Scratching / Declawing

Leave your cat with its claws. There are simple alternatives!
Cats need to scratch, play, hunt, hide, sleep and have social interaction. Cats are by nature curious and adventuresome. They can get into places you would not imagine and make toys out of the least likely items. Many cat behaviors are similar to those you would observe in wild felines (lions, tigers, cougars). They sleep, hunt, stalk, chase, scratch, bite and watch. Part of playing with your cat may include mock hunting: stalking, ambushing and pouncing. These can be delightful antics to watch, but be aware that anything that moves may become a target (including you).


Scratching is a normal behavior and can be directed to appropriate places. Your cat scratches not only to clean away scales from its nails but also to mark territory. Try providing your cat with a variety of scratching options such as a rope scratching post, a log with the bark intact, a cardboard box, etc.

Put the scratching post near a favorite sleeping place as cats love to stretch and scratch after a nap. Reinforce his good behavior by praising him whenever he uses appropriate places. Put catnip on the “right” scratching item. If you catch him scratching the furniture, try a water spray bottle, set on stream. Only punish the behavior, not the cat (that is, catch him in the act). If the cat just loves scratching one corner of your couch, for example, place something there to block access like plastic carpet protectors turned upside down with the little spikes facing outward to discourage cats from walking over them. You can also use foil or double-sided sticky tape.


Once people learn more about declawing, they are usually discouraged from having the surgery and are happy to seek out alternative solutions.

Consider the following:

  • Declawing is the amputation of the entire last digit of the cat’s toes. Declawing includes severing of ligaments and tendons, which is very painful.
  • Some cats may stop using their litter box after declawing as a result of associating the litter box with pain. Declawing can also cause impaired balance, increased stress because they cannot defend themselves, or injury during a fall because they cannot grip anything.
  • It’s hardly surprising that, deprived of its claws, a cat may turn to its only other defense —its teeth. You may have a cat that does not damage your furniture but is now quick to bite!

Leave your cat with its claws and use the simple alternatives.

  • Keep claws trimmed—carefully trim the tips off the nails being careful not to cut the quick (the vein that runs down the nails). Ask your veterinarian to instruct you so you can do this at home or take your pet to a groomer.  HHS staff will clip your cat's nails for a $10 donation!
  • You can buy nail sheaths, little plastic caps that fit over the nails to prevent scratching. These have been used successfully by many people. 
  • Train your cat to use the alternative scratching posts that you provided.

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