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Episode #5—Declawing

Episode #5—Declawing

Dr. Leslie Brooks:  Hi everybody! This is Leslie and Liz, again with the My Lovely Feline podcast.

We hope you enjoyed our podcast up until now, especially our last one, which was about somewhat of a controversial topic of the indoor versus outdoor cat debate.

And this time we wanted to talk about a different controversial topic. The discussion on whether or not to declaw your cats.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this podcast are those of the guest(s) and/or host(s) and may or may not reflect the views or opinions of My Lovely Feline.


Liz: Hello everyone. Thanks for joining us.

Liz: You know that people are having already some sort of reaction one way or another, Leslie, as soon as they hear that.

Leslie: Yes, it gets everyone’s emotions boiling. Whether you’re on the “It’s okay to declaw” side, or whether they’re completely against it. And we love talking about controversial topics in these podcasts. So, here we go. I figured we’d start out with … let me just go ahead, so you guys know what to expect, let me break down just an outline of what we’ll talk about. 

So we’ll start out with, you know, what is declawing. What it entails. The process involved. Why someone may choose to declaw their cat. The varying or different opinions in the veterinary field and veterinary associations.

Complications and long-term health and behavioral side effects that could happen after a cat is declawed. Legal updates. So there are certain countries, one state in the U.S., and a few cities in the U.S. that have banned declawing cats, and then we’ll talk about our personal experiences: Mine, as veterinarian, Liz, as someone who works extensively with cats with behavioral issues.

And then also alternatives to declawing, so things that are out there, approaches that can be done so people that might be deciding if they want to declaw their cat or not, let them know they have options.

Liz: Can I also say too, I know people who are listening probably have one feeling one way or another, and we’re going to cover a lot here, so sort of just, we just want you to kind of listen and hear us out, regardless of how you feel.

Because we are going to cover a lot of things based on Leslie’s experiences, my experiences, some actual facts and studies that have been done, so I think entering it with an open mind is a good thing and I just wanted to mention that. I think that’s important.

Leslie: Okay, so what is a declaw? It’s essentially taking out what most people think is the nail of the cat, but it’s also that bone, the third bone, the most distal, most out there bone on the toes. So if you’re looking at your finger, and you bend it, you kinda see that your knuckle has two places where it bends, right in the middle and then up closer to the fingernail.

At the 2nd place closest to your fingernail, where your finger bends, that is where we cut to take out a cat’s toe nail, because you have to take out that bone at the end along with the nail or the nail’s going to grow back. So it’s taking out a whole bone. If you can imagine cats walk on their toes essentially, it’s like us walking on our fingers. If you take out that last bone that’s gotta shift the way they walk in some way.

Specifically declawing involves the removal of all or most of the last bone of each of the toes of the front paws, and in some cases, the back paws. And this includes also those tendons, nerves, and ligaments that go along with that. The technical term for it is onychectomy, it just essentially means cutting out the finger bone or the toe bone.

Liz: I’ve heard it called partial toe amputation, as well.

Leslie: Yeah, that would be a much easier thing to pronounce. There’s three different methods involved. There’s one called the guillotine, which is exactly what it sounds like.

You essentially use these type of toe nail clippers, yes, a toe nail clipper, that we use usually for dogs, that in a guillotine type fashion, cuts in between that joint, in between that bone and the one beside it, cutting in between the joint. So it’s pretty quick, actually, you just go [BAM] [BAM] [BAM], cut it, and then you just put in tissue glue and put the skin around it and glue it back together, basically. 

The other type is the incisional method. It’s where the vet uses an actual scalpel blade, and so it’s a little bit more precise. So they’re going in, they’re cutting through the skin, disarticulating, so breaking apart the bones in the joint, and that just takes a little bit longer. Then, they also glue the skin of the toes back together.

The third method, which is the preferred method these days if someone must declaw their cat, and that is the laser method. And so, there are laser surgery options at certain vet clinics, but not all. That one is going to be the most preferred. It has a quick recovery time, it’s less painful, and so far it has had better outcomes for cats.

Liz: I read that the guillotine method is not as common as the other two methods. Would you agree with that?

Leslie: I’m not sure. When I was in practice, when I first graduated vet school and went to a general practice veterinarian, that’s the one they were using, was the guillotine one. So that’s the one I have had the most experience with, but I’m not 100% sure on which one is the most common.

