Q: I live in New York, where the state may soon outlaw declawing. My adult cats are declawed, but I recently adopted a kitten who isn’t. How can I prevent her from scratching my furniture?
A: Scratching is a normal feline behavior. One way to protect your furniture is to regularly trim your cat’s claws, using special treats and yummy food to accustom your kitten to the procedure.
Use catnip, a feather toy and Feliway pheromone to train your kitten to use a scratching post. The post should be stable and tall enough for an adult cat to fully stretch her body when she scratches. If your cat scratches elsewhere, cover the area with double-stick tape or aluminum foil.
Alternatively, you can cover the claws with plastic nail caps, which last four to six weeks. If you have trouble applying them, your veterinary team can do it for you.
Declawing is rejected by many veterinarians and cat lovers as cruel, because it requires amputation of each toe’s third bone, from which the claw grows. It’s like amputating each human finger at the first joint.
Research shows that declawing leads to chronic pain in one percent of cats. Since one in four of the nation’s 96 million household cats undergoes declaw surgery, that’s 240,000 cats with surgically-induced chronic pain.
Declawing is illegal in most of the developed world, including the countries of Europe, United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand and Brazil. In the U.S., it’s not just New York that plans to ban declawing. Earlier this year, the New Jersey Assembly passed a similar bill, which still must go through the state Senate. Some California cities, including Los Angeles, already outlaw cat declawing. Opponents claimed it would lead to increased abandonments and euthanasia, but that hasn’t happened.
Lee Pickett, V.M.D. practices companion animal medicine in Pennsylvania. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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