Declawing is a controversial procedure now banned in many countries and U.S. states. Whether you live in one of these areas or believe it's unethical, you're probably looking for alternatives to declawing a cat. Fortunately, there are several effective ways you can keep your cat from scratching without resorting to declawing, including nail caps and pheromone products like FELISCRATCH. Protect your furniture, other pets, and your own skin with these 10 alternatives.
Smart Alternatives to Declawing Cats
There are several reasons an owner may decide not to pursue declawing surgery, and there are just as many alternatives. Whether your cat likes to sink their claws into your leg while kneading or into your favorite rug, try one or a combination of these solutions in lieu of declawing.
Cat Nail Caps
One of the best alternatives to declawing a cat is nail caps. Nail caps are temporary, painless, convenient, and pretty darn stylish. These smooth, hollow pieces are created in the shape of a cat's claw, so they fit perfectly over the nail to prevent scratching. Nail caps are glued to the nail in much the same way as human artificial nails, so your cat wears them continuously. Because the natural nail grows underneath, they'll eventually fall off. You'll need to trim the nails and reapply the caps every 4 to 6 weeks.
Most cats tolerate nail caps very well, though it can take a few days to get used to them. If applying the caps sounds intimidating, your veterinary office will likely put them on for you for a small fee. In fact, Soft Paws, one of the most popular nail cap brands, was developed by a veterinarian. Their caps even come in various colors, so you can have fun picking out a new shade every month.
Frequent Nail Trimming
Keeping your cat's nails short can be an effective alternative to declawing. However, there's only so much you can clip before hitting the quick, which is the part of the nail anatomy full of blood vessels and sensitive nerves. That's why trimming frequently is the best solution. Most cats need their claws trimmed once or twice each month, so aim to do it more often. Weekly clippings should keep the nails short enough to reduce scratching. If you'd like to take it a step further, a Dremel or file can smooth out any rough edges to keep your cat's nails from picking at anything.
Does your cat try to climb up your back during a bath or while cleaning their ears? Anti-scratch booties might help in these situations. You can place these silicone booties on one or all of your cat's feet to prevent scratching. Though a good option to try instead of declawing a cat, they're not meant for long-term use. Only place them on your cat when you anticipate a scratching incident, then remove them right after for your cat's safety.
If you're immunocompromised or have blood clotting complications, you might be less worried about your furniture and more concerned about sustaining cat scratches. Cats often knead on your lap when they're content or as a way to claim you as their own (considering they have scent glands in their paws). While most do so with their claws retracted, it's possible they could unintentionally dig their nails into your leg. Their back claws could also nick you if they use your body as a launch surface.
However, protective padding like a thick blanket or cat bed can help shield you from scratches. Place one on your lap whenever you spend time with your cat. You can also place blankets on the arms of your couch or anywhere else your cat may knead.
Designated Scratching Surfaces
Assuming your goal is to keep your feline friend from scratching your antique rug or leather furniture, offering them something else to scratch can be a good solution. Choose from endless styles of posts, towers, cardboard, and door hangers made specifically for cats to scratch.
Surveys suggest cats may prefer sisal or carpet materials, though each cat has an individual preference. Try several different scratchers to see what your cat is drawn to. The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) recommends finding a surface that's "tall enough to encourage full stretching."
Along with providing your cat with a designated scratcher, you'll need to reward them whenever they scratch the appropriate item. Use positive reinforcement to keep your cat coming back. Speak to them lovingly, pet them, or offer them a favorite treat whenever they use the scratch post. Avoid negative tactics when training your cat to use the scratcher. Yelling or spraying them with a spray bottle will often backfire and only stress your cat out.
You've probably heard of the feline pheromone spray, Feliway. Well, they also have a product called FELISCRATCH, which is a veterinarian-recommended declaw alternative designed to redirect destructive scratching. It contains "territory messages" that attract your cat to their own scratcher. You'll just need to apply the product to your cat's scratch post over the course of one month to reduce inappropriate scratching.
There are also synthetic pheromone room sprays, which are meant to reduce stress-related scratching. Feliway's Optimum formula is one of them, as well as Comfort Zone Spray & Scratch Control. Just give the space a spritz once a day or plug in a diffuser to chill your cat out.
If you're having trouble keeping your cat from picking at your precious furnishings, you may want to consider deterrents. Transparent scratch tape is a great first step to take. This double-sided tape is designed to go on furniture sides, carpet edges, or wherever your mischievous cat likes to sink in their claws. They don't like the way tape feels on their claws, so it'll prevent them from scratching. Aluminum foil can also work in a pinch. If you need something more durable, try a plastic furniture shield.
Keeping your curious kitty busy can help prevent scratching out of boredom or anxiety. Offer your cat interactive toys, such as teaser wands, tracks with moving balls, food puzzles, or motion-activated lasers. Some require your involvement, whereas others can keep your cat happy even while you're away from home. The more mentally stimulated a cat is, the less likely they will scratch.
Adopt a Declawed Cat
In the case you don't have a cat yet and are first searching for declawing alternatives, there may be another great solution: adopt an already-declawed cat. Shelters are packed with cats of all ages, shapes, sizes, colors, and personalities. There's a good chance you can find a declawed cat in need of a home, and you can find comfort in knowing you're giving a loving pet a second chance.
Reach out to local rescues to inquire whether any of their adoptable cats were previously declawed. Just be sure you and your chosen cat are a good match before bringing them home; don't let the fact that they're declawed serve as the only factor.
Avoid Declawing With Safe Yet Effective Alternatives
With so many innovative solutions, there's rarely a need to resort to declawing. Even though these methods can take some trial and error, they'll prevent your cat from suffering from the unpleasant side effects of declawing surgery. Speak to your veterinarian or feline behaviorist for personalized guidance on which method is the best fit for your cat. That way, you and your feline friend can enjoy a safe, scratch-free household.