A cat uses their claws for mobility, balance, defense, exercise, and marking territory, and many cat owners turn to declawing to protect their household belongings. Yet, without these essential activities, your cat can become stressed and anxious. You may not appreciate the clawed furniture or scratched limbs, but your cat needs their nails to prevent a multitude of mental and physical ailments. Fortunately, many humane declawing alternatives are available that will keep your belongings intact, and your cat happy and healthy. Try the following declawing alternatives for your cat.

#1: Offer your cat plenty of scratching opportunities

Cats need to scratch for numerous reasons, including to practice nail care, stretch, and leave visual and scent markers for other cats. If you fail to provide an appropriate outlet for your cat’s need to scratch, they will find their own spot, which could be a door frame, curtain, or sofa arms. However, providing an assortment of approved scratching surfaces will encourage your cat to scratch where you want. Most cats prefer scratch pads made of a sisal material, but your cat may be drawn to corrugated cardboard, wood, or a shingle-like material, and may prefer a horizontal rather than vertical scratching surface. Offer options to determine your cat’s preference, and position the scratching posts and pads next to your cat’s current scratching areas. Each time your cat uses an approved scratching surface, praise and reward them.

#2: Apply nail caps to your cat’s claws

Soft nail caps can cover the sharp ends of your cat’s claws, protecting yourself and your belongings from scratches. Some cats never become acclimated to nail covers, but most cats adjust in a couple of days. To apply nail caps, you must:

  • Trim — First trim your cat’s nails.
  • Attach — Attach the caps to the nails with a strong adhesive that ensures they remain in place until the nails grow out.

Once the nails grow out, the caps will fall off and need reapplication, so they can last for four to six weeks.

#3: Provide appropriate outlets for your cat’s natural behaviors

Without adequate physical and mental stimulation and environmental enrichment, your cat can become bored, stressed, and anxious, which can manifest in destructive scratching behavior, so provide ample environmental enrichment that allows them to engage in natural activities. Give your cat the opportunity to stalk, pounce on, and “kill” prey by offering toys that mimic rodents, insects, or birds. Place climbing towers with scratching surfaces and hiding spots, and position one next to a window to allow your cat to look outside. Make your cat work for their meals by feeding small portions from a puzzle feeder, instead of filling a food dish. Such small changes can do wonders for keeping your cat happy and preventing inappropriate scratching.

#4: Use synthetic pheromones to alleviate your cat’s stress or anxiety

Cats use pheromones to impart messages that trigger soothing and calming feelings, helping to alleviate stress and anxiety. Spraying a synthetic pheromone on objects or areas in your home that you do not want your cat to scratch can help reduce anxiety-induced scratching. Placing a diffuser in your cat’s main living quarters can also mitigate stress. 

#5: Trim your cat’s nails regularly

Since cats scratch to care for their nails, trimming their nails regularly can greatly curb undesired scratching. You can trim your cat’s nails at home by gently pressing their paw so they will extend their nails. Clip off the sharp hook every four to six weeks, avoiding the pink part inside the nail, which contains the blood vessel and nerve. Pair nail trims with your cat’s favorite treat to make the experience rewarding and pleasant. Some cats will allow nail filing, which will also help to remove the sharp points and prevent tears and claw marks in furniture.

Is your cat still scratching inappropriate areas in your home? Are you having difficulties trimming your cat’s nails? Ask our Palm Valley Veterinary Center team for tips, or schedule an appointment for your cat’s nail trim.