In response to the new position statement on declawing from the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association, we at Wilmot Veterinary Clinic have decided to stop doing this procedure.
If you are considering removing your cat’s knuckles, we urge you to consider these other options below before seeking this elective and non-therapeutic surgery. Remember, scratching is a normal behaviour for cats, so it is unrealistic to stop cats from scratching entirely.
1) Nail Trimming – Keep them short and start when they are kittens.
Best to start this when they are kittens, but this can be done at any age. Get your kitten used to having their paws handled by touching, stroking and massaging their paws while giving a treat or while they are relaxed or eating. Then once your cat is comfortable with this type of handling, practice extending the claw out by putting pressure on the top of the digit or toe while putting pressure on the bottom of the pad. Do this when your cat is calm and relaxed. Pay attention to the anatomy of the nail and look for the pinkish quick – that is the portion of the claw that you want to avoid cutting. Once your cat is accepting of this type handling, start trimming their nails. Try trimming one or two nails and if you cat is comfortable, you may be able to do all of them at once. If you cut the quick, it will start to bleed but don’t panic. In a pinch, you can put pressure and flour on it, or you can purchase Kwik Stop styptic powder. We understand that some cats will simply not allow you to trim their claws and if all else fails, we can try giving an oral sedative to make it easier for you to handle your cat’s paws. Watch this YouTube video to get started.
2) Provide Scratching Zones – Be Patient
Marking and scratching with their claws is a normal behaviour and activity for your cat. So cats need places or zones to mark their territory. If you don’t give you cat zones to scratch, they will find their own spot. Each cat is different so figuring out if your cat likes scratching posts, door hangers, scratching toys or scratching stations will take some trial and error. Cats like to scratch around your scent, or in other words, where you spend most of your time. So place scratching posts near those spots and try different orientations either level, angled or vertical to encourage scratching. Different types of materials should be tried as well – try different carpet piles, like sisal and try corrugated cardboard, wood, rope and natural bark too. Also, don’t forget to put a post near where your cat sleeps. Cats enjoy a stretch and scratch right after waking up from a nap. Promote scratching at the proper site by using Feliscratch. Cat’s mark their territory by leaving visual and chemical messages from their paws. Feliscratch is a copy of the scent and when applied on the desired scratching surface, like a scratching post, it mimics your cat’s messages, encouraging your cat to scratch there again. Make the scratching zone fun and interesting by placing toys, catnip treats, cardboard boxes and even food bowls around the desired scratching zone. Rub some tuna oil or catnip on the desired area and reward your cat with their favourite treat when you see them scratching in the right zone.
Stop unwanted scratching by cleaning the scratched area with water or rubbing alcohol. Then, spray Feliway Pheromone eight times to each of the scratched areas daily for one month. Only use the Feliway spray on areas where you don’t want your cat to scratch. A plug-in Feliway Diffuser might also help by reducing your cat’s urge to mark. The diffuser helps to reinforce your cat’s feeling of security and reduces anxiety. As a result, your cat will feel less of a need to mark territory during periods of stress. Watch this video summary about Feliway.
If the Feliway doesn’t help, try placing double-sided tape or aluminum foil over the area(s) that your cat is scratching. Carpet runners placed in front of areas with the spiked side up will also work. Another deterrent is to booby-trap problem zones so that either scratching or approaching the area is unpleasant for the cat. Products that can help include motion detector air spray, motion detector alarms, odor repellents or a stack of plastic cups that is set to topple when the cat scratches. Watch this video summary for more about deterrence. (Please don’t use the mouse trap idea. Too risky for me)
Some scratching behaviors may be from anxiety or stress so be sure to discuss scratching problems with us to help determine if stress is a factor. Sharing of limited resources between cats in the same home can increase scratching. Renovations, frequent house guests, and that roaming outdoor alley tomcat can also be very upsetting to your cat. Also, boredom may be a factor so make sure to keep your cat engaged with food puzzles and regularly scheduled play and activity time.
3) Nail Covers – Last Resort
Nail Covers are small plastic caps that you glue on top of your cat’s claws. These tips blunt the claws in a way that they can’t cause too much damage with them. The tips grow out as your cat’s nails grow out and they eventually break off. They can last up to 30 days. It can be difficult to put the caps on your cat’s nails if he or she doesn’t like to be handled. So you will often need a tractable or sedated cat to get the caps on.
More Internet Resources Against Declawing: