Safe alternatives to declawing cats

When people talk about declawing their cats, it always bring up memories of one of my favorite movies I saw in the 30s as a kid. It was “Lives of a Bengal Lancer”, starring Gary Cooper and Franchot Tone. Although the two obviously American actors couldn’t master anything resembling the accent of British GIs, we kids didn’t mind.

The most famous scene was when the two heroes were POWs and refused to give military information to the evil Muslim terrorist leader Mohammed Khan, as played by British actor Douglas Dumbrille with an Oxford-educated accent. The torture involved pulling out the POW’s fingernails one by one. The brave guys endured the torture, and by the final scene had beaten the baddies and saved the regiment.

I always associated that terrible torture scene with anyone who pulls the claws from a pet cat. While the British GIs in the film could return to duty well enough, a clawless cat never recovers. She loses the ability to defend herself with her nature-intended best weapons. She can never again hunt or defend herself by climbing trees quickly and with minimum effort, as nature intended her to do.

Of course, part of the cat’s natural instincts is to keep her claws sharpened. A cat that spends most of her time indoors, if not trained properly, will do it on furniture, drapes, woodwork and other handy objects. The most obvious thing to do is set up a scratching post. Just as you train your cat to use a litter box, you can train her to associate the post as the only place to practice claw sharpening. It can be done without cruelty, but effectively by a series of repetition and reward sessions until she gets the idea.

If the cat spends most of her time outdoors, it could be fatally wrong to declaw her if there are bigger animals in the area. If you want to confine her clawing sessions to one spot, set up a standing piece of log, a nearby tree or scratching post and familiarize the cat with it. For our roaming, fighting, tree-climbing tomcat, we sprinkled the selected spot with catnip leaves and cat treats. It worked fine for him.

If you really love your cat and you want her to have a full, natural life, you’ll find an effective way to avoid cutting off her claws.

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