I would say laser is becoming a lot more common, and since, in some places declawing is becoming out of the favor, they’re using the other two less anyway and will refer people to get the laser method done if someone is very determined they want to have their cat declawed.

Which leads me to, why might someone choose to declaw their cat? And, there’s a couple different possibilities. One is they don’t want their furniture scratched up. They don’t want their clothes or their body scratched up.

And when I was in veterinary school, in my class where we talked about zoonotic diseases, which are diseases that are transferred from animals to people, my professor actually said people with a compromised immune system might want to get their cat declawed because that person might be more at risk of certain infections like bartonella, that might be transmitted to a person with a compromised immune system if their cat were to scratch them.

Or people who are on blood thinners, or people who have other medical issues if they have a cat and don’t want to give up that cat, but don’t want to cause a medical condition in themselves to flare up, they might think about declawing their cat.

Liz, what other things do you think someone might decide to declaw their cat for.

Liz: Honestly, I think furniture and possessions seem to be the biggest thing. I remember someone telling me that their cat was scratching their rug and they couldn’t have that so they declawed them. I really do feel like that’s the main reason. I also think, for some people, they haven’t fully been educated on the topic. Because for a while I feel like, and maybe you disagree, it was almost like most people wouldn’t think anything of it. Oh, yeah, you can declaw a cat, whatever.

But then I think as more and more research has been done, and more and more people paying attention to things that happen with declawed cats, there’s been a little bit of a shift. For some people, they literally do not know. I’ve talked to people before who had no idea that it was the bone that got removed in addition to the claw.

So I would say a little portion of this is people who just don’t know there’s another way, and don’t know how involved the surgery is, and what the possible side effects are. That’s another reason I think. They kinda think it’s normal, it’s what you do, and they don’t know there’s another way.

Leslie: I would definitely agree with that. Again, when I was at my first private practice clinic when I graduated vet school, they actually just included declaw as a line item on a spay or a neuter procedure for a kitten.

And there was minimal to zero conversation with the owner of what could happen later in life after that cat has been declawed, you know, side effects that could happen, or the healing process after the surgery. And so, they just didn’t know.

Oh, so I can choose to just go ahead and get my cat declawed while they’re under anesthesia for this spay or neuter, that’s fantastic, they won’t scratch my furniture. You know, there was no dialog.

Liz: Yeah, I think that’s a problem, and I also think, as a pet owner, some people aren’t overly confident when they’re talking to their vet or they feel that their vet really knows everything about everything, kind of like, sometimes we put that pressure on our human doctors too, and a vet maybe who has been in practice for a really long time does see it more as a normal thing.

Whereas, a newer, a younger vet who hasn’t been in practice as long has different knowledge about the subject and doesn’t see it as routine. So for someone going to the vet who has all that experience, they might not, they might be like, ‘I trust this vet, so I’m going to do what’s suggested. They wouldn’t suggest this if it wasn’t okay. I love my vet.’ and then that’s another piece of that that can happen too.

Leslie: Yes, absolutely. And I mean, scratching is a natural and healthy behavior for cats. It’s a normal part of their life.

Liz: Like even declawed cats do it. I fostered a declawed cat, I told them, you need scratchers anyway because she’s going to want to do that somewhere and give her a good place to do it.

The scratchers, they tend to like them, that’s why I suggested that, obviously, she wasn’t going to hurt anything, I wanted her to have as normal a life as possible, even though she was previously declawed, I did not do that, she came into the shelter that way, so they even still have that desire to do it, and they still have those pads in their paws and they’re putting scent on things.

I think it’s important to keep that in mind too, even when the claws gone, they still want to do it. It’s just an instinct for them.

Leslie: It is. It’s a way to release tension. Can you imagine if you weren’t able to scratch and itch or stretch to release tension?

Liz: I also love … I never noticed this that much before until I started fostering, how many cats make scratching part of playtime. They’re playing, playing, playing, and they stop and they go to the scratcher and then they scratch it and they come back and they keep playing and then they go to the vertical scratcher and scratch that. It’s like part of what they do.

It’s really kind of cool once you start paying attention to that, and especially if you have multiple like I do and they’re taking turns on the scratcher and then they’re chasing the toy. It’s really something and they just do it. They want to do it. I think it makes them happy.

