Declawing Cats (onychectomy)
Scratching with the front claws is a normal, instinctive behavior of healthy cats. The purpose of this activity is to remove old, worn fragments of the nails, to relieve stress, stretch their muscles and mark their territory. Although scratching is normal for cats, this behavior can be destructive and costly in the home. For some cats and cat owners, declawing appears to be the only solution to living together. However, cat owners considering this procedure, need to be aware of what it is, and the associated risks.
Declawing is performed under general anesthesia and consists of amputation of the toe to the first joint, not just the removal of the nail. The procedure is painful, therefore pain medication is recommended for several days after surgery. Special pelleted litter or torn newspaper must be temporarily used in place of normal litter until the feet are completely healed.
Problems Associated with Declawing
Balance is harder for declawed cats, just as it would be for us without part of our toes. They sometimes develop anatomical problems from the extra strain of moving without all their toes. There’s also the potential for re-growth of improperly removed claws, nerve damage and bone spurs.
Declawed cats must be confined indoors because the claws are its’ primary means of defense. They can no longer defend themselves or climb to escape danger.
Some behavioral changes may surface. Declawed cats may become more aggressive, or more anxious and fearful around other animals. Studies have shown that declawed cats are about 20% more likely to become biters.
About 20% of declawed cats also quit using their litter boxes. It starts because their feet are so painful after the surgery that they can’t use it, and either lingering sensitivity or fear keep them from going back to the box after they are healed.
Alternatives to Declawing
Rising Sun Animal Wellness Center, strongly recommends that you try methods to discourage scratching, as an alternative to declawing. Scratching posts work well for most cats. Many scratching post variations are available commercially or you can get creative and make your own! Either way take a real look at what your cat already likes to scratch on – chances are it’s your couch or a chair. The couch is big, tall and sturdy and probably covered in a tightly woven, nubby fabric. Take these factors into account whether purchasing or making your own.
Make Your Own Post
If you decide to make your own make the post at least 40 inches tall – floor to ceiling would be wonderful. Use tightly woven, nubby carpet. Sisal rope also works. Other ideas would be to take a tree log with rough bark and mount it on a sturdy base. Catnip can be placed on and around the post. Put the post where the cat will use it! If he’s clawing the couch, put it near the couch. If you need to, build and use 2 or 3 posts. Your cat will need to claw whether or not you give him a scratching post. Give him good options and he will spare your furniture!
You may need to train your cat to actually use the wonderful new scratching post that you either made or purchased for him. Show it to him, place his paws on it and move them. If you catch him clawing furniture calmly pick him up and place him on his new post (which, of course, you have nearby). Be consistent with this and eventually it will work. If your cat is having trouble “giving up” the couch, try squirting him a little with a small water pistol each time you catch him clawing it. There are also sticky tapes you can put on furniture to ward them off. Citrus is a smell they find very disagreeable and can help to repel them from areas you do not want scratched. We also carry plastic nail caps called Soft Paws®, which are applied with glue every 6-8 weeks, and prevent claws from snagging fabrics or skin. Regularly trimming your cat’s claws can also minimize damage to surfaces. All of these require some effort and persistence on your part, but if you succeed, you will most likely have a happier cat as your companion.
Rising Sun Animal Wellness Center does recognize that for some, declawing is the only option. Therefore we will perform a declaw if you have considered the information and alternatives listed above and concluded that this is the best option for you and your loving companion.