Welcome to Fur Your Information, our regular advice column here at Shine Pets! Ask us anything about your pet, from brushes to barking to birdcages and more, and let the FYI experts weigh in on your questions and issues.
Today we're joined by Vetstreet.com's Dr. Patty Khuly, who's talking cat claws – and the havoc they actually don't have to wreak. Let's get started!
"How Can I Keep My Cat From Destroying My Sofa?"
Q: What’s the best way to train two adult cats (both 10+ years old) not to claw the arm of a new couch? In the past, I’ve used double-sided tape, but it hasn’t done much — except inspire them to claw a different part of the couch. Any suggestions?
A: It’s wonderful to see a cat owner who wants to take a proactive approach to unwanted scratching that doesn’t involve declawing. Kudos to you!
In the spirit of your open-minded, willing-to-work-on-it outlook, there are a variety of solutions to try. Just keep in mind that every cat will respond differently, so patience –– a lot of it –– is indispensable for solving any animal behavior problem.
When it comes to scratching, cats are ultimately looking for a place to direct their claw-sharpening and scent-imparting instincts. Felines not only need to keep their nails comfortably groomed, but they instinctively feel the need to mark territory by leaving their scent behind — and glands in the skin of the feet are designed specifically for this purpose.
The most common advice offered by veterinarians and behaviorists alike is to acclimate cats to using a new scratching tool. It doesn’t have to be a rigid post — any fun-to-claw surface will do. The idea is simply to provide a reasonable substitute that will draw your cats’ attention long enough to get them hooked on a new way to hone their spikes. To help seal the deal, rub the surface with some catnip for added enticement.
Place the new scratching tool close to where the old item was located — and reward your cat with praise and treats each time he uses it. If this fails, try a variety of scratching surfaces and different locations –– and maybe even more than one brand of catnip.
Feline pheromone sprays can also be effective in eliminating certain unwanted feline behaviors because they impart a sense of well-being. Scratching, however, is not among the behaviors more amenable to this method, but many veterinarians and behaviorists nonetheless recommend this do-no-harm approach.
It’s also important to note that most cats respond to having their nails kept trim and short. Though they might not like the actual nail clipping procedure, cats will be less likely to seek out scratching surfaces when their claws are properly groomed.
Slipcovers, blankets, and throws may also work for some felines — temporarily, anyway, while you’re actively trying to switch them over to a new scratching tool. Electric stay-away devices are not recommended, unless you want your cat to live in fear of the furniture.
It’s no secret that cats are finicky creatures whose whims we need to respect if we want to keep our furniture intact. And though it’s true that some felines refuse to abandon their scratching surface of choice, the reality is that the vast majority of persistent cat owners can ultimately find a solution everyone can live with.
"How Can I Trim My Cat’s Claws Without Getting Attacked?"
Q: My tabby hates having his claws trimmed. Once when I had my boyfriend help me, he got bitten on the wrist. Recently, one of the cat's claws got so long that it was cutting into his paw pad, and I felt terrible about it, but he's just impossible to manage. Because of that, he only gets his claws clipped at the vet's office. I can't afford to get him a manicure that often, but I don't know what else to do.
A: Unfortunately, there’s no getting around this problem. If your cat’s nails grow into his pad you’ve got no choice but to schedule a nail trim at least once every six weeks.
The good news is that a professional nail trim doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg. Groomers generally charge less than in-office vet visits, as do plenty of veterinary technicians, vet assistants, and pet sitters who may even be willing to do the nail trimming in your home.
Because cost is a factor, here are some tips for do-it-yourself claw clipping to try that will save your skin –– and his!
Prep your kitty by wrapping him in a cozy towel. Place him on top of the towel and wrap it up and around him tightly, so that all four limbs are inside the towel. While holding him gently under the chin with both hands, have a helper pull out one foot at a time and then have that person start trimming. Be sure to clip as far away from the cat’s mouth as possible to prevent surprise bites.
Work fast. Don’t stress over cutting each claw as short as possible. Instead, concentrate on taking the hooked portion off and leave the rest intact. And be sure to get to the claws that are most likely to curl up into his pads.
Use the right kind of clippers. Ask your vet or groomer to recommend the best trimming tools. Some cat owners may want to try claw-grinding tools, but you should stay away from them unless you have a very relaxed cat.
Buy a “how to restrain a cat” video for more tips. There are hundreds of them online, with step-by-step instructions.
If your best attempts at claw-clipping fail, you will need to book an appointment with a professional — your cat’s health and your safety are at stake.
Got a question for the Fur Your Information expert squad? Drop it in our comments section, or send us an email!