SPCA Florida believes scratching is a natural feline behavior. Declawing, an elective surgical procedure, is considered by SPCA Florida to be a form of mutilation. As such, SPCA Florida does not provide declawing at its Medical Center and does not adopt kittens or cats from its Adoption Center to anyone planning to declaw because declawing may render the cat defenseless, inflict unnecessary pain and adversely affect behavior. For more information see the SPCA Florida Board of Director’s declaw policy.
Below is extensive information on why cats scratch, ways to promote positive behavior and deter negative behavior, as well as information on what declawing involves. Click here to print and download the Declaw 101 Brochure. If you have further questions, please ask to speak with one of our veterinary team members, (863) 646-7722.
Why Do Cats Scratch?
The act of scratching is a completely natural behavior and serves a vital role in a feline’s well-being. Cats may scratch for a variety of reasons:
- Exercise: Scratching keeps the muscles in your kitty’s front legs, back and shoulders in shape. Scratching to exercise is very important in maintaining strong muscles throughout the cat’s life. Think of it as kitty yoga.
- Conditioning the Nail: The claws on your kitty’s paws shed in layers every so often, so it is necessary for your cat to scratch to remove the now dead outer layer of the claw to reveal the fresh layer underneath.
- Scent Marking: Cats deposit scent markers by scratching. They have glands in their paw pads that release their special, individualized scent when scratching. They claim their favorite scratching post just as they do when they knead on you.
- Stress Relief: Cats use scratching as a means of expressing healthy, emotional releases for feelings associated with happiness, anxiousness, frustration and excitement.
- A cat’s claws are its main defense mechanism. If for any reason your cat were to end up in the outside world, those claws may be necessary for survival.
What Is Declawing?
First things first: declawing is not a manicure. Declawing, or onychectomy, is an invasive procedure in which the first knuckle of each toe is amputated:
Preventing Destructive Scratching
For the majority of cats, a few different scratching posts placed around the house are sufficient to encourage positive scratching behavior. There are times, however, where you may need some additional help.
- Double sided tape made specifically for furniture (so that it does not harm the fabric) is an effective way to keep your kitty from scratching on inappropriate surfaces. A cat’s paw pads are very sensitive, and the feel of the tape is very aversive. Cats learn to avoid that feeling again.
- Aluminum foil is another good deterrent to place on furniture or walls.
One of the more effective ways to curb unwanted scratching behavior outside of providing scratching posts is to use a product called Soft Paws—soft, vinyl caps that are glued to the cat’s nails in order to blunt the nail tips. The caps come in different sizes and colors and are reapplied every 4-6 weeks. You can purchase Soft Paws at SPCA Florida at the time of adoption. The pack comes with 40 tips, which is a four to five month supply. Ask our staff for additional information.
Promoting Good Scratching Behavior
Now that you know scratching is a completely normal and important feline behavior, and since you will be sharing the same household, it is important to know how to promote proper scratching behavior.
- Keep your cat’s nails trimmed.
- Nonchalantly touch your cat’s paws and spread the toes apart while he is lying comfortably on your lap to get him used to the sensation of having his paws touched so that when it is time to clip his nails the experience will be much more pleasant and quick.
- Provide scratching posts, preferably more than one, in multiple locations—especially if you have more than one cat.
- If you notice your cat scratching certain unapproved areas, take note of the type of surface it is and whether it is vertical or horizontal. Not all cats will prefer the same surface. Most cats prefer vertical scratching, but some like horizontal surfaces. Some like both. Whichever you choose, make sure the post is sturdy and stable, since the cat will likely avoid a shaky or rocking scratcher.
- Provide many varieties of scratchers: corrugated cardboard, sisal rope, carpet, wood.
- Place catnip on the scratching post to attract your cat.
- Play with your cat on the post to encourage him to begin scratching on it.
- Reward appropriate scratching with treats and praise.
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