Well, of course I think declawing is wrong! I’m a cat. I like my claws and I like to use them. Most of the time, I use them for good (grabbing a toy I’m chasing, or hooking on the cat tree for a good stretch) and not evil (clawing the seats of the dining room chairs — I leave that nasty trick up to Binga). Claws help us kitties defend ourselves, either by scratching our enemy or by climbing trees to escape them. Clawing our scratchers and cat trees helps us stay fit by toning our upper bodies, and we stay supple by using our claws as a stretching aid. Plus I like using my claws to comb my human’s hair. Sometimes she is lax about grooming.
Many civilized countries have outlawed declawing, and only allow the procedure to be done in extreme circumstances. Here is a list at declawing.com of the countries that do not allow cats to be declawed. I have never understood why there is such a controversy over declawing in the United States and Canada. In California, when cities such as West Hollywood began to outlaw declaws, some veterinary groups went to the state capitol and pushed through a measure that would stop cities from banning declawing. The law sort of backfired on them because several very large cities rushed to ban declawing before the end of 2009 (the law wasn’t scheduled to take effect until 2010). Los Angeles, Santa Monica, Beverly Hills, Culver City, Burbank, San Francisco and Berkeley are all no-declaw zones now.
A lot of you reading this already know that declawing involves amputating part of our toes, and that it can be painful and traumatizing for a cat. I won’t go into details here, but if you want to know more, I created a whole page at Squidoo about declawing from a cat’s point of view. You’ll find a whole bunch of resources about declawing there. Right now I’m more interested in suggesting some ways humans can help manage the clawing behavior of the cats who live with them.
- Give us lots of different scratching surfaces. When humans complain that their cat doesn’t use the scratching post, maybe it’s because they don’t have the type of scratching surface the cat prefers. Some cats like to scratch vertically; others prefer scratching horizontally. Some cats prefer sisal, while others love corrugated cardboard. All cats like a secure scratching surface that doesn’t slip and slide underneath them or feel like it’s going to topple over. We also like our scratching surfaces to be in a spot that’s convenient and easy for us to reach, not hidden or shunted off in a corner where we never go.
- Make sure your furniture and rugs are not appealing scratching surfaces. Those dining room chairs seats that Binga likes to claw? They are covered in the most wonderfully scratchable, nubby fabric. I don’t know what my human was thinking when she agreed to buy them from her friends. Think like a cat — is that couch or chair made of material that you would just love to dig your claws into? Then don’t bring it home. Get furniture that’s made of fabric that’s hard for a cat to dig his claws into, like microfiber, or short, hard pile that claws will just slip off of. My human’s new couch has fabric like that. Plus she put throws over the couch to make it extra unappealing for scratching. When my human got a rug for the living room, she found one that was nice looking, but not that expensive so it wouldn’t be too tragic if we “ruined” it. Ironically, she’s the one who has ruined it — she’s worn down the pile in the middle from all her exercising! (Don’t blame me — I’m the one who always says “no!” every time she puts in one of those confounded exercise dvds.)
- Trim our claws regularly. Sharp claws, as you might have guessed, cause way more damage than short, trimmed claws. It is a good idea to begin handing a cat’s paws and trimming her claws when she is a young kitten. That will save a lot of drama later on. My human trims our claws when we are sleepy. That way, we require less restraining (I hate being held tight!). Sometimes she pretends like she’s just petting us and before we know it, our claws are trimmed.
What about Soft Paws nail caps? Some humans seem to like them, but I can’t wholeheartedly recommend them. It still interferes with our natural need to use our claws to scratch, stretch and navigate when we’re jumping, and while they come in an assortment of pretty fashion shades, some cats really hate them. In fact, some cats hate them so much that they injure themselves trying to chew them off. Others have gotten their nail caps caught in a carpet or lacey fabric and have been unable to extricate themselves, also resulting in injuries, both to the cat and whatever it was he caught his nail cap on. So if you’ve got a cat, the best thing you can do is figure out how he can act out his natural scratching instincts in a way that works for you.