Updated September 18, 2020: OK, I’m going to go into this article assuming you know what a cat is and that you know they love to scratch stuff. It’s kind of their thing, besides napping. Also, I’m just going to assume you own a cat and you’re reading this article because you’re looking at cat claw caps and wondering if they’ll help you protect your furniture. (Besides homeowners insurance, of course.)
What are cat claw caps?
Cat claw caps are tiny plastic nail caps that you glue onto your cat’s claws. While a few different companies make them, you’re most likely to see them from a company called Soft Paws. You can typically get a pack of forty (plus the adhesive) for under $15 on Amazon. You can put them on your cat yourself — no need to visit a groomer. Each cap should stay on the nail for about six weeks, and then fall off with the natural growth of the nail. A pack of forty caps should last you about four to six months.
They usually come in neon colors. (Here are some other money-saving hacks for pet owners.)
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Why would people use cat claw caps?
People usually use cat claw caps to protect their furniture and body from their cat’s claws.
Cat claws are sharp — you know, so they can protect themselves from predators and stuff like that. But also, cats have to scratch stuff, which in the wild is not a problem, because they can just scratch tree trunks.
Hence, the wisdom of the scratching post, a tall pole that encourages cats to treat it like they would a tree in the wild. Unfortunately for humans, lots of other stuff in your home encourages cats to scratch, like your furniture, door frames and your leg.
(By the way, if you're looking for ways to protect your cat, we can help you compare pet insurance quotes here.)
Do cat claw caps stop cats from scratching?
Nope. It just makes their claws dull so they can’t do any real damage.
But, you’ll find plenty of people on the internet telling you that nail caps are cruel, "seem like mutilation," and are generally silly-looking. Some common complaints claim that cat claw caps:
trap the sweat that cats get in their nails
limit the ability of the cat to fully stretch and retract their claws
make it hard for the cat to walk
Other people say cat claw caps do none of those things — and that they’re great and they protect furniture and still allow the cats to do everything normally. Plus, it’s cute!
Is there a right answer here?
Nope. I’m not a vet, but I know different cats have different experiences with the cat claw caps. Your cat might not react to them well, and another cat may be totally fine with them.
However, I would categorize claw caps as a "last resort," that you should only consider if you can’t train your cat in another way. It’s still much more humane than the other last resort, declawing, which actually amputates up to one third of your cat’s front paws, and is considered by many, including the ASPCA and the Humane Society, to be animal cruelty.
What are the training techniques I should try before choosing cat claw caps?
Cat behaviorist Jackson Galaxy has a great post on his site about teaching your cat not to scratch on furniture. Essentially, his advice boils down to two techniques:
Give your cats dedicated cat furniture, such as scratching posts, cat trees and cat condos, that they scratch to their heart’s content.
Discourage your cat from scratching your furniture by covering it in tin foil, using double-sided tape, or a plastic protector.
First-time cat owner? Check out our guide.
Eventually, you cat will give up trying to scratch your furniture completely and you can stop covering it. You can also clip your cat’s nails, which keeps them dull enough that won’t damage your furniture but doesn’t get in the way of anything else your cat wants to do with them, like stretch and leave scents around the house.
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Image: Carrie Anne Castillo