Animal Tales: How do I stop my cat from clawing at furniture?

Cat scratching can be a problem, but there are many options available at retail pet stores to keep kitty away from the furniture.
Cat scratching can be a problem, but there are many options available at retail pet stores to keep kitty away from the furniture. MCT

Question: I recently adopted a cat and she is scratching my furniture. How do I get her to stop? Should I declaw her?

Answer: Scratching is normal and typical cat behavior. Cats scratch for many reasons. They scratch to mark territory, shed the husks on their claws and exercise the muscles in their legs and back. There are a few things a new cat owner can do to encourage your cat to scratch in appropriate areas and deter your cat from scratching on inappropriate surfaces such as your furniture.

1. Keep your cat’s claws trimmed. Talk to your veterinarian or Whatcom Humane Society for help learning how. Get your cat used to having his/her paws handled so it is easier to trim nails on a regular basis.

2. Provide multiple scratching materials throughout the house. There are many affordable cat scratching products available including products made of carpet, cardboard, wood and sisal. Place catnip on the scratching posts/materials to entice your cat to the area. Make sure that cat trees/posts are tall and heavy enough to handle your cat’s size and weight and will not tip over when in use.

3. For hard-core scratchers, consider a product like Soft Paws — a plastic cap that can be placed over the cat’s nails, allowing them to engage in normal cat behavior but not damage inappropriate areas of the household.

4. Place double-sided tape, plastic, sprays or a similar product designed to deter your cat from scratching on inappropriate materials such as your couch or a favorite chair.

Some people feel that declawing their cats is no big deal and will provide a quick fix for their cat’s scratching issues. That simply is not true. Declawing is a major and irreversible surgery that can cause significant pain and lasting and long-term problems for cats.

Most declaw surgeries involve more than simply the removal of the cat’s claw or nail bed — declawing includes the amputation of the bone of each toe on the cat’s paw. It is the human equivalent of having a person’s finger amputated at the knuckle.

Side effects of declawing a cat can include infection and pain to the cat’s paw, lameness and chronic back pain, as the cat can no longer properly exercise leg and back muscles. Many declawed cats develop litterbox issues; as their paws become sensitive to the litter and the cats may urinate or defecate outside the litterbox in an attempt to mark their territory. When cats no longer have their claws for protection and defense, they can and will use their mouth and are more likely to bite.

Many countries including England, Germany, Finland and the Netherlands have banned declawing cats for non-medical reasons.

With the proper supplies and a little patience, planning and time, you are your cat should be able to peacefully co-exist and your cat’s instinctive scratching needs can be met – while saving your furniture at the same time.