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Animals In Print
The On-Line Newsletter

From 8 October 2002 Issue

What Jill Knows
Jillouise Breslauer,
Companion Animal-Behavior Consultant

Alternatives to Declawing Your Cat(s)

Step One:
Apply double-faced tape to "problem areas" the cats are already clawing, i.e., your couch, under the bed, on chairs, etc.  There's a ready-made product called "Sticky Paws," which are strips of double-faced sticky-tape....cats hate sticky tape & won't claw anything Sticky Paws is applied to.  They don't like how it feels.  Hence it is one of the best behavior modification tools that works even when you are not home!  This is a kind and gentle way to teach your feline friends what objects are NOT acceptable to scratch.  Sticky Paws is available at most pet supply stores.  They are also online:

Step Two:
The MAIN GOAL here is teaching your kittens/cats what they ARE SUPPOSED TO SCRATCH.  Cats have a natural instinct to claw/scratch and some like to "knead" with their front paws. Some people suggest that cats use scratching posts and pads to sharpen their claws, but this is debatable and rings untrue to me. (After all, the back claws of cats are just as sharp, yet cats don't sharpen them on scratching surfaces!)  It seems cats scratch for a variety of natural reasons.  Scratching is normal, natural and totally acceptable, perhaps even an important social function for cats.  We must not deprive them of their instinctual need to claw.

The problem is most humans do not know to provide their feline companions with the correct products for their cat to scratch on.  Cats, like people, have varying tastes, previous bad experiences and likes and dislikes.  In many cases, the proper cat-scratching post is NOT upright, but lays flat on the floor.  From my 16 years experience with feral cat and domesticated cat rescue and rehabilitation, I have learned that most of my cat clients prefer a wide, heavy scratching board that lies flat on the floor.  Some cats like an upright post, but ONLY if it's large and sturdy enough to NEVER wobble and NEVER TIP OVER.  The giant treelike (5'-7' tall), wooden or carpeted/sculpted "Cat Trees" with the large, solid bases are excellent for most cats.  So are the commercial, solid, (un-tippable) "Kitty Condos" on the market these days.  Indoor cats enjoy the climb up a solid "tree," and love to nap and hang out on the "limbs."  Cats naturally enjoy being safely elevated.  It makes them feel safe and happy.

As for small, carpeted cat "posts," I throw them out!  If an upright cat scratching post can tip over, it will.  And when it DOES tip over, it can scare the cat with the end result being she'll never go near it again.  Also, when you give your cat a small, carpeted post to scratch, you are telling your cat, "Hey, it's O.K. to destroy carpeting! Go for it!"  (Not a good plan. )

So, here is how to save; a whole lot of money; your sanity; your furniture; and your cat from being declawed..... by making your own low-cost cat scratching board your cat(s) will LOVE!....


*6" -1' (or wider) wood board, at least 2 feet in length.
*Large roll or two of sisal rope
    (Available at most Home Depot or other super lumber/hardware stores)
*Staple gun for stapling sisal rope to wood board
* 5 oz (or larger) can of Cosmic Catnip extract spray.
    (Available at most pet supply stores)

* Remove any old nails from board.
* Sand ends of boards, if they are splintered or rough.
* Securely staple the end of roll of sisal rope to the top upper left corner of board.
    Make sure the staple is long enough to hold the rope onto the wood.
* Wrap the sisal around the board as tightly as you can.
* Staple the sisal rope onto the SIDES of the board, where the cat will not be scratching.
* Continue wrapping and stapling until the board is completely and securely wrapped in sisal.
* Take a hammer to any unruly staples-- make sure all staples are on the SIDES of the board & are not protruding.
* Spray the sisal-cat scratching board down with the Cosmic Catnip Extract.


* Call your kitties and watch them check out their new, cat-nipped scratching board.
* Tell your kitties that this is THEIR board.  When you see them scratching on their    board, PRAISE THEM a lot.  Every time you see them sitting on it, scratching it, or   even just looking at it, lavish them with PRAISE! This is the only way your cats will     learn what is O.K. to scratch -- through repetitive positive reinforcement and love.

Do you have kittens who lack socialization skills and are shredding your couch?  Or do you have an old grumpypuss, who's always scratched your furniture, but now you've drawn the line (way too late, I might add!)?  Do NOT declaw!  I repeat: DO NOT DECLAW!   Declawing a cat is the equivalent to you having the last joints of your fingers REMOVED. This is barbaric, very painful and unnecessary.  There exist numerous alternative solutions, though I admit they take a little time and patience.  But aren't your companion animals worth it????  Sure they are!

You can transfer some of the cats' clawing energy into fun, interactive game time with your cat's favourite person-- YOU!  Get one of those fun cat toys with a 'fishing pole' wand that you wave and the cat can chase the ribbon or ball or what ever's on the other end.  This is not only quality time for you and your feline companion, but you're actually retraining your cat to play with and claw at the designated toys (while burning off some of her pent up energy, which is always a good thing)!

And then there is "Soft Claws," little plastic sheaths which cover your cats' nails. I apply them myself to the front nails of one of my cats. It takes about 7 minutes to do properly. The first time Rupert screamed like I was performing surgery without anesthesia on him, only because he has a phobia about anyone touching his nails (He's a "rescue kitty" & he came from his previous home like that). But he got over that real quickly.  Now he knows I'm not trying to kill him and he's much quieter.  :-)  The Soft Claws nail caps last about 4 weeks or more, depending upon how active the cat is.

If you do not want to bother applying them yourself, your vet can do it for you for a nominal fee.  You can purchase Soft Claws at most pet supply stores or at better veterinarian offices.  They come in Kitten size, Small, Medium and Large and are available in clear, pink, blue, purple and red.  (Rupert the Therapy Cat is currently wearing the blue ones and boy, is he handsome!) 

If you have any questions regarding companion animal behavior issues, please e-mail me (Jillouise) at [email protected].  Thank you and may you and your companion animals enjoy one another's company and live long, happy, healthy lives full of love.

Love and paw pats, Jillouise

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