Controlling the Damage
They serve as hooks, crampons, switchblades and
chisels. A cat's claws are the Swiss Army knife of
the feline toolbox. They are essential in
practically every role that a cat plays.
For the Predator, claws hold the prey while the
mighty hunter positions himself to deliver the
killing bite at the back of the neck. In play
behavior, the claws grip a toy while the cat rubs
against it or rakes it with his hind feet.
For the agile Climber, claws help Sir Hillary
maneuver up and along trees, bookcases and
upholstered furniture. When he sinks in his claws,
they help him shift his body weight to attain
proper balance and secure footing.
For the Communicator, claws facilitate leaving
messages for other cats by scratching on surfaces.
The claws engrave a visual territorial mark, while
the scent glands in the paw pads brush on an
Last, but not least, claws are a first line of
defense for the Protector. The one-paw swat is
enough to send another cat out of preferred
territory or to discipline the new dog. When a
full-blown defense is required, she takes a
position on her back with all four paws extended,
claws ready for action.
Claws are indispensable! Yet, in many
households, a cat and his claws are separated via
surgical declawing -- all for the sake of the
sofa. While all cats need to scratch, few need to
Manage the Damage
Most scratching needs can be met by
providing suitable scratching and climbing
surfaces. Sisal, fabric or rope-covered posts at
least three feet tall on sturdy bases fill the
bill for many felines. Owners who have extra space
and money can meet a cat's climbing and scratching
needs with multi-level cat furniture, which
incorporates resting and climbing platforms on
tree trunk-type stilts.
If a cat doesn't quickly catch on to your
preferred scratching areas, a few incentives may
help. Low-cost corrugated cardboard scratch boxes
anointed with catnip can draw cats away from
previously preferred sofa arms, especially if
those arms are temporarily covered with
industrial-strength plastic sheeting. Adding
strips of double-stick masking tape over the
plastic increases its repulsiveness to the cat.
Double-sided sticky strips of plastic are also
Solution in a Snip
Through the years, a number of individuals
have called the ASPCA Behavior Helpline because
they were considering declaw surgery. When asked
how often they trim their cat's nails, almost
every caller has responded, "Never." Coincidence?
I think not! If claws are kept blunt, a cat who
strays from the scratching post from time to time
will do little to no damage. You, too, can get
improved results without surgery by cutting the
nails every two to three weeks.
If you have never given a cat manicure, here
are a few tips:
If possible, start trimming the claws when
your cat is young. As soon as kittens leave
their littermates they are ready for nail
trimming, so try to begin the routine no later
than ten- to twelve-weeks of age.
Make it pleasant. Initially, only trim a few
nails at a time. Offer a food reward or scratch
the cat in his favorite spots; then let him go.
If you can't make it fun, make it fast. If
you have an older cat who has already made up
her mind against manicures, the mummy method
may serve you best. Wrap a thick towel around
her, leaving only the head exposed. Bring out
one paw at a time, trimming the nails as swiftly
Some caretakers find they can abandon the
towel method if they schedule the manicure after
a meal. If the cat is groggy from an
after-dinner snooze, she'll be more relaxed and
easier to handle.
Whatever your chosen technique, a pair of
sharp, well-made cat nail scissors is the tool of
choice. Other equipment can do the job, but a pair
of scissors is the easiest to grasp when holding a
squirming bundle of cat.
There's no need to fear your feline's nails.
With a trimming regimen and the right equipment,
you can happily co-exist with your cat's arsenal.
Article courtesy: The American
Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
Printed with permission.
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