Friday, January 23, 2009

Cat Scratch Fever...

...this is for you, Father :-)
To declaw or not to declaw...this can be a controversial subject. I know folks in both camps; on the one hand, it is cruel, it hurts, it mutilates the cat, etc. On the other side of the ring, it's hard to argue with people that don't feel they should have to have ruined or damaged furniture, carpets, rugs, wood floors, door jambs, clothes, etc. simply because they wish to house a pet cat. It gets even more complicated these days because MOST people don't allow their cats outside (or in very limited dosages) so the argument of "they need to be able to defend themselves" is not a sound one.
In the past, I was squarely in the "declaw" camp. Heck, even when I talked to Uncle Chuck (our vet) about the potential of declawing Pete and Lily, he told me, "All of my cats have always been declawed. I've seen too many cats abandoned or turned into a shelter because they were ripping their owners possessions (and persons) to shreds. Better for the cat to have a good, safe, loving home than to have its (front) claws".
BTW, I would never consider declawing rear paws. They've got to be able to scratch their ears!
I know the other camp might argue, "How can ripping out your cat's claws be construed as "loving?"
To this I would say; both Nigel and Clyde were declawed (at early ages). Everyone knows how loved and cared for they were. I'd probably beat a person up who insinuated I was not a good mom to them because I had them declawed.
The primary reason, though, that I had N&C declawed was the former husband insisted on it. Being that the majority of the furniture (at that point) was his and that neither one of us would be around throughout the day to monitor them, I agreed.
So, herein lies my dilemma with Pete and Lily (other than, technically speaking, I agreed NOT to have them declawed when I adopted them, or, at the very least, I'd contact the rescue shelter and tell them I was thinking about it (so that they could offer advice, tips, suggestions, and, probably, attempt to take them away if I insisted...I think NOT!)) I AM around 85% of the time during the day. I am able to keep an eye on them and correct them when they do something they should not be doing (and this isn't just scratching at something, either, it includes other things like jumping up onto the kitchen table and/or counters). It seems if I am here, why get them declawed if, hopefully, I can train them not to scratch? Or, not scratch too much (let's face it; it's instinctual behavior and I don't think a cat could ever be taught to never scratch anything but their posts, pieces of carpet, etc.) So, the goal is, get them to scratch where they are supposed to and keep the other naughty scratching to a bare minimum.
So far, they are doing okay. Not completely fantastic but, in general, fine.
Of course, who knows what will happen as they get older and bigger? I'm keeping my fingers crossed here!
Father was interested in what we've been doing to keep them from scratching where they are not supposed to and any other tips I've heard of.
The obvious one is, have plenty of things around that they CAN scratch; scratching posts, pieces of carpet (although some say this is a bad idea because it teaches them it is okay to scratch ANY carpet), cardboard, rope, etc. Pile on the cat nip (to lure them to it). I have to admit, though, that, other than the cardboard scratcher thing that you place on the floor, our cats are not overly interested in any of these other things. Yet.
To keep cats from scratching where you don't want them to, namely, furniture, we were advised by Pete and Lily's foster mom to buy huge rolls of masking tape and tape the furniture up where they will likely scratch. Cats hate the feel of tape, so, after awhile, they won't scratch there. Over time (maybe six months) you can remove the tape (they won't know the tape is gone, supposedly). Well, we've done this; all three of our couches, our nice dining room chairs and a few other things are attractively adorned with various types of tape (we ran out of the masking tape and used blue electrical tape on one couch). I think this is working fairly well, and, they don't appear to be scratching at the furniture that is not taped up, either.
I think one of the best deterrents is, when you catch them in the act, you spray them with a spray bottle full of water. Boy, our cats DO NOT like this one bit. Another trick is to have an empty soda can full of pennies or something else that makes a lot of racket and shake it at them. Pete and Lily's foster mom advised against yelling at them because they will associate YOU with something bad. I tried this for a few weeks but, frankly, I've found they don't like it when I yell at them and will stop whatever they are doing and either sit there looking at me or walk away.
I have not done this with Pete and Lily (yet), but I used to throw soft objects at Nigel and Clyde when they were up to no good (throw pillows, slippers, their toys).
Lily in particular appears to be a carpet scratcher. Whenever I see her doing this, if I can, I go over to her, pick her up, and put her next to an acceptable scratching device, take her paws, and make the approved scratching motions. She's probably a prime candidate for a piece of carpet she can scratch (it's worth a try).
Oh, how could I forget? Keep the claws trimmed short! This is a no fun job in our house (clipping claws); Pete hates having the front ones done and Lily her back ones, but, it's mandatory, otherwise, they are incredibly sharp and can do more damage should they get to scratching.
One last ditch effort device I found in the pet store are, in essence, these rubbery sheaths that you fit over each claw and glue it on (sort of like Lee Press On Nails). If the cat has these on their claws, they may still scratch, but they cannot damage anything. The problem is, you are not teaching them not to scratch and you have to continually monitor them to see if they need replaced. Also, I can't image trying to glue these things onto my cats claws, I doubt they'd tolerate it! But, if it was coming down to the wire, I'd certainly give the press on nails a try before I decided to have them declawed.
I have to say, though, as I've been writing this, I've been thinking that, overall, it just takes monitoring and correcting. Cats are not dumb; over time, they WILL get the idea that they are not supposed to do something (that doesn't mean they won't do it to piss you off, though).
And, in the end, I agree with our vet, Chuck. Far better to remove the source of the problem (the claws) than the cat if the cat won't stop scratching.
Anyone else out there have any worthwhile tips?
Mrs. B


