Cats Come With Claws

Why Claws Are Important

A cat's remarkable grace, agility and sense of balance are in part due to it retractable claws, which allow it to establish footing for walking, running, springing, climbing, or stretching. A cat's claws are also its best defense mechanism.

Why Cats Scratch

The outer portions of a cat's claw regularly become frayed. When the cat scratches, it pulls off the outer, frayed part and exposes smooth claws. Scratching is also a way of fulfilling a cat's strong instinctive need to mark it's territory. Not only do cats mark objects visibly by scratching them, but the scratching deposits secretions from glands in the feet that can be smelled by other cats. Scratching can also provide valuable stretching and foot muscle exercise.

What Is Declawing?

Declawing calls for the removal of the claw and the first bone of the toe. The operation is usually performed on the front feet and is actually an amputation comparable to the removal of human fingertips at the first knuckle. The cat experiences pain in the recovery and healing process.

Risks

  • An incorrectly positioned cut during declawing surgery can remove too much of the toe, taking with it part of or the entire pad.
  • If the complete claw is not removed, misshapen claws can grow back. In addition, if a bone fragment is left at the surgery site, it may become a source of infection. Both claw regrowth and infection require additional surgery.
  • Post-surgical blood loss is another concern. Great care must be taken to ensure that bandages wrapped tightly to control bleeding do not cut off circulation.
  • A declawed cat must never be allowed outdoors. The cat's ability to defend itself or escape from danger has been seriously impaired.
  • Many cats turn to biting after being declawed. In the absence of claws, these cats use biting to tell you that they do not want to be touched.

    Alternatives To Declawing

    Introduce scratching posts. Buy or make scratching posts tall enough to the cat can stretch completely when scratching and stable enough so it doesn't wobble when being used. It should be covered with a heavy, rough fiber like the backside of carpeting. Make the post a fun place to be by placing toys on or around it or by rubbing it with catnip and place it in an accessible area. If you are trying to discourage the cat from scratching a particular piece of furniture, try placing the post in front of it, gradually moving the post aside as the cat begins to use it regularly.

    Train with a dual approach-encourage the cat to claw the right things and discourage him from clawing the wrong ones. Each time you bring the cat to the scratching post of he goes on his own, praise him, pet him, and spend a minute playing at the post. If the cat begins to scratch where he isn't supposed to, call him by name, firmly telling him "no" and move him to the scratching post. Put his front legs up on the post and make scratching motions with them. Or keep a spray bottle filled with plain water handy and squirt him on the back when he claws the furnishings. The favorite household scratching are can be made less attractive by attaching tape that is sticky on both sides, or a piece of cotton scented with bath oil to the area.

    Keep The Nails Trimmed!

    Cutting the nails regularly may help keep a cat from scratching furnishings, or at least reduce the damage done by his scratching. Get your kitten used to having his feet handled and his nails clipped while he is young. With an older cat, it may help to begin by handling the cat's feet under pleasurable circumstances. Then introduce the clipping procedure by approaching the cat while he's relaxed - even napping - and clip only one nail per session. Praise your cat while you clip the nail and reward him with a treat.

    If you are in doubt about how much to cut, watch your veterinarian trim the nails. The only equipment necessary is a good pair of nail clippers. Never use scissors since they can tear the nail.

    Slide the blade onto the nail you want to trim. Before cutting, look for the pink "quick" that runs down the center of the nail. The clipper blade should be placed about an eighth of an inch forward of the quick and the nail clipped with one smooth squeezing action of the clippers.

    Be extremely careful you do not cut into the "quick". If this happens, the cat will experience pain and bleeding is likely. The bleeding may stop without assistance, or you may need to hold a soft cloth on the nail or apply a little styptic powder. If you trim a small amount of nail every couple of weeks, the quick will tend to recede.

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