Nature provided cats with ample places to keep their claws sharpened and filed down, on surfaces such as tree bark and stone. But indoors, where many cats spend their lives today, there are few claw-trimming opportunities. That's where you come in -- by keeping your cat's claws a safe and comfortable length, and setting up a regular scratching spot. When her nails are kept clipped, their naturally pointed tips will be replaced by straight edges that cause far less damage to furnishings.
How frequently do you need to clip your cat's claws? It depends on how quickly they grow, and how much time, if any, your cat spends outdoors. Keep an eye on her claws by making a "claw inspection" part of your regular grooming sessions. If left untrimmed for too long, the claws can grow into the cat's paw pads, causing pain and possible infection. If this happens, she will need veterinary attention -- but you can easily prevent this situation by monitoring her claws and tending to them regularly.
Before you attempt to clip your cat's claws yourself, get a lesson from a pro. Watch closely as your veterinarian trims the claws and talks you through the process step by step. Perhaps the vet can demonstrate, then let you take a turn while he or she supervises.
Once you know the ropes, follow these guidelines at home:
Cats need to scratch! It's an urge that's programmed into them and doesn't change, no matter how many years they live in a cozy home far from the wild. Providing your pet with a scratching post will let her express this natural urge while sparing your furniture from damage. It will also give your pet some extra exercise, especially for the upper body, and promote the natural shedding of the outer sheath of the claws.
Scratching posts come in a wide variety of sizes and shapes, and may be made of or covered in several different materials, including:
If your cat shows little interest in one type of post, try another that stands a different way (perhaps vertical instead of horizontal) or is made of other material. You might want to provide several posts, each stationed in a different room of your home. Whatever kind of post you choose, make sure it's sturdy enough to stand up to your pet's eager scratching.
For a standing post, be sure the base is broad enough to keep the post from tipping over when your cat leans her weight against it while scratching. You might want to stabilize the post further by anchoring one corner of the base underneath a heavy piece of furniture, such as a couch.
A corrugated-cardboard post, which is naturally lightweight, can be set inside a wooden frame to weigh it down and keep it from moving around the floor.
Some posts, or their frames, can be securely mounted to a wall. Mount the post at a comfortable height for your cat to reach with her front paws while standing on her hind legs.
Even the best-designed post is useless if your cat rejects it in favor of the furniture. Your pet may actually enjoy the feeling of the post once she experiences it -- but how to lure her over to try it? Consider these techniques:
Declawing is a highly controversial procedure, and understandably so. It entails not only removing the claws themselves, but also cutting off the terminal bone of the toe. This is an extreme measure and should not be done lightly. A cat's claws provide her main means of defending herself, and should be preserved if at all possible. If scratching is a problem, you should explore every other available solution before deciding on declawing. In most cases, simply keeping the cat's claw tips trimmed will go a long way toward limiting the amount of damage she can do to the furniture.
There are other options for owners reluctant to have their cat declawed. Discuss these options with your vet to find the ones that might work for you and your pet.
When the alternatives to declawing are giving up the animal to a pound or sentencing her to life outdoors, declawing can provide a way to keep the cat in the home and part of the family. In these cases, observe the following guidelines: