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Cats and Scratching: Practical Tips for Owners

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What NOT to Do

  • Do not hold your cat by the scratching post and force her to drag her claws on it. This practice could seriously frighten your cat and teach her to avoid the scratching post completely. (She might decide to avoid you, too!)
  • Do not throw away a favorite scratching post when it becomes unsightly. Cats prefer shredded and torn objects because they can really get their claws into the material. Used posts will also appeal to your cat because they smell and look familiar to her.

Should You Declaw Your Cat?

Some people declaw their cats to prevent or resolve a scratching problem. The term “declaw” is a misnomer. It implies that declawing only involves the removal of a cat’s claws. In reality, declawing involves amputating the end of a cat’s toes. Cats suffer significant pain while recovering from declawing. An alternative surgery, a tendonectomy, severs the tendons in a cat’s toes so that she’s unable to extend her nails to scratch. This procedure may or may not cause less pain. However, if you choose this type of surgery, you must clip your cat’s nails regularly because she’ll be unable to maintain them herself.

The ASPCA discourages declawing and tendonectomies because of the extreme pain that these surgeries inevitably cause. Both procedures are illegal in some European countries because they’re considered cruel to animals. We only recommend such surgeries if a cat caretaker has unsuccessfully tried everything else to resolve scratching behavior and is considering euthanasia.

WebMD Veterinary Reference from ASPCA Virtual Pet Behaviorist

The ASPCA Virtual Pet Behaviorist specializes in the resolution and management of pet behavior problems only. Please do not submit questions about medical problems here. Only licensed veterinarians can diagnose medical conditions. If you think that your pet is sick, injured or experiencing any kind of physical distress, please contact his veterinarian immediately. A delay in seeking proper veterinary care may worsen your pet's condition and put his life at risk. If you are concerned about the cost of veterinary care, please read our resources on finding financial help.
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