DECLAWING NOT NECESSARY TO RESOLVE PROBLEM SCRATCHING
I have to be honest: I don't like the idea of declawing cats. I understand why people choose to have it done, and I understand that in some cases it's a cat's only hope for staying in a good home. But I have never considered declawing for my own cat, and I cannot see it as anything but a last-chance effort after all other options have been tried.
It's not just about the surgery, although the cutting off of toes at the last joint is cringe-inducing, at least to me. After all, we long ago decided it's a good idea to cut open pets for the greater good of population control by spaying and neutering -- a good decision, but not a pain-free one for any individual animal.
If you absolutely, positively have no tolerance for scratching, please adopt a cat who has already been declawed rather than take home a kitten and have him declawed. If you already have a cat who's driving you crazy by clawing your couch, try the "carrot-and-stick" approach to change the behavior to one you can live with.
The "carrot": Offer your cat alternative places to scratch.
The "stick": Make your furniture unattractive to a clawing cat.
The best investment you can make for your pet's enjoyment -- and your furniture's preservation -- is a cat tree with a high perch for your pet to look down on the family. (Cats like being above it all!) Sisal, a natural ropelike fiber, is a good covering for cat trees, as is carpet with loops that aren't too shaggy. If you're even a little bit handy, you can make your own cat tree by using scrap lumber, sisal or carpet remnants.
You can make a cat tree even more appealing by playing games with your cat on it, and by petting and praising him for scratching there.
Cat trees aren't the only options. Add other approved places for your cat to scratch, such as vertical or horizontal posts, scratching trays filled with corrugated cardboard or scratching pads hung from doorknobs. Experiment to see what your cat likes best.
Once you have approved scratching areas in place, make the places your cat shouldn't be clawing unattractive by putting double-sided patches (such as Sticky Paws) or tape on the furniture. If the furniture fabric is too delicate, put the double-sided material on a piece of cardboard that wraps around the corner of the furniture. Cats hate to touch sticky surfaces, so anything mounted sticky-side out will discourage scratching.
Start with your scratching alternative near the problem area. Your cat may shift his attention away from your furniture to the scratching post or tree. Praise and treat for good behavior!
Once your cat understands what the scratching post is for, you can slowly move it to the part of the room where you'd like it. Leave the sticky deterrent on the furniture during the retraining, and be patient.
Declawing shouldn't be the first strategy for solving a scratching problem. Give your cat a chance to learn and to follow the rules. I bet you'll be surprised at how well it works out.
Know an emergency
to save pet, money
Q: We've made a couple of ER runs with our dog for things that could have waited until morning. I sincerely believe I'd rather be wrong than sorry, and would always go if in doubt, but are there any guidelines you can offer? -- F.T., via Facebook
A: You should always call if you're not sure, but some situations do require urgent attention. Here are some signs that should have you heading for your veterinarian's or the emergency clinic:
-- Seizure, fainting or collapse.
-- Eye injury, no matter how mild.
-- Vomiting or diarrhea -- anything more than two or three times within an hour or so.
-- Allergic reactions, such as swelling around the face or hives, which are most easily seen on the belly.
-- Any suspected poisoning, including antifreeze, rodent or snail bait or human medication. Cats are especially sensitive to insecticides (such as flea-control medication for dogs) or any petroleum-based product.
-- Snake or venomous spider bites.
-- Thermal stress -- from being either too cold or too hot -- even if the pet seems to have recovered. (The internal story could be quite different.)
-- Any wound or laceration that's open and bleeding, or any animal bite.
-- Trauma, such as being hit by a car, even if the pet seems fine. (Again, the situation could be quite different on the inside.)
-- Any respiratory problem: chronic coughing, trouble breathing or near drowning.
-- Straining to urinate or defecate.
It's essential to know where to go before you need after-hours veterinary care for your pet. Talk to your veterinarian now about after-hours arrangements. Some veterinarians remain on call while others refer to emergency-care clinics. If your veterinarian refers you elsewhere, be sure you have the phone number of the ER clinic handy, and know how to get there. -- Dr. Marty Becker
Do you have a pet question? Send it to email@example.com.
No. 1 dog? It's
the Lab ... maybe
-- Labrador retrievers again were No. 1 on the American Kennel Club's list of most-popular breeds. But with AKC registrations in sharp decline and the majority of dogs never recorded by the organization, it's more likely that another breed is America's true No. 1. Beloved by many, feared by an equal number and as misunderstood as any dog ever, the breeds generically grouped under the name "pit bull" are thought by many to be the most common dog in the country. Except, of course, in cities where owning one is illegal.
-- Among the many things we have in common with dogs, add one more: When they're tired, dogs make bad decisions, too. That's the indication from studies in France, where dogs were asked to focus on a sit-stay for 10 minutes, then put to problem-solving tasks. People are more likely to behave impulsively when exhausted, researchers said, citing tendencies to fight. Dogs were the same, showing an inclination when tired to approach an aggressive dog in a cage. Dogs who waited more casually without the work of holding a stay were less tired, and more likely to make better decisions. One takeaway for dog owners, said researchers, is that dogs who are exhausted from a day with the kids may be more likely to snap than a pet whose owners recognize the animal's need for a break. -- Gina Spadafori
ABOUT PET CONNECTION
Pet Connection is produced by a team of pet care experts headed by "Good Morning America" and "The Dr. Oz Show" veterinarian Dr. Marty Becker and award-winning journalist Gina Spadafori. The two are affiliated with Vetstreet.com and also the authors of many best-selling pet care books. Dr. Becker can also be found at Facebook.com/DrMartyBecker or on Twitter at DrMartyBecker.