Leslie: It does. It really does. And you know, we talk a lot about behavioral issues in cats and you said it makes them happy, and so for some cats that are declawed, they can develop certain behavioral issues because they’re not happy or they have stress they can’t release and so we’ll talk about that when we get to possible complications of declaws.

So, there’s varying opinions in the veterinary field. You already mentioned, some of the older practicing vets have declawed tons of cats and have not seen any complications, no issues, that they’re aware of. Or they have, but it’s been a very small percentage.

And I’ve definitely worked with vets and veterinary nurses and they’re like, “No, I never really see any complications. My own cats are declawed and they’re fine.’ That’s one of the reasons why it is so controversial.

Some might argue that it’s another means for veterinary clinics to get income. Which is definitely true, but it’s not going to be a major source of income for veterinary clinics, so I don’t think that’s going to be the biggest factor in why some still do it. Some just, may not see the problem with it.

And actually just this past year, in early 2020, essentially that’s like a year ago now, the American Veterinary Medical Association, the AVMA, revised their position on cat declaws to reflect the growing mindset in this evolving vet industry, and it discourages declawing, but they refer to vets to determine on a case-by-case basis. And so, up until this past year, the American Vet Med Association, was like ‘Yeah declawing is an option for pet owners if they want it.’

And so that has finally changed because of some of these studies that have come out, and growing evidence lead us to the complications in long-term health and side effects that could come about from declawed cats. And again, I’ll say, not every declawed cat, but enough to where we need to rethink this. So, Liz, I want you to bring up that study … 

Liz: Oh, my favorite study. I talk about it, I blog about it, it’s my favorite study. So it was done and published in the Journal of Feline Medicine & Surgery and they compared 137 clawed cats to 137 declawed cats, and they found some very interesting results. In the declawed cats, they had difficulty walking, and they had to change their gait, which you mentioned.

Think about that, imagine the tip of your toes is removed. Even has humans, we would have to adjust how we’re walking, how we’re running, how we’re going up and down the steps, how we’re jumping, well they’re finding it’s the same for the cat.

And they are also 3x more likely to have back pain or chronic paw pain than the cats who have their claws. And they also discovered that 63% of them had residual bone fragments of the P3, which is the bone you had mentioned, and why that’s important is they’re basically saying 63% of those cats that were declawed were not declawed correctly, because there were pieces of bone left behind.

I don’t remember if they go into exactly what that is, but to me, that sounds like maybe it’s not totally smoothed off, or they didn’t remove the complete bone so there’s still pieces there, but they did talk about that they think that could be contributing to the back pain because there are these fragments in their toes.

And then, it goes into behavioral. So they are 7x more likely to pee outside the litter box, but they’re 10x more likely if they have those fragments left. Now, that number, when I read the study, I was like wow, because that’s a big number. 7-10x is pretty big. People who made find error in the study, I would say okay, but this number is a significant number that should be looked at. That really stands out to me.

They found they were 4x more likely to bite people, 3x more likely to be aggressive, and 3x more likely to overgroom and overgroom is a sign of stress.

For cats that aren’t even declawed – they have an issue, they might be missing a leg, or they have eye issues – they’re more likely to bite, because they have a sense or part of their body that’s supposed to be there and work that’s taken from them, so I’ve seen it with cats that have to have their leg amputated, I’ve seen it will cats that have to have eye surgery or had eye problems.

So to me, that totally makes sense that if you remove their claws, they’re going to bite more because any time you have a cat that is like that where part of how they live is taken, they’re going to be more defensive, because they feel they need to be.

You can kind of think about it with people. If you have one sense that’s not that great, other senses pick up, or I would imagine someone who has one arm probably has a really strong arm, right? Because that arm has to do not everything, but a lot of things that you would typically split between your arms.

And I know that’s not the exact some thing, but it’s something to think about that when you have something missing, other things kind of step up. To me, yes, they’re going to bit more because they swat and it isn’t doing anything. 

I’ve actually seen it with declawed cats. The one I was working working with, she was a nipper, so she didn’t try to really hurt you, but you could tell it was a warning and you could tell she didn’t even bother with her hands because I think she knew nothing was going to happen.

She probably learned over time swatting, no response, it’s not like she looked at her paws and was like, ‘Oh, I only bite now.’ I think she probably was swatting and was like, ‘Wait, this isn’t working.’ when she wanted something to stop. It really does make sense when you think about it that way.