Doc said...

My personal opinion is that permanent indoor cats should be de-clawed. I think the one time guilt of them going through the procedure far outweighs the continuous dread of them destroying furniture (or your skin).

The cats won't care, for they will soon forget and they will no longer feel that "don't you do it" vibe from you and M. I swear pets pick up on owner's emotions (and so do kids!).

croopht - (crew-ft) - it's too late to think of a definition. Just fed the Holly Tree.

Margot said...

Father very impressed w/your well written tho'ts. As am I.

We've discussed this topic before. Sounds as tho we are in the same corner as you. Our cats doing pretty ok at not scratching where they shouldn't. So far.

We give plenty attention & play. Several bonifide scratching opps.

I've signed up w/a cat message board: cats-healthandbehavior@yahoo. Several people have tried the claw sheaths & they haven't worked well. There are many, many methods to try on the message. Half I would snort at: WHO owns this house, huh??!! But some suggestions are sensible.

If push comes to declaw... I would look into the laser method.

Good luck to both of us, Pete, Lily, Tim, & Murphy.

Analee said...

i think there is no moral problems with declawing. don't let those "you have to keep them inside" nazi's fool you either. i once had a DECLAWED cat that could climb a tree with the best of them. no kidding.

you may already know this, but declawing is actually an amputation (onychectomy). anti-declaw people call it "mutilation", but not me.

i think if one plans to declaw, do it early. when the young cat is neutered/spayed is a great time to have it done since they are already sedated. the older they are, the harder it is for them to recover. i think it is a somewhat painful recovery for an older cat... but the younger kitties tend to quickly forget those sorts of things!!!

an alternative to declawing (besides the obvious NOT declawing) is a tendonectomy. once i had that done to a cat (who actually escaped one day - the first day i moved into a new apartment and he never came back). a tendonectomy is where they don't amputate, they just cut the tendon that makes the claw extend. you have to keep the nails trimmed because the cats then cannot do it themselves... the dreaded scratching that cats do so naturally is what they do to keep their nails sharp and short. most cats (like the one i had) do not like to have their nails trimmed. i really think that tendonectomies are obsolete these days, this was like over 10 years ago i had this done.

i think it is crazy that cat adoption agencies make you commit to never declawing. a potentially declawed adopted cat is better than a dead cat if you ask me.

also, if your cat(s) like the cardboard kind of scratching spots, go buy like 10 of them and put them all over your house. those things are awesome and most any cat (even willow) prefers them to carpet or couches!

and lucky you to have leather couch - ours don't really like it too much, not even to sit on it (unless there is a blanket there). they prefer the soft upholstered couch upstairs more. guess it is warmer.

sometimes i wish i could proof my comment before i posted it... i need to see more than 10 lines to proof a long one like this one, you know?