TIPS FOR HEALTHY CLAWS
Did you know that…?
• Your cat’s claws do not automatically imply couch destruction, injuries to children, or transformation in victims of Edward Scissorhands.
• Cats use their claws for many reasons, including to mark their territory, to defend themselves, to move around, to keep their balance, to play, and to stretch.
• Contrary to dogs, cats can retract and extend their claws as needed.
A new era: we are no longer declawing cats
Indeed, declawing is no longer systematic. Attitudes have changed, and the practice is increasingly called into question. Declawing is even banned in more than 40 countries around the world, including Australia, Brazil, Israel, and a majority of European countries.
In Canada, 2 provinces followed suit: Nova Scotia in March 2018, and British Columbia in May 2018. Here in Quebec, several veterinary clinics of the Passionimo network stopped offering this service months, if not years ago.
What is declawing?
Note that declawing (or onychectomy) is an elective and not medically required surgical procedure done under general anesthetic. It consists in the amputation of all or part of the distal phalanges and the removal of the claw in each digit.
Of course, as is the case for any surgery, this procedure entails anesthetic risks and potential complications (hemorrhage, infection, etc.).
What are the alternatives?
There are more alternatives than you might think, and they are simple and effective!
Thanks to a deeper knowledge of animal behaviour, it’s now possible to minimize the damages caused by cat claws with a few simple tips.
So, here are a few tools that enable cats to express themselves with normal species behaviours while protecting you, your children, and your environment.
Remember that you CAN teach old cats new tricks if you encourage and reward the new learning. After all, even adults can learn how to play the piano!
1) Scratcher or cat tree
Get a scratcher or cat tree your feline friend can scratch out to his heart’s content. Don’t worry: this isn’t 1980 anymore! Scratchers and cat trees no longer only come in shades of brown carpet. Do a little research and you will find many aesthetically pleasing structures that will not ruin your décor.
A few simple rules to follow to make this tool effective:
- Place the scratcher in a busy area, directly in the family room, i.e. the room where your cat wants to sharpen his claws, and not where you want your cat to do it. A neglected cat tree sitting in a dark corner of the basement will be of no use at all. It’s the same principle as setting up a stationary bike in that dark corner and expecting to use it…
- The scratcher must be tall enough to allow your cat to fully stretch his spine.
- The scratcher must be made out of a material your furry companion particularly appreciates (rope, cardboard, jute, leather, fabric, wood, etc.). Preference will vary from cat to cat. To each their own!
- The scratcher must be as stable as a tree.
Sadly, your couch meets all those criteria. But don’t panic! Here’s how to save it from your cat’s claws:
- Temporarily cover your couch in total or in part with an aluminum sheet, a plastic tarp, or double-sided adhesive strips. Meanwhile, reward your cat with his favourite treat every time he uses the scratcher or cat tree.
- Place a blanket over the cushions and/or armrests.
- Slip the base of the scratcher/cat tree under a leg of your couch to entice your cat and to meet the stability criterion.
- Sprinkle the scratcher with catnip.
- If your cat already left his marks on wood or fabric, the best thing to do is to make them disappear (by covering it with a blanket or fixing the surface). Although we do not have irrefutable scientific proof of this, it is suspected that cats are likely to reoffend if they see their marks on a surface.
2) Claw covers or nail caps
Available in various colours from several brands, claw covers are actually stick-on caps made of plastic that wrap around the claw. Nail caps will stay in place until the claw grows too long (approximately 4 to 6 weeks).
Cats appear to be comfortable wearing them. Our veterinary teams can stick on the caps for you, or you can learn to do it yourself at home.
3) Nail clipping
Trimming your cat’s claws is also much easier than you might think. Here again, the use of a gentle method combined with positive reinforcement will ensure a smooth experience. We’ll be happy to teach you our tricks !
4) Understanding your cat’s body language
Although hospitalization due to a cat scratch is extremely rare; sometimes, children are so excited to be in the company of a furry friend that they miss the cues pets can send.
Dilated pupils, twitchy tail movements, ears cocked to the side or back, low stance, excessive grooming, curling up in a ball: these are all signals sent out by your cat.
Recognizing signs of stress in your cat can help prevent attacks or behaviour issues. To that end, we have developed this useful tool: Do you speak cat?
Do you have any questions?
Our family veterinarians at Passionimo can provide you with individual guidance on all the alternatives to declawing so that you, your family, and your feline companion can live together happily and in harmony! Don’t hesitate to reach out to discuss your specific situation.