Q: I am 72 and have had cats since I can remember. We recently lost our last cat and I feel lost without another companion but my wife insists that any new cat be declawed. I just can’t agree to that. What is your advice?
Dr. Nichol: I feel the same way about removing normal anatomy. The two Nichol family cats remain clawed and generally well-behaved but they aren’t perfect. The chair I’m parked in as I write this missive has been injured by those naughty boys.
It would seem logical to correct a home-wrecking cat but these apparently nefarious acts are actually part of the normal feline behavioral repertoire. Not only do kitties need to sharpen and shorten their nails, they must molest their surroundings to communicate. In the wild, the marks they leave on trees remind their competitors that “Kilroy was here.” There’s more. We now know that semiochemicals, secreted from specialized glands between a cat’s toes, leave specific messages. Never mind that your new cat will be an only pet; she must do what a cat must do.
Hurling feline-specific insults, using a cat as a shoe-throwing target or spraying water won’t make a positive difference, unless, of course, your cat has caught fire. Instead of breaking your relationship or deforming your cat with declaw surgery, you can redirect this natural feline proclivity.
Feliscratch is a synthetic analogue of the scratching pheromone that your new kitty will feel compelled to spread around her territory. Applying Feliscratch where you want her to scratch will make you the top cat, the conductor of the feline orchestra, communicating in cat-speak that you actually want scratching and this is where you want it.
Making it easy for your new kitty to succeed will be cheaper than college tuition. Locate at least one scratching post, a couple of corrugated cat scratchers, and a fireplace log near the furniture you don’t want defiled. Then, just before your new kitty takes up residence at your house treat these surfaces with Feliscratch. Then take two aspirin and call me in the morning. Actually, don’t call me; I’m out of town today. Just visit my website.
Each week Dr. Jeff Nichol makes a short video or podcast to help bring out the best in pets. Sign up at no charge at drjeffnichol.com. Dr. Nichol treats behavior disorders at the Veterinary Emergency & Specialty Centers in Albuquerque and Santa Fe (505-792-5131). You can post pet behavioral or physical questions at facebook.com/drjeffnichol or by U.S. mail to 4000 Montgomery NE, Albuquerque, NM 87109.