their claws.
My 6-year-old couch is for the most part ruined because of the cats. Stuffing is showing. I keep the ends covered in blankets to hide the majority of the damage.
Our living room is very “classy.”
I really do not want to live like a college student for the rest of my life. I’m sorry, but I like having nice things. I don’t know if you’ve seen our apartment lately, but we could really, really stand a few upgrades.
But what will the cats do if we get a new couch?
They’ll do what cats do best. They’ll destroy it.
Update: We did get a new couch, and our cats did not destroy it. We used a very firm NO and squirted them with water when they touched it and followed a strict a no-cats-allowed-on-the couch rule. This has worked.
When it comes to scratching, cat owners have these options:
1. Put up with the property damage while attempting some kind of behavior modification (ha!)
2. Confine the cats when you can’t supervise
3. Purchase vinyl caps to glue over the cats’ nails (yes, I’m serious)
4. Declaw the cats
Obviously some people choose another option. They get rid of the cats.
Which option would you recommend?
Most of us tolerate scratching and property damage while decorating our homes with scratching posts, pieces of cardboard and kitty jungle gyms.
I’ve been doing this for six years.
My cats scratch everything I give them and the furniture. And when given a choice, they will always choose to scratch the couch.
To be fair, I should probably purchase a few more scratching posts to entice Thing One and Thing Two. And I should provide several options for them. Some cats love to scratch strips of cardboard. Some like pieces of carpet. Some people even bring logs inside for the cats to scratch (after shaking off any insects and leaving the wood in the sun for a few days).
With a little catnip, I can get my cats interested in almost anything. I do owe it to them to offer additional scratching options.
Ignore the unwanted kitty behavior
My cats learned that if they scratch the couch in my presence they will get a reaction. Like children (and dogs!), sometimes any attention is good attention.
Scolding them is the biggest mistake I’ve made.
If either cat is frustrated or hungry, he will scratch the couch in my presence in order to get a reaction.
But I’ve also put a lot of energy into ignoring the unwanted behavior. This sort of works. But they still scratch when I’m not around.
I’ve also tried to distract them or get them interested in something else. This works as long as I’m in the room. When I’m not there to distract, they go for the couch.
Squirt the bastards with water – right in the face!
I’ve used plenty of “positive punishment” techniques like squirting them with water. Although this is very satisfying, they still scratch when I’m not around.
Trim your cats’ nails
I trim my cats’ nails a few times per month. That’s always fun, but it doesn’t stop them from scratching.
If you have other behavior modification tips, please share. Perhaps clicker training? More time interacting with your cat?
Put the cats in another room when you are not home
This is my best solution for now.
I treat my cats like puppies. They lost their nighttime freedom a long time ago. When I am not able to supervise, they go into the laundry room where they have cat beds, their litter box and water. It’s not any more “cruel” to confine a cat than it is a dog. They are animals and they deal with it. My cats sleep a good 19 hours out of every 24, so they might as well serve some of that time in the laundry room.
I don’t feel at all guilty about confining them. Still, I know if given the choice, my cats would choose the freedom to roam around.
Nail caps for cats
These are called Soft Paws Nail Caps for cats, and they are hilarious! I can’t imagine they would work, but I would be willing to give it a shot. Soft Paws are vinyl nail caps that are glued to the cat’s nails. Has anyone tried these? I would love to hear your feedback. You can get them in all kinds of colors, and they are actually really cute. They look like the cat is wearing nail polish. I would definitely order them in pink and purple for my boys out of spite.
Like any tool, Soft Paws will not solve your problem on its own. But they could help if you are using them along with training techniques.
Declaw the cat already!
This brings me to the question of the day – is it cruel to have a cat declawed?
I interviewed every declawed cat I know, and they all said: “What? I don’t have claws?!”
So that’s promising.
I know a lot of declawed cats, and they all seem just fine. They are all in good homes with responsible cat owners.
