CAT CLAWS: THEY’RE THERE FOR A REASON
Your cat needs their claws to be a happy and healthy feline and to engage in the behaviours natural to their species, like scratching. Scratching is a way for cats to:
- Sharpen their claws and remove any frayed parts
- Communicate and convey different kinds of information to other animals
Cats also use their claws to:
- Grip things and stretch their muscles
- Keep their balance
- Defend themselves and keep potential threats at bay
We understand you may not want your cat to scratch your furniture—not to mention your arms and legs (and those of the other members of the household). But if you take the right steps, develop good habits, and offer your cat a safe space to express their inner feline, you may forget that kitty even has claws.
MAKE YOUR HOME A HAVEN FOR CAT CLAWS (AND FOR YOU)
The secret to living in harmony with a cat and their claws is to give them an environment where they can:
- Scratch to their heart’s content (without destroying the furniture)
- Play and move in a way that satisfies their predatory instinct
- Find a quiet corner to escape the hubbub of the house
- Keep an eye on you and participate in family life
Basically, your cat needs a healthy way to channel those natural feline instincts, and it’s up to you to provide it. That way they’ll keep their killer claws off your sofas, walls, and body parts!
PROVIDE SCRATCHING STATIONS
From a very young age, cats learn to scratch as a way to communicate and maintain their claws. Get them used to a scratching post or board early on, and use positive reinforcement to encourage them to use it.
TRAINING YOUR CAT TO USE A SCRATCHING POST: OUR RECOMMENDATIONS
Follow our pointers to teach your cat where and what to scratch.
Choose the right scratcher
Scratching satisfies an itch, and every cat’s is different. To find the scratching post or board that’s right for your feline friend, you’ll have to determine:
- Which texture they prefer (e.g., wood, rope, leather, cardboard, carpet)
- Which orientation they like (horizontal, diagonal, or vertical)
You should also:
- Make sure the scratcher is long enough for your cat to stretch out fully
- Anchor or stabilize it so it won’t wobble
Thinking about making your own scratching post? Read this blog post for some DIY ideas (in French).
Place it in an appealing location
To encourage your cat to use the scratching posts or boards you provide, you’ll need to think about the best place to put them:
- Make sure vertical posts are tall enough that your cat can stretch out fully
- Choose stable surfaces
- Have multiple cats? Give them each their own
- Put scratching stations in accessible areas close to people and to the places your cat likes to scratch, e.g., the living room rug, doorways, near the couch, etc.
Get your cat used to it
To encourage kitty to use a scratching station, you can:
- Sprinkle catnip on it
- Entice them with a toy dangling from a string
- Mark it with feline pheromone spray to encourage scratching (your vet clinic staff can tell you more)
- Protect your furniture
While your cat is developing the habit of scratching their brand new scratching posts, you can protect your furniture by:
- Covering it with textures your cat doesn’t like (e.g., double-sided tape, plastic wrap, bubble wrap, aluminum foil)
- Spraying it with cat-repellent or a pheromone that encourages facial marking instead of scratching (your vet clinic staff can tell you more)
Once your cat has gotten used to the scratching post, you can gradually uncover your furniture. If kitty falls back into bad habits, don’t punish them. Just cover the furniture again and guide them back to the scratching post.
Ask your Globalvet team for advice if needed
Having trouble putting the techniques recommended here into practice? Destructive scratching still a problem? Contact us. One of our team members would be happy to offer support and advice.
Is your cat acting aggressively? Schedule an appointment for an exam. The vet will:
- Assess their condition
- Eliminate any underlying medical causes
- Develop a program to ensure the safety of the people and pets in your home
TAKE CARE OF THOSE CLAWS
To keep your cat’s claws from getting too sharp, trim them every two weeks or as recommended by your veterinary team.
Make sure kitty is comfortable and reward them with treats to make the nail grooming process easier on both of you. It will help them get used to being handled.
Not sure where to start? Watch these informative videos and feel free to ask us for advice if you still have questions.
For even more information, read our blog posts (in French) on the topic:
- Réaliser les soins d’hygiène de mon animal à la maison (Pet hygiene at home)
- Comment tailler les griffes de mon chat (How to trim your cat’s claws)
What about claw covers?
Claw caps or covers are vinyl claw protectors that are glued onto your cat’s nails to keep them from damaging your furniture or skin.
They’re easy to apply, so you can do it at home or have the vet do it. Make sure they’re properly applied so they don’t keep kitty from being able to fully retract their claws, which can be painful. You can always try them out and see how your cat does.
SET UP MULTIPLE NAPPING NOOKS
To say cats like to nap is an understatement. After all, there’s a reason they call it a cat nap! Cats love to sleep and spend time alone, which is why they need different quiet spots to retreat to.
Providing them with safe spaces can prevent stressful situations that could cause kitty to scratch.
First they need an isolated area where they can sleep undisturbed. It could be a room they access via a cat door, a basket in an open closet, or a bed in a quiet corner of the house. If you don’t provide a safe space, your cat will probably create one—maybe by digging through your drawers!
Finally, your cat also needs a cozy nest in an active part of the house so they can be near you while still sleeping soundly. A basket on a shelf in the TV cabinet is a good example.
Make these cat-friendly areas even more inviting with blankets or cushions. Experiment to figure out what your cat prefers. And most importantly of all: Let sleeping cats lie. Disturb your kitty’s slumber and you may get the claw.
KEY THINGS YOU CAN DO TO KEEP YOUR CAT FROM SCRATCHING
Okay, you’ve followed our pointers on creating a cat-friendly home and caring for your cat’s claws. That’s great! But there are other things you can do to improve household harmony and discourage destructive scratching.
USE TOYS (NOT YOUR HANDS) TO PLAY WITH YOUR CAT
Make a point of regularly playing with your feline friend. It helps them tap into their killer instinct in a controlled environment rather than using your calves as a scratching post.
Be sure to use toys when you play—not your hands or feet. This keeps kitty from scratching you to signal they’re in the mood to play.
LEARN TO SPEAK CAT
Your cat’s body language says it all. To prevent undesirable scratching, learn to read your tabby’s body language and look for signs they’re uncomfortable or annoyed and want to be left alone. Signs may include:
- Pinned or turned back ears
- Jerky, lashing tail
- Growling, spitting, or hissing
- Dilated pupils
- Arched back
- Piloerection (when their tail poofs up and bristles like a Christmas tree or their hackles are raised)
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Watch our webinar “Chat : Conseils pour bien vivre ensemble” (in French) for more tips on meeting your cat’s needs and building a healthy and positive relationship with your pet!
Your veterinary team is also here to help you make decisions that are right for your specific situation and your cat’s wellbeing.