Posted by Pet Honesty on

Caring for Your Cat’s Claws

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As any cat owner knows, cats love to scratch. This is normal, instinctive behavior—meaning that when those retractable cat claws come out, your furniture, walls, clothes, and skin could be at stake. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to keep your cat’s claws and scratching behavior under control.

Trimming Your Cat’s Nails 

When you bring a cat into your home, you’re making a commitment to care for her from head to toe. The idea of trimming your cat’s nails may seem stressful, but with enough preparation and patience, you can turn those cat manicures into positive bonding experiences. 

Your cat’s nails should typically be trimmed every two weeks or so. Help your kitty prepare for her upcoming manicure by frequently playing with her feet and paw pads. This will help her get used to the feeling of having her paws touched. Plus, she might enjoy a mini foot massage! 

Allow her to sniff and touch the clippers before you use them (and use a treat for an extra positive association). Cats are naturally curious creatures, and familiarity with the tool ahead of time may help to ease some anxiety when the time comes to trim your cat’s nails. 

Cat claws are retractable, so you’ll have to manually extend your kitty’s nails before you can trim them. Press on those toe beans—er, paw pads—to see how they act as an “instant release” button for each claws. Help your cat get used to that feeling by extending one nail at a time and offering a treat as a reward. If your cat is too squirmy and restless, take a break and try again later. It’s okay if preparing for a nail trimming session takes several days. 

Once she’s used to the feeling of having her paws handled and is ready to have her nails trimmed, find a quiet, relaxing spot in the house. It may also be easier if you plan to trim your cat’s claws when she’s calm, such as right after a nap. 

Before you start clipping, examine the nail to locate the quick. It’s the pink section of the nail which contains nerves and blood vessels, so be careful not to cut past it. Quickly trim the sharp point of the nail, and move on to the next one. 

After a few nails, your cat may let you know that she needs a break. If this happens, it’s fine—reward her with a treat, let her go, and try again later. You want to keep nail trimming experiences as positive as possible, so don’t force it if your cat isn’t willing to cooperate.

Why You Shouldn’t Declaw Your Cat

While declawing your cat is an option when it comes to handling your cat’s claws, we strongly advise against it for several reasons: 

  • Declawing is a life-altering procedure which has no benefit to cats. Cat owners are the only ones who benefit from their pet’s claw removal.

  • Contrary to what its name suggests, declawing doesn’t just remove the claws. It also removes part of the cat’s toe bones, which is extremely uncomfortable. As the nerve endings heal, this discomfort can last for weeks or even months.

  • Because the procedure physically alters the cat’s feet, it will also change the way she walks. Years of unnatural movement can lead to joint issues later on.

  • Declawing makes it difficult and uncomfortable for cats to dig in their litter boxes. As a result, a declawed cat may avoid using the litter box altogether.

  • Removing a cat’s claws means removing her primary defense mechanism against predators. (Remember, even indoor cats can escape.) She may also resort to biting instead of scratching.

  • If you declaw your cat, she’ll be unable to do one of her favorite activities: scratching. 

Why Do Cats Scratch? 

Scratching is a feline instinct. There are several reasons why cats scratch:

  • As an outlet for feelings of stress or excitement

  • To mark objects using scent glands in the paws

  • As forms of exercise and entertainment

  • To stretch the feet and body (which is why cats often head to their scratching posts or pads right after a nap)

  • To file outer layers of the nails

You can’t (and shouldn’t try to) stop your cat from scratching altogether. However, there are ways to deter her from scratching the wrong objects, and direct her to the appropriate ones. 

Scratchers for Cats

Because your cat’s claws are retractable, they don’t get naturally filed down from walking on the ground. Outdoor or feral cats would likely scratch trees to get their fix, so you want something similarly sturdy in your home. Choose a scratcher that allows your kitty to dig in her nails and get a good grip without any wobbling. 

Cat scratchers can be vertical (such as standing posts and wall hangings) or horizontal ( such as mats and pads), and can be made of rope, wood, or cardboard. Some scratchers also come in the form of interactive toys, which can help with mental stimulation and easing boredom. 

Put your cat’s scratcher in an area of the house that she tends to scratch, such as next to the couch or near the front door. Toys, treats, and catnip can all be used to entice your cat to scratch the appropriate surface. Cats are smart creatures, so it shouldn’t take too long before she catches on and begins using her new scratcher in favor of your furniture. 

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