Well, it seems I should have taken all this advice a very long time ago, as my couches are destroyed.    What’s prompting this topic is that I bought the “As Seen on TV” EmeryCat scratching board yesterday.   So far, I don’t think there’s been any scratching on the board.  There has, however, been sitting and standing on it, the feather toy that comes with it has been murdered, and my cats have been fighting over the catnip that came with it that I sprinkled on top of the board.  It remains to be seen whether my kitties ever clue in or this turns out to be a waste of $15.00.

Why do cats scratch?

As you probably already know, scratching is a completely normal behavior for all felines, and one you can not stop.  One reason cats scratch is to mark their territory.  Aside from leaving visible claw marks, cats’ paws contain scent glands that leave their mark on their territory.  In addition, scratching is good exercise and works out the muscles of the cat’s front quarters.  Lastly, it feels good!

Things you can do

The best thing you can do is to buy your cat a scratching post.  Keep in mind that cats like rough surfaces that they can shred to pieces.  Posts made of real tree limbs or sisal fibers will work best.  It must be something secure that will not fall over and it must be tall enough for your cat to fully extend her body.  Put it in an area of your home that you spend a great deal of time.  You may also want to have more than one.  To encourage your kitty to use the scratching post, spend time with her at it playing with toys, giving her treats, feeding her, etc.  Use any methods to make it a pleasurable place to be.

Discouraging the old scratching areas

If your kitty is still scratching the furniture or any other off -limits items, there are a couple things you can try.  Cats have an aversion to citrus odors so you could spray the areas with a lemon or lemon/orange spray.  You could also spray your cat with a water bottle or blow a whistle at her – both of those things need to be done while your cat is scratching to distract and create an aversion.  Another good deterrent is to cover the area with aluminum foil or double-sided tape.  Neither of those things feels good to scratch on.

Alternate Solutions

Trimming your Cats’ Nails

You can limit the amount of destruction your cat can do by cutting her nails.

You may defray some of your cat’s potential for destruction by carefully trimming the razor-sharp tips of her claws.  You may want to have somebody help you, one to hold and one to trim her nails.  The chances are good your kitty will not be super cooperative.  You may actually want to have some prep time a week or so leading up to the first nail clipping to get her accustomed to having her paws handled.   While petting and soothing her, start massaging her paws, especially on the under side.  Gently press on the individual pads at the base of her claws.  You may want to give her treats to reward her for not protesting.  The point, of course, is to make the process a positive one so that she will eventually feel comfortable enough to let you handle her paws without protest.

Gently hold your kitty’s paw in one hand, and with your thumb on top of the paw and forefinger on the pad, gently squeeze your thumb and finger together.  This will push the claw clear of the fur so it can easily be seen.  You will notice that the inside of the claw is pink near its base.  This is living tissue that you do not want to cut.  Trim only the clear tip of the nail.  Do not clip the area where pink tissue is visible nor the slightly opaque region that outlines the pink tissue.  This will avoid cutting into areas that would be painful or bleed.  The desired effect is to blunt the tip.  Many different types of nail trimmers are available in pet supply stores.  I use the one specifically for cats.  Don’t attempt to trim all her nails at once.  Trim one or two at a time, reward her with affection or food, then let her be for a bit.  Eventually trimming will become a non-traumatic experience.

Soft Paws

If all of this is too time consuming and you have a strictly indoor cat, you have another option – a product called Soft Paws. These are lightweight vinyl caps that you apply over your cat’s own claws.  They have rounded edges, so your cat’s cratching doesn’t damage your home and furnishings.  I have personally never used this on my cats nor have I taken care of any cats that have them.  So I can’t personally attest to their effectiveness.  The following is how they are advertised.

Soft Paws are great for households with small children, as they guard against the child getting scratched.  They should be used only on indoor cats, since they blunt one of the cat’s primary means of self-defense.  Soft Paws last approximately six weeks.  At first they may feel a bit strange to her and she may groom them excessively, causing them to come off sooner.  She’ll get used to them quickly though, and thereafter they will last longer.  It is amazing how well cats tolerate the Soft Paws.  Most don’t even seem to notice they are wearing them.

Soft Paws come in a kit and are easy to apply.  Just glue them on.  They are generally applied to the front paws only, since these are what cause most of the destruction to your home.  A kit will last approximately three to six months, depending on your cat.  After applying the Soft Paws, check your cat’s claws weekly.  You may find one or two caps missing from time to time, and these are easily replaced using the adhesive included in the kit.

DO NOT DECLAW!!!

Declawing is not an acceptable option for the beautiful, loving animal that depends on you.  The reasons to avoid declawing are compelling, for you as well as for your cat.

Declawing is literally maiming a cat, a mistake that can lead to physical, emotional, and behavioral complications.  It is erroneous to think that declawing a cat is a trivial procedure similar to trimming fingernails.  A cat’s claws are a vital part of its anatomy, essential to balance, mobility, and survival.

Declawing is an irreversible surgical procedure that involves amputating the last joint of the cat’s “toes”.  It is a very painful procedure with strong potential to secondary complications.  (Imagine having the last joint of your own fingers amputated.  Not a pleasant idea).  Unfortunately, as a veterinary assistant, I have witnessed many, many declaws.  They never got easier to watch.  I got sick to my stomach during every single one.

On rare occasions declawing may lead to secondary contracture of the tendons.  This makes it uncomfortable for the cat to walk.  Since the last joints of their front paws are missing, they compensate by placing more of their weight to the hind quarters, causing them to be out of balance.  This shift of weight to the hind quarters may lead to atrophy of the muscles of their front quarters.  Being out of balance is extremely distressing to a cat, whose very life is about balance.

Deprived of its front claws, a cat may become insecure and distressed.  I can assure you that if your cat becomes emotionally distressed, you will too.  Signs of distress tend to take such forms as urinating on your favorite rug or spraying your antique armoire.  Feeling defenseless without her claws, your cat may become hostile to people (including you), and to other cats and become more apt to bite.  The worst bites I ever received were from a declawed cat.  She was very angry about being confined to the basement and attacked me repeatedly, biting into my knee and my arm.  I’m convinced her bites were so awful because she knew she wasn’t able to use her claws.

Some cats develop an aversion to their litter box because of the pain associated with scratching in the litter after a declawing procedure.  If your cat doesn’t go in the box, she will find a more comfortable place to do her business.  Often times, these habits are hard to break.

Hope these tips help!  Feel free to ask if you have any questions that weren’t answered here.

My babies

Boomer standing on the EmeryCat