Monday, November 16, 2015

Claws or no claws, cats need scratching posts. Here's why.

Popoki may be a declawed cat but she still loves to scratch
Despite the very awesome work of The Paw Project, it's still legal to declaw cats in most parts of the United States. And many people still choose to whack off kitty claws, rather than investing in training.

And despite what pro-declaw groups will tell you, a cat that is declawed is no less likely to be homeless than an intact cat. The two cats I've rescued from my local animal shelter have both been through declaw surgery. And Popoki here is younger than 2. Her youth and her lack of claws didn't protect her from life in a shelter.

Now, there's a lot we can do to help cats reduce stress in a shelter environment. And utilizing those tips at home can keep our kitties from feelings of boredom and stress when they become members of our family.

But there's one thing I see shelters and cat owners do at home that isn't quite right: They skip the scratchers.

Popoki the cat resting on her cat scratcher

Cat scratchers, like the one Popoki is resting on here, are designed to help a cat sharpen new claws and remove extra nail sheaths around old claws. For cats with their feet intact, a scratcher like this can help with trimming and sharpening, so those weapons are always honed and there's little risk of nails curling back into the foot pad.

By this logic, a declawed cat wouldn't need a scratcher. After all, these guys just don't have any claws at all. So they don't have anything to sharpen. But scratchers do more than provide nail maintenance.

A cat deeply engaged in scratching can stretch all of the little muscles in her legs, neck and back. Cats that spend the day lying around or hunkering over a food bowl might have very tight muscles, and they may have no real incentive to stretch things out, unless a scratcher is provided.

Popoki is sniffing the scent marks on her cat scratcher

Cats also have a number of scent glands packed into the spaces between their toes. When they deploy their mitts on a post, they're marking the space as their own. It's an important social function that can help a kitty feel at home, no matter where that kitty might happen to be.

And finally, cats seem to use posts like this to unleash fury. After I clean Popoki's eyes, brush her coat or otherwise do things to her that are necessary but not necessarily fun, she heads right over to the post for a few token whirls. Without the post, I'm not sure where she'd beat out her anger.

So it's clear that declawed cats need posts. But they should have those posts broken in just a little bit.

The average scratching post is made up of rough or sharp surfaces that could really harm a kitty's soft foot pads. Cats with claws can wear those surfaces down easily, but our altered friends cannot.

I use new and shiny posts with my intact cats, and when they're soft and pliant, they become fodder for my declawed friends. But if I didn't have cats with claws, I'd probably use my shoes to break down the edges before serving.

Do your cats love posts? Hit me up with some stories in the comments!

And don't forget that my pumpkin sweepstakes is still up and running. Have you entered yet?


  1. It's a bit funny at our home. I don't have any expensive, let alone fancy, furniture, so I decided that my cats are allowed to scratch them. This is our common home, and they can use the furniture the way they like. That's why I didn't really invest in cat scratchers when I got my rescue cats.

    I visited my parents together with my cats, and I was worried about our furniture ideology. I bought some cat scratchers, and hoped for the best. What shall I say - they loved the cat scratchers from the beginning. We didn't really need to train them using the scratchers, because they preferred them.

    I took the scratchers home after our visit, and my cats hardly scratch our furniture nowadays. Turned out that cat scratchers are better than furniture, and that's why I'll keep buying scratchers.

    Bottom line: I know I'm weird, but I would actually prefer that my cats scratched the furniture than cat scratchers: I'd save both money and space if I didn't have to buy scratchers. However, since they love scratchers, I'll provide them.

    1. That's a really interesting way to look at this issue! I never considered just allowing clawed cats to have a go at the furniture, but your approach sounds really reasonable. If you don't have expensive pieces, and you're fine with the occasional rip, why not? Thanks for sharing.

  2. Before I started blogging in 2006, I didn't even know about declawing cats ! I read it on American blogs and was shocked ! How cruel ! It is legally forbidden here and anyway no vet would do it !

    1. I agree with you. It makes me so sad that it's still an acceptable practice here. And I'm heartbroken to see that it was an option for Popoki when she wasn't even 2 years old. Why not train her? Why not use Soft Paws? Why not use scratchers (which she loves)? It makes me so sad.