Cats have a compulsion to scratch. Contrary to popular belief, they don’t do it to sharpen their claws. Rather, it keeps their claws in good shape while helping them shed old claw shells. It also gives them a nice stretch marks the object they scratch with a scent from glands in their paws.
If you don’t give your cat appropriate alternatives, it will choose its own “scratching posts.” Unfortunately, those will likely be your furniture, carpets, or other household objects that you don’t want destroyed.
Don’t declaw your cat in an effort to stop the destruction. As the Humane Society of the United States points out, vets declaw cats by chopping off the last bone of each toe with a guillotine clipper or scalpel. Imagine your fingers getting lopped off at the knuckle and you have an idea of what it’s like to be a mutilated kitty. Laser surgery isn’t quite as harsh, but it delivers the same end results.
Some cats bounce back just fine from declawing, but many suffer from chronic pain or develop problem behaviors like biting. Clawing in the litter box is painful post-surgery, so some cats build up a bad association and avoid their litter boxes even after they heal.
There’s really no need to declaw your cat when you can simply modify its behavior. Here’s how to do that:
Offer plenty of appropriate alternatives
Each cat has a preference for the type of surface it likes to scratch. Some like sisal, while others prefer carpeting, and still others enjoy wood or cardboard. Give your cat several alternatives and see which one it prefers. Make sure scratching posts are long enough for your cat to stretch out its whole body. Some cats aren’t fond of short posts because they want a lengthy stretch.
Place the alternatives strategically
If your cat scratches your couch, put a scratching post next to it. If it’s tearing up the carpet, put a cardboard scratching box near its preferred clawing spots. You don’t necessarily have to leave it there permanently. Just do so until the cat makes the transition to scratching the preferred item.
Make furniture unattractive as a scratching surface
You double the chance of teaching your cat to scratch posts and other appropriate alternatives if you make your furniture unattractive to feline tastes. I love Sticky Paws, a product that’s a lot like double-sided tape, You can read more about it in this article, along with reviews of some other scratch-related products, but basically you just put strips on the surface that you don’t want your cat to scratch. It’s worked wonders for me with seven different cats over the years. As an added enticement, I sprinkle good-quality catnip over and around the scratching posts to make them more attractive.
While these methods aren’t guaranteed to work, I’ve used them with much success in my own household. At the very least, give them a try before you consider declawing. Don’t deprive your cat of a natural behavior. Just channel it to the right outlets and you won’t have to deal with shredded furniture.