Declawing Cats

Bringing home a new cat or kitten can lead to many adjustments on the part of the new owner. One of the most pressing decisions for many cat lovers is the issue of declawing. It takes only one deep scratch in a prized piece of furniture to get many people considering the procedure. However, before you make an appointment with the veterinarian, make sure you”ve got all the facts.

The Declawing Procedure

Many people think declawing is a minor procedure that removes only the cat”s claws. This, however, isn”t the case.

Declawing a cat is a major surgical procedure and should be done only by a veterinarian. During the surgery, the cat”s claws are removed, as are the ligaments and tendons that help the cat extend and withdraw his claws back into his toes. The bones of the last joint of the toes are also amputated.

Although the cat will not feel pain during the surgery, since he will be under anesthesia, after the medication wears off, the cat can experience extreme pain. In general, it will take the cat a long time to recover from declawing.

Long-Term Effects of Declawing

The long-term effects of declawing a cat can be serious. The cat must walk on the stubs of his toes, an unnatural position that can affect its sense of balance. Over time, the cat”s legs, shoulders and back muscles can slowly weaken. Sometimes bone chips grow into the toes, an extremely painful complication.

Veterinarians recommend that declawed cats have regular X-rays, as the claws can sometimes grow back inside the toe, rather than on the outside. This is extremely painful for the cat, but often goes unnoticed by the cat owner.

In addition, declawing deprives your cat of his most important defense. Without claws, cats must resort to running or biting to protect themselves. They cannot climb a tree to escape a predator or scratch if threatened. Declawed cats and kittens sometimes become chronic biters, even with their loving owners.

Also, because cats use their claws to cover their urine and fecal matter in a litter box, without claws they often end up urinating or defecating outside their litter box as an alternative.

Declawing Fact

Because the declawing procedure is so painful for the cat, many people consider it cruel. In fact, declawing cats and kittens is illegal in many European countries. In addition, many veterinarians refuse to perform the procedure.

Alternatives to Declawing

Declawing isn”t the only way to get your cat to stop scratching carpet and furniture. Popular alternatives include:

  • Alternative Surgery: Some veterinarians recommend an alternative surgery to declawing called Deep Digital Flexor Tendonectomy. This procedure involves cutting the tendon that extends the claw instead of removing the claw itself. After the procedure, cats can”t extend their claws.Because the claws can sometimes become ingrown, cat owners should trim the ends regularly. Recovery from the procedure usually takes two days or less.
  • Claw Clipping: You can also trim your cat”s claws with special clippers that are available at any pet supply store. If you get a kitten, it is usually easier to train your pet to accept trimming as a normal grooming routine, but even adult cats can get used to it.
  • Press-On Products: If your cat won”t stop scratching your furniture, there are temporary press-on products that can blunt the claws. Look for these items in your pet store.
  • Scratching Posts: If you would rather not put your cat or kitten through surgery, you can train it to use a scratching post. Because cats scratch to mark their territory, you should make sure the scratching post is in a very visible spot. It should also be very sturdy, as cats can be frightened if their post suddenly tips over during use.
  • Training with a Squirt Bottle: If you see the cat scratching your furniture or in an undesirable area, have a squirt bottle ready and say a firm, “No,” while squirting your pet.

Because the declawing procedure is so expensive, permanent and traumatic, taking the time to explore alternatives for your cat or kitten might be your best option.

Resources

Hasselblad, Cicki (1997). Declawing cats: Manicure or mutilation? Retrieved October 1, 2007, from the Pasadena Humane Society and SPCA Web site: http://www.phsspca.org/training/declawing.htm.

HDW Enterprises (1999). Declawing: the facts and alternatives. Retrieved October 1, 2007, from the HDW Enterprises Web site: http://www.hdw-inc.com/declaw.htm.