No one wants to invest hundreds or even thousands of dollars in furnishings only to see them ripped to shreds by an overzealous pet, however beloved. To many people the obvious answer is to have their cats declawed, but it this really a reasonable alternative?
Its proponents depict it as a simple and painless operation, but it is neither simple or painless. Most people aren't aware that it's not just the claws that are removed. Declawing involves the amputation of the first joint of each toe, and as any amputee can tell you, the pain persists for months if not years. The only difference is your cat can't tell you it still hurts.
This doesn't mean you have to put up with shredded furniture and drapes, or snagged carpets. I have four cats of my own, none of then declawed, and my upholstery and curtains are intact and my rugs unsnagged. There are a number of steps you can take to minimize or eliminate the damage.
1. Give them what they want.
Scratching is not just a means of sharpening claws, it's a vital form of exercise that tones and strengthens the muscles. Even declawed cats go through the motions. It's instinctive. Birds gotta swim, fish gotta fly, cats gotta scratch. Whatever. So give them something suitable to scratch on, preferably not one of those pint-sized carpet-covered pet department abominations. That only confuses them.
If that's what you already have, at least pull off the carpeting and wrap it with good quality jute or sisal rope, half-inch in diameter, wound tightly and secured with glue. If you sew, you might try making a slip cover you can easily remove and replace as necessary. Burlap is good for this, but almost any fabric with a heavy weave or a textured surface will work. My own cats are partial to upholstery velvet and corduroy. Ideally the post should be at least two inches higher than the cat can reach.
Many cats prefer a horizontal surface to scratch on, and take well to a commercial scratching pad made from corrugated cardboard.
Whatever you decide to use, spray it lightly with catnip extract (not synthetic - they WILL know the difference) and place it near your cat's favorite scratching spot. Once he or she becomes accustomed to the new surface, gradually move it to a more convenient location. These materials tend to be messy, so choose a spot where you can easily sweep or vacuum around it.
2. Use your good judgement when choosing fabrics and rugs.
Pass up all those lovely but delicate satin and damask weaves or the aforementioned textured surfaces. These are cat magnets. Knits and other stretchy fabrics are an open invitation to snags. Leather and faux leathers are also major no-no's. Sheer panels at the windows? Forget it!
Look for strong fabrics with a tight weave such as sailcloth or canvas. Most denims hold up well, also. For curtains, go with something like percale or chintz. Most of the curtains at my house are made from bedsheets, and are not only attractive but virtually indestructible. For carpeting, a medium or low plush is preferable to a berber or a sculptured pile. Remember, minimum texture is the key.
As long as we're on the subject, think brown. That way when your cat upchucks on it, and it will, it won't be such a disaster. If your cat is still drawn to the furniture, a number of companies sell clear plastic corner protectors that self-adhere to most fabrics.
3. Trim the claws.
It's not as difficult as it might seem, especially if you start them as kittens. Use a specifically designed animal nail trimmer and start out slow. Begin by just handling the paws, and practice extending the claws without trying to trim. The cat will become accustomed to being handled and will be less likely to react violently to the actual trimming. After a few days of this, try trimming, just one or two nails at a time, and only take off the very tips. If you still find it troublesome, most professional groomers will do it for a minimal fee.
4. Claw caps.
These are soft plastic covers that are glued onto the claws and last for up to weeks. I've never tried them myself, but many people report good results.
Cats and people have shared living quarters for thousand of years, and with a little forethought and cooperation we should be able to maintain a harmonious relationship between ourselves, our pets, and our furniture.