What does ‘declawing’ mean?
If not properly explained, declawing is often a misleading term. When someone says ‘claw,’ you may think of the toenail of a cat. However, declawing goes much deeper than that. It is not just removing the claw or toenail. If you do only that, the toenail will grow back. The proper name for declawing is onychectomy. It means you are surgically removing a cat’s toe on each declawed toe. If you only declaw the front paws, that’s still ten amputations. This is similar to cutting off the tip of a human’s finger.
Why do owners choose to declaw their cats?
1. Many owners choose to declaw their cats because of problems with scratching furniture and other things. They sometimes rationalize this decision by thinking that “it’s better than putting the cat to sleep.”
2. Other owners rationalize declawing their cat by only having the front claws removed. They argue that the cat still has the back claws.
3. The other reason owners will choose to declaw their cat is because the owner has a health problem. Diabetes, heart problems and the use of blood thinners are all reasons that are used to justify declawing a cat.
Check out the next page to see what the benefits are for declawing your feline friend.
What are the benefits for the cat?
There is actually no health benefit for a cat when declawing it. There are several methods that are used to do perform the onychectomy. No matter which method is used, the cat must be put under general anesthesia, which is dangerous even for necessary surgical procedures. Not only is the anesthesia a danger, there is the pain that comes after. The cat still has to use their paws to walk. This means they will be jumping, using the litter box, and sitting on declawed paws. Think of it this way: it’s like having all ten of the tips of your toes amputated. Even with pain medication, the cat will have pain. The pain can last for months after the procedure. Even after the paws have healed, there is a phantom pain while the nerves heal. Because cats consider any show of pain weakness, the owner may not even realize the extent of the pain the cat is under. There is also a risk of infection. Because there is no ‘down time’ for recovering from an onychectomy, the cat’s paws are exposed to dirty cat litter, floors, and possibly the outdoors.
What are the risks of declawing a cat?
Besides pain and infection, there are other reasons to not declaw a cat.
1. Cats use their entire paw. Cats are agile, well balanced, and sensitive animals. All joints and even their claws are important in the anatomy. Also, they use their claws to stretch their muscles and joints. If you ever watch your cat stretch, you will see they use their claws to hold themselves still to stretch. They also stretch all of their toes. If they are unable to do this, it can lead to joint problems later in life. In addition to this, cats actually walk on their toes, just not the pads of their paws. Declawing them can lead to gait problems that can cause arthritis.
2. Some owners say that their cat does not need its claws because it will be an ‘indoor cat.’ Even indoor cats can escape. Cats are curious creatures and they are also quick. They can sneak out of an even slightly opened door. Without their claws, they have no way to defend themselves outdoors. They have no way to climb a tree or fend off a large dog or other animals which may prey on them.
3. Declawing a cat can lead to many behavior problems. Cats that were normally docile and sweet animals can become very aggressive. Cats are very independent and proud animals. They can become insecure because one of their defense mechanisms has been removed. They also may begin to bite because that is the only other defense they have. The medical community is conflicted as to whether the declawing causes behavior changes. There have been several studies done to determine this. These studies have produced mixed results. However, cat owners who were interviewed for this article have stated that they have definitely seen behavior changes in declawed cats.
4. Also, they may begin using the carpet, couch, or anything else soft as a place to defecate instead of using their litter box. This is especially true during the healing process. They want to be on something soft, not getting litter in between their toes. Also, cats will act out by not using their litter box if their routine is interrupted or they are having health problems.
5. Keep in mind that cats are very clean animals. They will lick their paws to try to clean them. If they have been declawed, they are unable to do this while their paws are wrapped, in order to heal.
6. Healing time can vary cat to cat. Some cats only take a week or two to heal. Some cats can possibly take months. Others may never recover because of complications in the surgery. If the vet does not take the complete joint with the claw, it can begin to grow back and sometimes grows inward towards the paw. This can cause complications and may require more surgery.
7. Claws are part of what makes a cat, well, a cat. Declawing your cat is asking it to become something it is not. The claws are such an integral part of what makes up a cat’s personality and anatomy that taking these away from them is just inhumane.
There are some alternatives for declawing your cat. If you'd like to read more, please click on the next page to find out.
Are there alternatives to declawing your cat?
The answer to this is an overwhelming YES. The website Cat Scratching provides cat owners all sorts of information about why cats scratch and how you can redirect this behavior in positive ways.
Below you will find just a few tips that will help manage your cat’s claws and scratching.
1. It’s important to first learn that scratching is part of what makes up a cat’s physical, mental, and emotional behavior. They learn about their environment with the paws and claws.
2. Keep your cats' nails trimmed. If adopting a kitten, start from an early age clipping their nails. It may help to have someone hold the cat and you clip their nails. Have a groomer or your vet show you the most effective way to clip the nails. However, if you cannot clip your cats’ nails, take them to a groomer or the vet will sometimes clip them. Clipping your cat’s nails is nothing like declawing them.
3. Provide alternatives for scratching. If your cat is scratching at your carpet or furniture, provide a scratching pad or post for them. If your cat has problems using a scratching post, sometimes using a catnip spray will entice them to use the post. Be sure you are using a cat-friendly post. It needs to be sturdy enough to not fall over when your cat is using it. It also needs to be made of a material that is easily shredded.
4. Nail caps are a great alternative to declawing. Again, this is best if started at an early age. However, if you are adopting an older cat, you can help your cat get used to the nail caps. These will dull the sharpness of your cat’s claw and also allow them to still scratch. There are several brands, some even breed specific. If you can’t seem to find a nail cap that works for your cat, ask your vet to recommend one.
5. There is also a couple type of tape that you can stick to your furniture that cats do not like. This will deter them from using the furniture to scratch. In addition to this, there are sprays that you can use to help deter them from scratching. Cats have a very sensitive sense of smell. Anything that does not smell good to a cat, it will generally avoid.
6. Above all, learn that punishment does not work with cats. Cats are very independent. You should never hit an animal regardless what the species. However, cats will see physical punishment as a threat and this can result in being attacked by your cat, even if it’s long after the punishment. Yelling or telling a cat ‘no’ also doesn’t work. Cats respond to alternatives, not corrections.
There are so many alternatives to declawing your cat. Before making a decision, do your research. Seek advice from your veterinarian and implement any of their suggestions. Many vets will do their best to work with you to find solutions besides declawing. There is an increasing movement among vets to not declaw cats. They want to help you find an alternative so be sure to ask.