Leslie: Yeah, and cat bites, and you said they’re 4x more likely to bite people when they’re declawed, and cat bites, I don’t exactly have an exact number but they’re probably at least 10x more serious than a cat scratch.

Liz: So much more serious. And I think that’s the other part of this argument. Cat scratches, yes, you could have complications, but when they actually look at it, they don’t see it.

But they do see it with cat bites. It’s very apparent. We had talked about this one other time, not on the podcast, but you and I had talked about it, I have read on one of the – I don’t know that it was the CDC – but one of the groups that is government affiliated that was talking about people who are HIV+ and it said there, being HIV+ is not a reason to declaw your cat, like on the site.

And that just shows you, that’s an immune-compromised virus, like it’s very under control now, people who have it are doing okay, but if that is telling them you don’t need to declaw your cat, I don’t know how far we’re going to take that.

Because I think they discovered the same type of thing: Bites are really the problem. Yes, scratches could possibly cause something, but bites are the main problem we want to try to avoid. 

Leslie: Exactly. And you also said that cats that are declawed are what is it, 7x more likely to pee out of the box and then 10x more likely if they had the bone fragment left?

Liz: Yup. In that study. I want to be clear, it’s in that study that I referenced.

Leslie: And, you know, jumping onto that soap box: I want to say from anecdotal evidence, more cats are relinquished to the animal shelter or put down due to urinating outside the litter box than scratching issues, or really any other issue. So if we’re declawing cats because we think we’re preventing cats from being relinquished to the shelter, then I think we’ve got it backwards.

Liz: Yeah, I think sometimes again, you have to say sometimes, it’s not 100%, you’re trading one problem for another and I think it’s something people need to be aware of. You know, are you protecting your furniture, or is your cat now going to pee on your furniture.

You know what I’m saying? You have to be aware that there’s a risk and the way that they’ve been looking at the statistics, it’s enough to cause concern that there is a connection. And I can say, when we have declawed cats at the shelter, usually they have problems with the box.

That’s just how it is, and I think I remember you talking about one time before, that cats getting arthritis and stuff like that, is a declawed cat more likely to get arthritis? I don’t know, but if they already have back pain and they get arthritis, does that make it worse and does that lead to the litter box issue? I’m not sure.

One of the authors in the study I was referencing did say that they think declawed cats preferred a softer place to go which is why they’ll choose a rug, a carpet, a couch, these cats. The one I had, she was four-paw declawed, poor thing. She would go on tile, she would go in the bathtub, she would go on carpet, everywhere. Wherever she wanted.

But I will say, with time and patience and confining her, I worked with her, it was not easy to get her to go where she was supposed to go. By the time she was adopted, she wasn’t having any more accidents. Right after she was adopted, she had a couple more, but after a few months of getting comfortable, then she was okay.

You can work with them, but it’s tough. It’s really hard, as anyone who has a cat that goes outside the box knows, those problems are not easy solutions.

Leslie: No, not at all. Let’s jump into the legal update, so policy and stuff surrounding this topic. It’s not super common that policy issues would involve medical procedures on animals, but there are a few things, like debarking dogs and cropping tails, like cosmetic things for dogs sometimes have policy ramifications. But this one in particular, in the majority of European countries, declawing has been banned for years and in other countries around the world. 

Liz: They say it’s barbaric. They don’t mess around when they talk about it. From everything I’ve read it’s very heavily a Canadian and American thing, you know, not a global …

Leslie: Correct. And I will say, there are a few cities in the U.S. that have banned it: Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Denver are three that I know of, but just in July of 2019 New York was the first state in the U.S. to ban declawing.

And so, the law says that effective immediately, so in 2019, this law prohibits the amputation procedure of a cat’s toes, unless it’s done in an effort to treat a medical condition that’s affecting the cat, so for instance if there was a major injury, a tumor, cancer, or untreatable infection.

That’s important and I’m glad they put that caveat in there because certainly there’s medical conditions that come up that warrant amputation of a toe for other reasons. But in New York it’s illegal to declaw cats.

