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When I first graduated as a veterinarian, declawing cats was still a very mainstream; common practice. In the last few years however, a movement began in veterinary medicine to try and understand the animal’s behavior so we could provide them with healthy outlets for their energy and natural behaviors, instead of eliminating the instruments used to express them.

Simultaneously, the general public began to feel the same about the extreme procedures used to alter the way an animal looks, such as ear cropping and tail docking. Done in a healthy animal, these are purely cosmetic and, in my opinion, ethically irresponsible.

More and more veterinarians and caring pet owners are looking for safe, effective ways to avoid painful procedures.

Removing the claws of a cat is not a cosmetic procedure, but is a severe alteration which should not be taken lightly. It should never be the first response for a cat which scratches the carpet or furniture. Most clients who come to me with this request feel that they’ve taken all the prerequisite steps to keep their cat from scratching and have failed. They are often dismayed and feel guilty for asking me to perform this procedure.

The reality is that there are quite a few practices we need to employ simultaneously to try and give our cats an outlet for the natural behavior of scratching and a healthy release of energy.

The following tips will help you keep your cats mind and body and instincts healthy as well as protect your furniture:

  • Provide horizontal and vertical scratching surfaces in the specific areas of the house the cat wants to scratch.
    • Encourage their use by applying catnip, Feliway or honeysuckle spray directly to scratching surface
    • Feliway is a synthetic copy of the relaxing hormone produced and secreted by glands in front of every cat’s ears (the same stuff they rub on your legs to tell you they love you).
  • Encourage natural hunting activities by placing daily food rations in treat balls or hiding it in several places throughout the house for your cat to find throughout the day. This is great because it also gets your cat moving!
  • Cover the undesired scratching surface with cardboard with a thin layer of aluminum foil on its surface or double-sided tape to discourage scratching.
  • When you find your cat scratching, immediately redirect this energy to play with lasers, feather sticks and “hunt-kill” toys like fabric mice stuffed with catnip. Remember, your cat is not scratching out of spite. They are displaying a natural behavior.
  • Increase general environmental enrichment – follow these links to great information on how to enrich the lives of our indoor pets:

  • Trim nails regularly: Use a pair of sharp, cat specific nail trimmers. Make it as fun as possible by incorporating treats. We know trimming nails can be intimidating and we are here to assist if you need it.
  • Apply soft paws. These are little plastic caps which are glued to the cats nail after a short trim. They come in many different colors and designs. These are not perfect, and they do take patience. Many cats will chew many of them off after the first or second application, but most cats get used to how these feel and leave them alone. These grow out along with the nail so re-application every 2 months is often required. They can be use long-term or just short term to protect your furniture while we begin to implement an environmental enrichment program.
  • Block access to areas where the cat scratches – if possible (scat mat and scat spray can be used to “booby-trap” access to these areas.
    • Ssscat spray is compressed air can which releases a hiss sound when triggered by movement at the cats height.
    • Ssscat mat is a thin mat through which runs a very mild electrical current. It produces and uncomfortable tingling sensation on the cats feet.
    • These are positive punishment tools, the application of a negative sensation/stimulus in an attempt to deter a behavior, and should be used as a last resort. They can cause anxiety and fear.

If you’ve explored all of the above options with the help and guidance of your veterinarian, we can discuss the declaw procedure, known as P3 amputation. It can still be done, in the most extreme circumstance, but we must do it right. An intensive pain control regimen will be used and will add to the cost of the procedure but it can’t be done humanely any other way.

To discuss behavioral problems or for more information on the behavior products listed above, please contact us @ 780-439-4353

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