Nail caps for a scratching cat

Nail caps for a scratching cat

My cat, Fanny, got a manicure a week ago. She could have had any of dozens of colors of artificial nails.

We went with clear, however, because we’re not trying to follow a feline fashion trend. Plastic caps glued over her natural nails are a way to keep Fanny from shredding the furniture.

Cats scratch. They’re not being bad; it’s an instinctive activity. Feline behaviorists advise training your cat to scratch where it’s appropriate before you resort to nail caps. Fanny uses her two scratching posts — but she also uses whatever is closest when she wants to scratch.

I tried a double-sided tape called Sticky Paws on the sofa and two chairs where Fanny scratches. If she isn’t supposed to like the tape, I haven’t seen evidence. She tears through it and even chews on it. I don’t like that the “transparent” tape is visible.

Giving up on Sticky Paws, I threw sheets over the two relatively new side chairs. That would be a solution if I weren’t tired of my living room looking like it’s closed up for the season.

I was fortunate to have avoided the problem of feline scratching in three decades of previous cat parenthood. My first cat, Silas, came from the shelter declawed. Veterinarians now consider declawing cruel; it removes not just the claws but part of the toes. Silas’s successor, Lizzy, left the furniture alone. 

Fanny might have gotten nail caps sooner, but I mistakenly thought that they are harmful. When my friend Shawna said that her sister-in-law, a former vet tech, recommends them, I looked at the evidence. Veterinarians say nail caps are safe and don’t cause pain or prevent the cat from retracting her claws. Caps should not be used on cats that go outdoors, however, because sharp claws are need for defense.

Shawna and her husband, Joey, helped me give Fanny the manicure, a task I couldn’t have done by myself. Covering Fanny with a blanket, except for her front paws, I held her tight. Shawna applied the adhesive and caps. Fanny was anxious and squirmy, as she is anytime I restrain her. After Shawna finished capping eight front nails (all but the dewclaws), we waited five minutes for the adhesive to dry before releasing Fanny. At first she moved like she was marching but after a while walked normally.

Fanny tugged at the nails for the first few days, managing to get a couple off. It’s reportedly normal for cats to shed some caps before they get used to them, so I’m not discouraged. Fanny is still scratching but doing less harm with three-quarters of the nails on her front paws covered. In about five weeks, the caps should fall off because the real nails are growing under them, or be removed. I’ll trim Fanny’s nails and, with Shawna’s help again, apply another set of caps.

Another problem remains to be solved. Most of the Sticky Paws tape won’t come off with a pull. I didn’t realize that the manufacturer advises replacing the tape every week; it’s been on my furniture for at least a year and a half. Goo Gone is supposed to work on upholstery, but I’m nervous about stains. First I’ll try some natural solutions recommended online.

“See how much trouble you’re causing me, Fanny,” I tell her, not seriously. The joy she brings me more than makes up for any trouble.

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Marianne Goss

A retired university publications editor and journalist, I live in the South Loop and volunteer as a Chicago Greeter. Getting the most out of retired life in the big city will be a recurrent theme of this blog, but I consider any topic fair game because the perspective will be that of a retiree.

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