Declawing is a very controversial topic when it comes to cat ownership. Lets look at the facts.
It is a major surgery.
It is an amputation of part of the cats “finger” and not just a big trimming of the claw.
It is painful.
But when should you consider declawing your cat?
Declawing your cat is not a medically necessary procedure. It is not like a spay or a neuter. It does not benefit the physical or mental health of your cat. However, there are times when a cats clawing can become so destructive that it may be considered necessary.
Before declawing you should try behavior modification training and tools.
How to Stop Your Cat From Clawing
Scratching post- Oh you know this one and are likely rolling your eyes reading about this but bare with me. For some cats providing a scratching post is a great alternative to your couch. If your cat is not showing interest, try rubbing cat nip on it or spraying it with a cat nip spray. Often times the biggest issue with scratching posts is that there are not enough of them. When you are training your cat to use a post instead of your couch you need to have a scratching post in front of everything they scratch. You cannot offer them an alternative that is not the scratching post. If there are things they scratch despite the scratching post, try making the scratching post smell good and the other thing smell bad. There are deterrent sprays you can get that will repel your cat.
Positive and Negative reinforcement– This takes consistency. If your cat is scratching you need to give them a negative reinforcement such as a loud whistle they dislike or spraying them with water. When they scratch on the scratching post you need to praise them with pets and treats. This tells them what the desirable and undesirable behaviors are. For this to be effective you have to be extremely consistent with your cat. If you are away for long periods of time, it may not be effective. Also, if you do not deter your cat in the moment of them scratching it won’t work. The only way they will associate a loud noise or water spray with scratching is if it happens when they are doing it. DO NOT punish your cat after scratching has occurred.
Soft Paws – Soft paws are a great way to keep your scratching cat from doing damage. These are little rubber tips that slip over your cats nails. They keep the nails from being able to scratch and they look cute on your cat giving their nails a little splash of color. With soft paws, even if they do scratch they will cause no damage. The downside is you have to replace them every 1 to 2 weeks, depending on your cat.
Keep in mind that scratching is normal behavior for cats. Even cats that are declawed will still do the scratching action even though there are no nails.
If despite trying behavior training, your cat is causing too match damage to your home or to your person, then it may be time to consider declawing. Typically you only declaw the front paws as that is what is doing the damage. It is a quick surgery that takes a few days for them to recover. If you are unsure if declawing is the right option for you, then talk to your Albuquerque veterinarian and discuss your options.