So it says a veterinarian will face up to a $1,000 fine if they perform the operation, if it’s not due to a medical reason. But that’s the only one, aside from those few cities in the U.S. It’s starting to gain some traction, I think there are some other legal fights …

Liz: There are a few other cities and I think there’s some provinces in Canada also who have outlawed it. And there’s groups, so Banfield is one of them, who will not do it. VCA, maybe, I don’t want to throw out the wrong name, but there are some veterinary groups who’ve said ‘No, we will not be doing declaws anymore.’

It is getting to be looked at very skeptically as … is this necessary? And the one thing I like to bring up is when people are changing an animal for themselves and not the animal, it really is something that has to be looked at.

Now, we have cats and we have litter boxes, we don’t let them poop and pee in potted soil, maybe some people do, but that’s something that we changed, bringing them inside. But I would also say for most cats, that’s not a problem, it’s not impacting their health, it’s been an adjustment that they’re okay with.

So, I’m not going to say just because we make little changes for them to come inside that everything is wrong, it’s not that, but if you’re making a change to how their body is and to their physical body for personal reasons like furniture and things, I think we really need to look at that. Because you’re literally altering the body and how it’s supposed to work.

Leslie: Yeah, and for many of these, we’re causing worse problems. You know, I think when we start to say it’s gonna be illegal, does that mean people are still have it done illegally and it’s going to be causing more trauma and pain to these cats if it’s done incorrectly? I mean, I don’t think we’ve seen that crop up in European countries or elsewhere.

Liz: I think you’ll always have situations like that with literally everything on the planet. You know what I mean? If something’s illegal, people are going to try to do it, but I also think if you already enter into something knowing that it’s illegal, you’re going to have some people who are like, oh, I’m not going to do that then.

And I don’t know, I really do think this topic is so important which is why I’m so glad we’re talking about it, and that more and more people are starting to understand it and get educated on it, and I’ve seen people have these conversations with other people too.

Kind of you, know, trying to talk them through things, and I think that’s all positive and that’s good. If everyone gets one friend where they say, ‘Hey, you really shouldn’t do that,’ or ‘I don’t really know if you know what you’re in for,’ or ‘could be in for,’ I think that’s a good thing.

Leslie: Well tell me a little about a couple of experiences that you’ve had working with declawed cats and what worked, what didn’t work, what you noticed with them.

Liz: The one I mentioned was the main one, Jessebelle. She’s a beautiful Himalayan, four-paw declawed, not spayed, so my thought was, she probably was used for breeding purposes because she was older and I don’t know why else you would declaw the back legs unless you’re handling an animal a ton because, you know, declawing the rear legs is odd, it’s not commonly something you see.

She just, she would nip instead of swatting, she did scratch things, that motion she totally did, she was very very sweet, but she had her moments. And you could tell if she was annoyed or she just didn’t want to be pet or something she would just nip at you, as another cat would probably swat at you or walk away. She would just pee wherever she deemed was a good spot. 

So it was a lot of working with soft litters. There are some litters that are made to be soft on paws, for senior cats or for declawed cats, so I was using that. I was keeping her in a confined space for a while because I wanted to see if she would use the box in a small space, and she did, but she also would pee down the drain of the tub or in the tub was her other spot, but over time, working with her, playing with her, she got into playing and building that bond with her actually helped a lot of the issues.

So I was fortunate in that case because I know that those cats can be difficult. But it did take longer than I thought it was going to take to get her to use the box regularly, to be a little more gentle when she is done being pet, and her to not nip at me, and me to read her too and warning signs for her. 

She was very small, because Himalayans are very tiny, lots of fur, but tiny, tiny, tiny. I also don’t know, that could contribute to some of the nipping as well that she’s a smaller cat, her size is different from the other cats that I have, but it took time, but I was so happy I could help her.

She was at the shelter for a little bit but nobody wanted anything to do with her but the craziest part, when she was finally ready for adoption, everybody wanted her. I think because she was a breed. I couldn’t believe it.

I was shocked. I had all these other cats who were perfect and I have this cat that’s recovering from all this craziness and so many people wanted to adopt her. That was my biggest experience. I know you’ve performed some in the past. Have you ever had complications from any of your patients? 

Leslie: Yeah, my first clinic I worked at after veterinary school, I went into it, not really asking them the culture of the practice and these ethical questions I should have asked before signing on to a job, right? And then, I was put in the position of, do I just go with the flow and do what they’ve always done? I’m the new kid in town.

