You got a new kitten and you are worried about them scratching up all your possessions. Declawing is your only option right? Wrong!! There are plenty of other options besides declawing.
Declawing (onychiectomy) is a very painful procedure that involves amputating the first digit of each toe. This is the equivalent of cutting off your fingers at the knuckle containing your nail. Healing time can be quite prolonged due to this amputation and can cause lifelong issues for your furry friend. By removing that last bone in their foot, it changes the way the cat walks on its feet and their weight distribution. This may cause chronic pain and arthritis in the legs and back. They can become resistant to using the litter box if their more tender feet hurt from the litter or if arthritis makes it painful for them to enter a litterbox with high sides. All declawed cats should remain strictly indoors without their primary defense of front claws.
The first option in alternatives to declawing would be to make sure their nails stay short and trimmed and they are given plenty of acceptable places to scratch. Scratching is an innate behavior that helps shed the claws of excess layers as well as stretching the muscles in the front legs and all along the back. If the claws are routinely clipped from a young age most cats can be quite manageable with the upkeep of keeping them short. Having appropriate scratching furniture is also imperative. This item needs to be sturdy so that it does not wobble or fall over when your cat leans into it for a good scratch. It also needs to be tall or long enough that your cat can stretch their entire body out and really get into it. If you have places in your house that your cat insists on scratching, you should provide them with an appropriate surface in that area and a deterrent on the things you do not want scratched. Deterrents can include double sided tape, tinfoil, plastic sheeting, or citrus juice. Also consider using an attractant to help direct your cat to where scratching is acceptable. This can include catnip (dry or spray) or Feliscratch. Feliscratch is a synthetic of the pheromone naturally found on your cat’s feet that gets released when they scratch on things.
Acrylic Nail Caps
Soft Paws® or nail caps are another great alternative to declawing. They are easy to apply -just place a small amount of glue inside the cap and slide onto the nail. This can be done yourself, at a local vet clinic, or even at some grooming facilities. They eventually fall off on their own as the nail grows out. Typically the caps last about 4 to 6 weeks. This allows the cat to still have the ability to scratch on surfaces but without any of the damage their nails would do. The nail caps also allow your feline friend to show off a neat fashion statement with the wide variety of colors available.
Overall, declawing your new kitten may be the first thought to prevent damage to your furniture, but it is hardly the only one. There continues to be legislation created that bans the elective declawing of cats and some veterinarians refuse to perform the procedure for various reasons. Please discuss with your veterinarian about available options, restrictions, and post-op care.
Article written by Heather
1 Picture uploaded to Wikimedia Commons by Author Turn685 in 2011. Published under Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license. No changes made.
2 Picture uploaded to Flickr by username myllissa on 12/18/2006. Published under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic license. No changes made.