Removing a cat’s claws is inhumane
But what about the horrors of declawing a cat? You know, all that hype out there about how cruel it is because it’s more than removing the nail?
When a cat is declawed, “the claw, the cells at the claw’s base that allow it to grow, and the terminal toe bone are surgically removed,” according to Wendy Christensen in her book Outwitting Cats. “All associated tendons are severed. It’s the equivalent of having all your fingers amputated down to the first knuckle.”
The surgery can also lead to new behavioral issues such as a refusal to use the litter box, said Heather Clyde, shelter manager of the F-M Humane Society. She has seen declawed cats with such a high amount of sensitivity in their paws that they won’t use the litter box. It doesn’t matter what type of litter is used.
I could see this happening with my overly sensitive cat Scout. He can not handle any amount of change.
Declawed cats are sometimes more insecure and therefore might not get along well with other cats, said Danis Owens, a volunteer with Adopt-A-Pet of Fargo-Moorhead. She is not in favor of declawing cats.
“They sometimes have more neurotic behavior such as not liking a lot of people, and tending to bite more since they have no claws to defend themselves, so the only next step is biting,” Owens said.
But is it really so bad to declaw a cat?
I see it as a personal choice for every cat owner.
I do not believe cat declawing should be illegal, but I do believe cat owners need to educate themselves about what cat declawing really involves. Veterinarians should also explain the process to their clients (most don’t), and they should suggest other options such as training.
Owens said that some people get their cats declawed for the wrong reasons. For example, some people think they have to declaw indoor cats because that’s just what you do! Others will have their cats declawed just because they have children. But Owens tries to explain to parents that instead of getting their cats declawed, they should teach their children how to treat animals.
But I do want to address another issue, here – all the cats that are killed in shelters and pounds every year.
44 percent of impounded cats in my community were killed in 2010
446 out of 1,016 impounded cats were killed in 2010 in our three local pounds, according to the pound statistics reported by Adopt-A-Pet. The three pounds I’m referring to are located in Fargo (N.D.), West Fargo (N.D.) and Moorhead (Minn.).
What does this have to do with declawing?
Take a look at the adoption rates.
Declawed cats often do get adopted faster than cats with their claws, assuming there are no behavioral issues, said Clyde.
That’s just the way it is.
People don’t want to deal with a cat that ruins furniture. Plus, nearly every landlord that does allow cats requires proof of spaying/neutering and declawing. It’s easy to get around these rules, but most people want to follow the rules.
This is not a landlord problem, it’s a pet-owner problem. Most dog and cat owners are very irresponsible and do very little to train or clean up after their pets. I don’t blame the landlords at all.
The average person looking to adopt a cat is not in favor of declawing, so the logical choice is to find a cat that is already declawed.
Ginger, a front-declawed cat (pictured), has been with Adopt-A-Pet for a few months waiting for a home. She needs to go to a home without other cats due to her dominant personality, Owens said.
Owens said that when someone contacts Adopt-A-Pet looking for a declawed cat, she will direct the person to the cats that are already declawed and available for adoption within the rescue or other local rescues. She also checks the area pounds for declawed cats if the rescue does not have any available.
Adopt-A-Pet and the F-M Humane Society will adopt cats out to people considering declawing.
The humane society tries to educate people on the pros and cons of declawing, hoping they will try to find a less invasive way to cope with cats clawing on furniture, said Clyde.
But if declawed cats are more likely to get adopted, why don’t we declaw more pound and shelter cats?
Because apparently it’s too inhumane.
But if I were a cat and had the option of staying alive and getting adopted without my claws or getting killed while keeping my claws, I would choose life.
And if it were me, I would choose to live and lose the tips of my fingers rather than die and keep my fingers.
As for my cats? They can keep their claws for now. I’ll do my part to provide them with appropriate scratching options, even when we buy new furniture. But they better not push it.
What do you think?
Is your cat declawed? Was this the right decision?
Let’s say funding is a not an issue. What do you think about declawing shelter and pound cats in order to increase their chances of getting adopted?