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Any cat owner will tell you that their feline friends are positively crazy about scratching. From their kitten days to their seniors years, cats will dig their claws into just about anything. Cats scratch to shed outer layers from their claws, leave their scent on a new expanse of territory, and simply to flex their paws and feet. It’s a natural behavior, in keeping with a cat’s instincts. Since there’s typically no way for pet parents to eliminate scratching altogether, feline fanciers have devised various means to address the behavior. In addition to surgical and therapeutic methods, some pet parents turn to claw caps.
What Are Claw Caps?
Claw caps are little plastic sheaths used to cover a cat’s claws and mitigate damage from scratching. An adhesive substance seals the cap in place and, applied properly, it should fall off on its own as the nail grows over the intervening weeks.
Browse Instagram and you’ll find numerous cat owners showing off their pets’ new nails. Obviously, neon colors are especially popular. Remember that you should only apply claw caps as a means of discouraging destructive behavior, never as a feline fashion statement.
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Are Claw Caps Safe?
Advocates of nail caps maintain that they’re perfectly safe — for indoor felines. Outdoor cats, on the other hand, would be more or less defenseless with nail caps on. Even indoor cats may react negatively to nail caps. Owners are advised to watch for symptoms of infection including irritation and swelling.
Cat owners interested in applying claw caps should exercise care. Improperly fitted caps are more likely to cause irritation and could cause cats to double down on their destructive behavior.
Declawing: Is It Ethical?
Animal advocates have long made it clear that they’re against onychectomy, the surgical declawing procedure. Some liken the procedure to partially severing a person’s fingers and it is known to result in side effects including swelling, bleeding, and infection. All cats who have undergone the procedure will walk differently for the rest of their lives.
In 2019, following bans in Canada and the United Kingdom, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that New York would ban the procedure statewide. It was already illegal in cities including Denver, Los Angeles, and San Francisco.
Addressing Excessive Scratching
Unless directed by your veterinarian, claw caps should only be applied to address excessive scratching after you’ve exhausted more traditional methods:
- Offer adequate scratching material: Most cats will scratch anything they can get their paws on and that means it’s up to cat owners to divert that behavior. Your furniture will thank you for investing in scratching posts and toys.
- Trim your cat’s nails regularly: It won’t always be pleasant, but regular nail trimming is one of the best (and simplest) ways to discourage your kitty’s destructive scratching. The earlier you introduce your pet to the process, the better they’ll tolerate it throughout their life. Need some help? Ask your veterinarian about clipping your cat’s nails during their next visit.
- Divert the behavior: Scratching is a habit that your cat will probably never kick, but that doesn’t mean you can’t teach them to indulge in it responsibly. With toys, scratching posts, and positive reinforcement, savvy cat owners can effectively train their cats not to damage furniture.
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