Cat declawing is one of the most controversial surgical procedures a vet can perform. Some oppose declawing for being inhumane or unnatural, since it can be painful for the cat and takes away its natural mechanism for hunting and defending itself. It’s even illegal in some countries. If you’re getting a cat or thinking about the procedure, it’s wise to consider a number of feasible alternatives to declawing.
1. Clip your cat’s nails regularly.
This is the easiest and most cost-efficient alternative to declawing. You should trim your cat’s nails every other week or so, which will minimize any damage that can be done by scratching. If you’re bringing home a kitten, get her used to having her paws handled regularly, so nail clipping will be no big deal. If your kitty is resistant at first, just do one or two nails at a time and try again the next day. Be sure to use a pair of pet nail clippers, as scissors and human nail clippers can tear your cat’s nails.
2. Train her to scratch proper surfaces.
To discourage her from scratching furniture, consider covering her favorite spots with double-sided sticky tape or aluminum foil, both of which cats hate (don’t worry—once she learns not to scratch there, you’ll be able to remove the tape or foil). Make sure kitty has a proper scratching post where she is allowed to scratch, as it’s a healthy and necessary feline instinct. If your cat is fond of catnip, sprinkle some on the scratching post to encourage her to use it. Reward her with a treat when she scratches the post.
3. Cover your cat’s claws with tips.
If you find your cat allows you to handle her paws without too much resistance, nail covers are a great option to eliminate scratching damage. Most pet supply stores sell the soft plastic nail covers, which you apply to the tip of the nail using a small dab of glue. Some vets or groomers will apply them for you for a small fee. These soft tips fall off on their own and usually last for a couple weeks; you can reapply them one at a time as needed.
3. Discourage with a squirt bottle.
There’s nothing cats hate more than getting wet! A little squirt with a spray bottle will do the trick when you catch kitty preparing to sink her nails into the living room couch. Give her one or two quick sprays along with a firm “NO.” After a while, you might not even have to grab the squirt bottle—she’ll move away as soon as she hears the word “no.”
Many vets advise that declawing should be an “option of last resort,” used only in cases where the cat’s or owner’s health is at risk or the kitty will otherwise have to be abandoned. It’s a good idea to talk your options over carefully with your vet or local chapter of the ASPCA.