“This is why we can’t have nice things.”
Whether it’s said in response to Kitty Katrina scratching the couch or Fido the Fearless’ submissive urination (on your carpet), this is a too-common refrain in pet-loving households. But the truth is that a little management and a few cat-friendly concessions can go a long way. Last week, we tackled the indoor-outdoor cat debate and looked at a few ways to help your cat stay safe and happy. This week let’s look at furniture scratching, what drives it and some declaw alternatives that your cat will thank you for.
From domestic house cats to lions in the wild, all cats scratch. And they don’t scratch at the corner of the couch to upset you — though it does a good job at it. They actually scratch for good reasons.
Cats need to scratch in order to trim their nails, stretch and say, “This is mine.” Did you know cats even have scent glands in their paws that reinforce this territorial marking as they scratch? “The scent glands in his paw pads get used when he scratches on objects for marking” notes cat behaviorist and author Pam Johnson-Bennett in her article on scent communication. “In addition to leaving a visual mark from his claws, he leaves an olfactory mark through the scent glands.” Thus, scratching is literally for their physical and mental health!
Unfortunately, here in the U.S., declawing is suggested by some as a possible way to save your furniture. (It’s actually considered inhumane and illegal in places like the U.K.) However, too few people are aware of the real physical and behavioral side effects declawing can cause before they do it — side effects that are often a lot worse and may be permanent.
For example, when you declaw a cat, you take away his first line of defense, leaving biting as the only remaining solution for some. “People who are worried about being scratched, especially those with immunodeficiencies or bleeding disorders, may be told incorrectly that their health will be protected by declawing their cats,” notes the Humane Society website. “However, infectious disease specialists don't recommend declawing. The risk from scratches for these people is less than those from bites.” In my 16-plus years working in the animal welfare industry, I’ve seen and known too many cats who lose their bite inhibition after declawing, causing a much more serious problem in the household.
The experts over at PetCoach have seen other serious declawing difficulties as well. “There are many complications that can happen [after declawing your cat], from lifelong pain, regrowth of the bone tissue which can cause deformation and lifelong behavioral issues. Many cats who are declawed become biters and stop using their litter boxes due to the pain in their feet.” Often, cats who develop these issues will end up surrendered to shelters or euthanized for behavior problems that were not present before declawing. (Having other misbehavior problems? Check out the "7 Common Mistakes Cat Owners Make.")
Remember, even if a pet parent opts for what’s touted as the more “humane” laser declaw, the same side effects are possible.
So, if declawing is off the table (which I hope it is), is it possible to save the sofa and actually have nice things as a cat mom? Yes! The trick is making some concessions to your cat’s natural need to scratch while managing where that scratching happens.
In all, making just a few adjustments to help your cat learn where scratching is allowed can help keep your kitty happy and your couch looking great and avoid some serious issues down the line.
Have a question about kitty’s scratching? Ask the experts at PetCoach below.
And you'll see personalized content just for you whenever you click the My Feed .
SheKnows is making some changes!