Cats use their claws to climb, scratch, defend themselves, and hunt outside. They also use them to “mark” their territory, which is instinctive behavior. Provide a scratching post from day one and give your cat clear messages about which objects she may or may not scratch. If verbal reprimands fail, a quick squirt from a water bottle should let your can know her choice was wrong. Immediately redirect your cat’s attention to an appropriate object, so she learns the rules. Until your cat has complete respect for your rules, confinement works well when supervision is not possible. Training helps improve the bond and level of communication between owners and cats.
WHAT YOU AND YOUR VET CAN DO
* Some cats are active enough to wear down their own nails, but most cats need nail trims every 2-4 weeks to prevent overgrown nails and reduce the likelihood of damage to your home. A dewclaw is a “fifth” toe located in the thumb position, and also needs to be trimmed. When dewclaws overgrow, they curl inward and can grow into the skin and cause painful infections. They are also easily snagged and injured. Starting at an early age helps cats get used to nail trims. Nervous cats may need to be wrapped in a towel exposing only one foot at a time. Covering the face with a blanket or towel also helps some cats relax.
* Occasionally when all efforts fail, options to eliminate claw problems must be considered.
* Declawing is a controversial procedure that some people feel is inhumane; some veterinarians refuse to perform the procedure. Declawing can be an appropriate procedure, for example, when euthanasia is the only other option.
To prevent destructive scratching, three options are available:
* Nail coverings attach to the claws with a nontoxic adhesive and provide a blunt nail tip so scratching does not cause damage. About once a month, the coverings must be removed, nails trimmed, new coverings applied. You can do this or have the nail caps replaced by your vet.
* Flexor Tendonectomy is a surgical procedure that leaves the claws intact but prevents cats from extending them. Owners must monitor the cat’s toenails and keep them clipped afterwards because the cat’s ability to shed and sharpen the claws is limited.
* Declawing is a surgical procedure that involves removal of the claw and last digit under anesthesia. Only the claws on the front feet need to be removed. Aftercare lasts 14 days and requires using shredded paper in the litter box. Most cats recover uneventfully and do not suffer psychological trauma as a result.