Picture this. You’re sitting down on the couch with dinner in hand, totally engulfed in this new show you’re binging, when you hear the sound all cat parents dread—that one awful sound—claws…to the couch. All you can picture in that moment are the threads of your nice furniture being ruined. I totally get it. I’m a cat mom myself. It’s infuriating! But here’s the hard truth: cats don’t do it to be spiteful; it’s their natural behavior.
Scratching is a completely natural cat behavior that tends to begin when they’re around eight weeks old. There are three main reasons for this behavior:
To flex and stretch their bodies (a little kitty yoga, if you will).
To remove dead layers of outer claw (because hang nails are a pain).
To mark their territory. (Cool fact: cats actually have scent glands on their paws.)
Our parents would declaw to keep cat claws at bay, but we’ve learned a lot of facts since then. Declawing is not your typical manicure. When a cat is declawed, the entire first bone is removed, including ligaments and tendons. It’s basically the equivalent of cutting a person’s finger off at the first knuckle. Ouch! No wonder so many countries have banned declawing. And it’s also not a Companion Protect covered service.
Declawing can cause both physical and behavioral complications which are often permanent and lifelong, such as:
Becoming biters because they no longer have claws for defense
Becoming less likely to use the litterbox due to experiencing pain when stepping on litter and scratching in the box
Infection or tissue death
“Removing a cat’s claws changes the way a cat’s foot meets the ground and can cause pain similar to wearing an uncomfortable pair of shoes. There can also be a regrowth of improperly removed claws, nerve damage, and bone spurs.” – The Humane Society¹
So how do we keep the claws at bay without declawing? Thankfully, there are so many different tricks to easily attempt at home. We even encourage trying more than one option at a time! (As always, please make sure to consult with your veterinarian regarding the best option for your cat!)
Scratchers made from jute material, not carpet.
Scratchers made with carpet material can mimic the feel of your carpeted floor, confusing your cat thinking the carpet floor is also up for grabs. Posts/boards made with jute material are recommended!
Start with providing your cat their new scratch post in the room you spend the most time in. If your cat doesn’t seem interested at first, give them some time. Try adding additional boards or posts to each room in your house. To make it even more fun, screw some scratch boards to your walls where your cat can reach. It’s fun to watch them enjoy this.
I highly recommend: Smart Cat Combination/Post Scratcher. They have a vertical and horizontal option. Try both!
Sprinkle of catnip on scratchers.
If you know your cat loves cat nip, try sprinkling some on their scratchers for a little boost of enticement! Plainly put, it’s irresistible.
Cat pheromone oil or spray on scratchers.
If for whatever reason your cat doesn’t care for cat nip (yep, it’s possible), try an alternative temptation with a cat pheromone oil or spray. Cat pheromones mimic the smell of their nursing mothers and can provide them a sense of calming. Spray or carefully trickle some of this kitty pheromone on your scratch post(s) and/or board(s) to entice your kitty.
The important thing is to get them habitually scratching the correct items, rather than the incorrect. Please note: cat pheromones are not guaranteed to work and in some rare and unusual circumstances have the opposite effect. It’s important to remain patient with your cat as you learn what works best for them.
CP recommends: “Feliway Feliscratch Scratching Attractant for Cats”
I mean, if you’re going to be a cat parent, double-sided tape on all your furniture comes with the territory, right? That being said, meticulously place some double-sided tape where your cat tends to scratch. It won’t make your furniture look any more charming, but it’ll help deter the scratching. Cats hate a good sticky to the paw.
Don’t let this be your only quick fix! Though double-sided tape will help deter scratching the wrong items, make sure you have scratch posts and/or boards readily available for their use. Always try to re-correct the wrong behavior with providing access to the right behavior. We are cat parents, you see.
Provide regular nail trims at home or at your vet clinic.
Let it be no surprise, cat nails grow just like everyone else’s. If you notice your cat’s nails protruding from their paws when in a relaxed state—or maybe you received a playful whack and it left a scratch—then it may be time to trim those nails. When a cat’s nails get too long, they will defer to their natural scratching behavior of trying to remove dead layers of claw. Keeping their nails trimmed makes for a happier cat and a happier human.
Trimming a cat’s nails is not always easy. It’s best to get them acclimated to this handling when they’re younger since there will be natural resistance. Not everyone enjoys a trip to the nail salon… If you feel you need some guidance or help, schedule a nail trim at your local vet and while there, ask how you can do this at home. Otherwise, (though not CP covered) regular trips to the vet for a trim are fairly inexpensive.
Nail caps look like the ideal kitty manicure and solution to keeping the claws at bay, but don’t look to these as a one-stop-shop solution. They run the potential of falling off, they are not permanent and need to be replaced every six weeks, and most importantly, your cat might hate them.
As always, it’s best to ask your vet what the best solution for your cat may be. But when keeping the claws at bay, it’s important to understand that scratching is their natural behavior. When you provide them the right tools to exhibit those natural behaviors, they tend to understand. But every now and then they may need a little redirection. It’s part of being a cat parent!
Marketing Specialist Shayne has a few years experience in digital marketing, content creation and animal care, with her previous role as New Media Intern at The Humane League. In her free-time she loves to cycle (with her dog on her back) and practice yoga. A social cause she cares about is climate change, the welfare of factory farmed animals, and racial equality. Her favorite food is vegan mac & cheese.