Q: I got my beautiful cat as a kitten two years ago. She is an indoor cat who has adjusted just fine to living in my apartment, and has a wonderfully playful temperament. But she is a real scratcher. So far, she has ruined my couch and wallpaper, and she has even chewed my drapes. My colleague says that declawing is the only way to stop her from doing this. Is there another solution?
A: Your cat, like all felines, has a strong instinct to scratch. Outside, the cat would scratch trees, gateposts, sheds, and other suitable surfaces. This entirely natural behavior serves not only to sharpen the cat’s claws, but also to mark its territory. The scratches leave a visual mark, and they contain the cat’s scent, which is delivered from glands between the cat’s paw pads.
So, your cat is just behaving as a cat should – she doesn’t know that she is ruining your home. A solution must be found that both of you can live with. Declawing is definitely not the answer. People imagine that this procedure is the equivalent of trimming the cat’s nails, but it actually involves removing the nail and first joint of the cat’s “toes.” There can be postoperative pain, and declawing can affect both the cat’s balance and its ability to defend itself if it goes outside. For these reasons, declawing is illegal insome countries.
Instead, you must rechannel your cat’s urge to scratch. Invest in a hessian scratching post. Choose one that is sturdy and does not wobble. It should be tall enough to allow your cat to stretch to her full height. Keep it near a favorite scratching place until she gets used to it; you can then move it to a les obtrusive area of the room. Be sure to let her explore it as she pleases – trying to show her how to scratch will just put her off. You shoud also ensure that she has plenty of toys, and that you play with her often to keep her stimulated.
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