I’m a woman and I look young, I am young, surrounded by men, and staff that trust the people they worked with for decades. So I kept my mouth shut. I didn’t try to go against the grain initially, until I started have them show up on my day when I was doing surgery, and it just: spay/declaw, kitten/declaw, neuter/declaw.

And after a few times doing them, I started maybe not standing up to the practice owner about my ethical dilemma with it, but I began having those conversations with the owners when they came in for their kitten vaccines.

And if they thought they wanted to declaw or they were signing an estimate for a spay, I would just walk in the room and just talk to them about declawing and the possible side effects and do they really want to do this, and so I started that conversation in the clinic, and then other veterinary nurses took it from there. I did kind of change the culture. 

I wasn’t at the clinic long enough to see any long-term complications because I was only at the clinic for three years so any cats that I had declawed, I don’t know, they would have been considered lost to follow-up from me. I did see some kittens where they take longer than you would suspect to recover from the surgery.

They usually would stay in the clinic overnight, we would definitely give them pain medicine, so they would get plenty of pain medicine surrounding the time of surgery and pain meds to go home on.

But then they would go home and either the owner wouldn’t use the proper litter that we sent home with them or they’d be jumping and playing too much and then their toes, the skin, the incision site would break open, and then they would bleed. And then they would have to come back in and stay in the clinic for a couple days and bandage their paws while they recovered and you could tell they were painful too.

They would kind of hold their paw up and shake. I hated seeing them after that. There were certainly the majority that would go home and I wouldn’t see them again or have any issues, but there was the few that broke my heart where I was like, I can’t do this anymore.

Liz: I have a friend who did it a number of years ago, and her cat got it infected, the paw, oh my gosh, it took forever. And eventually she was like, ‘I don’t know why I did this. This was not the right thing to do.’ It took weeks and weeks.

I think he had an infection for over a month, which you know, it’s surprising when you have toes and things that are far from the heart and little tiny blood vessels and all the stuff that’s down there. I know when infections sit in there, they sit in there for a while. I just remember her going through that and being so frustrated.

At the time it was before I was fostering and I wasn’t quite as knowledgeable about it. I didn’t like that she was doing it but I didn’t really feel comfortable talking about it either, but she did come around afterward and seeing that and what went on. And again, that’s not common. I know most of them don’t get infections, so I don’t want to misspeak about that, that was just another experience that I saw. 

Leslie: And I can’t tell you the number of young to middle aged to older cats I see on a regular basis that come in for a peeing outside of the litter box issue or severe arthritis or behavior issues, like you already mentioned biting, and the majority of them are declawed. It happened at some point, whether it was a previous owner or the current owner, it’s a completely preventable thing for some of these issues. 

Liz: I also had a friend at work, and I’m one of those people people always come to with their cat questions, I’m sure you’re similar and you have to do that too, You know, we’ve been talking about her cat going outside the litter box for a while and I was giving her tips, and the one day she just brings up out of nowhere, ‘Yeah, he’s declawed, I wonder if that has anything to do with it?’

I was like, ‘Wait, wait, wait, wait! Hold on a second, Gus is declawed?’ and she’s like ‘Yeah,’ and I was like, ‘That is why. Mystery solved! We can work with this even better now.’

I sent her that study and it actually changed how she looked at him too, that when he would do it, I mean still frustration of course, but she wanted to work with him because she felt bad because she didn’t know that they can be uncomfortable and that this can be a side effect.

And he’s doing much better now, and she’s worked with him, she plays with him a ton and actually that one-on-one time kind of helped with him feel secure and I know that doesn’t necessarily take any discomfort away but I think if they’re overall happier, you have a better outcome with some of the behavioral stuff. That’s what she did. But it was just funny, as soon as she that, I was like ‘Okay, we know why.’

Leslie: Well, and we should touch on, what are the alternatives to declawing? Obviously it’s not going to be an alternative to getting rid of the toenails, but there’s other things that you can do, then also prevent these other issues from cropping up later in their life in your time with them.

So, Liz, what would be the main things that you would say to someone that needed, ‘Well, if I don’t declaw them, what can I do to prevent them from scratching my furniture or me?’

Liz: There’s a couple things, and I’m going to touch on all of them. First of all is to protect the furniture you have if you’re having a problem. That means getting double-sided tape. There are furniture protectors that you pin to your furniture that are a little bit thicker plastic, those are always an option too. And I always say, this stuff is temporary because once they’re out of the habit of it, they likely won’t go back to it. 

