(Family Features) Ever since the day the first feline became a house cat, destructive cat scratching has plagued owners. All the affection and loving care owners shower upon their cats can feel like wasted energy when the thanks they get looks more like hatred: shredded furniture, carpet and curtains.
It’s a normal human response to be angry or frustrated about damage inflicted by cats’ scratching, but equally normal is a cat’s need to scratch. Cat scratching is a behavior that fulfills both physical and emotional needs. Cats scratch to stretch their bodies, maintain their hunting and climbing skills, groom their claws and mark their territory, showing they’re in a safe space.
However, these behaviors cats exhibit to establish a safe living space can be anything but pleasant for their human companions. This can lead frustrated owners to take drastic measures to modify behavior, but those decisions can be risky, especially when it comes to a permanent and potentially harmful practice like declawing.
Many pet owners believe that declawing their cats is a harmless and quick fix for unwanted scratching, similar to trimming one’s nails. However, if a declawing procedure were performed on a human being, it would be like cutting off each finger at the last knuckle.
“Not only does the practice cause pain, it removes an important self-defense tool and the surgery itself poses risks related to anesthesia and infection,” said Dr. Valarie V. Tynes, president of the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists, licensed veterinarian and veterinary services specialist at Ceva Animal Health. “All of this can lead to behavioral issues that may be worse than a shredded couch.”
Declawing is an irreversible measure to address a normal behavioral issue in cats. Declawed cats may be less likely to use a litter box, more likely to bite and the disruption of the natural scratching behavior can cause lasting physiological problems. Cat owners are encouraged to consider humane alternatives.
That sentiment is echoed by national organizations such as the American Association for Feline Practitioners, which deems the practice of declawing an ethically controversial procedure that is not medically necessary in most instances. In fact, declawing cats is now illegal in several U.S. cities.
Find alternatives to declawing, and other cat-scratching solutions, at the website:
5 Alternatives to Declawing
1. Routinely trim nails
2. Create scratch-friendly zones
3. Reinforce off-limits areas
4. Consult a behaviorist
5. Eliminate negative reinforcements