Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Pressing matters (about claws)

Cats have claws for different reasons. It’s their first line of defence and they use them for balance and climbing. Cats also communicate through scratching, to let other cats know they were there. They even do it when there are no other cats around.
Cats have scent glands in their paws and will go back to scratch the same places over and over again to renew the scent and the visual markers. They also keep their nails in good shape by scratching.
I noticed Charlie scratching the floor beside his food bowl and the wall behind it. The first time I was puzzled but when he did it more often at the same places, the penny dropped. He was marking the spots, communicating with Tina or any other feline that would come across it. Outside, when two cats live in an area, they probably have overlapping territories. That’s no problem. They mark the boundaries and know by the strength of the smell when the other cat was there. They then will avoid being there at the same time, as they are solitary hunters.

Cats will scratch furniture if there are no better options. Scratch posts will help to avoid or at least reduce damage to furniture. Scratch posts and panels can be made (use google for info) or bought in pet shops. They are also integrated into cat trees, which are poles with platforms, dens and sometimes little hammocks. I bought a panel that folds around the corner of a wall in Maxi Zoo. It is put to a height that they can stretch themselves fully while scratching. I bought some cat trees in the zooplus.ie web shop. They arrived with An Post about a week later as they had to come from Germany. The ceiling cat tree is brilliant as the two can really climb it and stretch themselves fully while doing so. It has platforms, one den and a hammock.

Like I said: cats need their claws. The practise of declawing is banned in Europe and in a lot of countries outside of Europe. Strangely enough, the United States and Canada still allow this cruel practice.
Declawing is mutilation. It is like cutting fingers off to the knuckle with humans. It is excruciatingly painful for the cat and he/she might suffer from phantom pains after, even when done with more modern means like laser surgery. And it doesn’t make any difference if it has been done at a young age. The first line of defence has been taken away, making the cat more vulnerable. The cat can suffer from all sorts of behavioural problems afterwards. Ok, you probably got the message: it’s animal cruelty. There is absolutely no reason and no excuse for declawing. When a cat has been declawed it might start biting out of insecurity. What’s next? Pulling their teeth out?
If you don’t want an animal with claws, don’t get a cat. If the cat is very aggressive, you have to address the reason for the aggression, which is often insecurity (see TV series: "my cat from hell"). Declawing will only cause more problems.
You can clip a cat’s nails if necessary every now and then, with special clippers you can buy at the pet store or the vet’s. Cats’ nails are layered and when you don’t use the right clippers the ends will crush instead of coming off. When you look at a cat’s nails you will see a red area going through it. Stay a good bit away from that. Only clip the tips. There are videos on youtube on how to clip a cat’s nails.
Cat owners will get scratched every now and then but that’s no biggie. It often happens during play and mostly because your first reaction is to pull back after being purrrfurated by their claws. The cat might also scratch when it is held in a wrong position. Don’t try to hold cats like babies, with the belly exposed. It makes them feel vulnerable. Let them sit on your arm so they can jump off whenever they want to.
Some cats just don’t like to be picked up. Respect that or suffer the consequences.
When cats feel loved and comfortable, they might even jump on your lap or back and give you a kneading massage combined with catupuncture. Once you get accustomed to that sensation, you’ll be a cat servant forever.

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