You can put those things on, you can put nail caps on their nails if you really, really want to. They’re little plastic caps. That does require you to replace them. Some cats bite them off, but some cats it’s a good solution. The plastic basically covers the nail so they can’t really dig into anything. You want to make sure your cat’s nails are trimmed. I trim my cats’ nails every two weeks. 

You want to have acceptable places for them to scratch. You want to be careful though. I know of some people who paint the room with scratchers. Bad idea. Because you’re communicating to them that the entire room is a scratch pad. 

So what you want to do is you want to have the correct size for the cat. You want to have vertical and horizontal options. Some cats only scratch one direction and some scratch both.

I want to say in my experience most scratch both directions, but you want to have both. And you want to put one in a very prominent area that is along their natural route. 

One of mine is on the way that they go to the kitchen to eat their meals, and that scratcher is like the hot spot for all of them. Every time they walk by it they scratch it. Every time they go to go upstairs they scratch it. It’s great.

And then I also will put smaller ones in a corner of room that’s out of the way so they can scratch it and lay on it like the loungers are fantastic. They love to scratch those and then go to sleep on those. The corrugated box ones are the ones I’ve had the most success with.

It’s having the right amount in the right place and the right types. Also the material that’s on them is different and you have to find out what your cat likes. They don’t all like one type. But I will say from experience and through fostering, I have a lot of cats coming in and out of here, once a cat makes a spot a scratching spot, if it’s on the main route to go to places, the other cats do it.

And I think it’s because of the scent, when they walk by, they smell the scent and they smell the pheromones. And there is a pheromone, I believe they’re pheromones specifically left behind for scratching that claim the spot – this is okay to scratch, or whatever. And I think the other cats pick up on that and they add their scent to it. Once you have those things in place, then you’re good. 

You can rub catnip on them, silver vine is another thing. You can spray, there’s special anti-scratch stuff that smells like stuff they don’t like, I have one that’s orange scented. You can spray on your furniture to keep them away. You can also feed them on it or near, give them treats or it or near it, and like I said play with them by it, because they will start scratching it.

It’s part of play is to take break and do a little scratch and do the little butt wiggle and then pounce on something. They love to do that. I know that’s a lot but I think those are the main things that come to my head. I don’t know if you have some extras.

Leslie: Yeah, I think you were pretty thorough and I want to bring up something I talked about a little in our last podcast, about indoor versus outdoor cats. If someone feels trapped between a rock and a hard place and none of these things work and it’s affecting their relationship with another person in their home, like it was me, I made my cat an outdoor cat, or a garage and outdoor cat, and they were fine. And I know it depends on your circumstance and where you live, and your position on the indoor versus outdoor cat debate.

Liz: And I always say with that, except the risks. If you’re going to do that, there are risks and you have to accept them. If you do not accept the risk of your cat getting injured outside, then you should not put them outside. Those are things that could happen, so you don’t want to be mad at yourself later, ‘Why did I do that?’ It’s more about that.

You have to feel comfortable and confident about whatever you decide. And along that, we had a customer on one of our Zoom calls the one week that she takes big sticks from outside and puts them in the house and the cats scratch those.

So if you live in an area where you’re in a situation where you have things like that, maybe that can be an option, to get something natural from outside that they can scratch. They might enjoy that. And they might gravitate toward it because it probably already smells like other animals and they’re going to want to cover that up. 

Leslie: Yeah, probably. That’s a good idea. As long as it doesn’t have bugs in it.

Liz: Yeah, right?

Leslie: Well, I wanted to go ahead and mention the name of the study that you had talked about earlier again, it’s called Pain and Adverse Behavior in Declawed Cats and it’s in the Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery from the year 2018, just in case anyone wanted to go back and reference that. Thanks for listening to our controversial podcast.

We’ll try to pick up on a different controversial topic for next time. If anyone has any ideas, reach out to My Lovely Feline.

Liz: Sounds like a plan.

Leslie: Alright. We’ll talk to you all later.

Liz: Bye everybody.

Podcast Hosts:

Dr. Leslie Brooks 👩‍⚕️

Elizabeth Italia 🙋‍♀️
Cat Behavior & Fostering Specialist