Declawing your cat isn’t a simple, harmless quick fix. It’s not just a “manicure” where the nails are simply removed during surgery. In truth, declawing involves the amputation of the last bone of each toe, the equivalent of cutting off a human finger at the last joint/knuckle. In addition, it provides no medical benefit to the cat.
In fact, most countries have banned declawing (Onychectomy) as an inhumane practice. The Humane Society of the United States opposes declawing “except for the rare cases when it is medically necessary for medical purposes, such as the removal of cancerous nail bed tumors.” According to the Humane Society, infectious disease specialists don’t recommend declawing because the risks from scratches for people with immunodeficiencies or bleeding disorders is less than those from bites, cat litter, or fleas carried by their cats.
In the “amputation” method of declawing using scalpels or clippers, the wounds are closed with stitched or surgical glue, and the feet are bandaged. Laser surgery is another method, but is still the amputation of the last toe bone of the cat and has the same long-term risks of lameness and behavioral problems as the first method.
In tendonectomy, the tendon that controls the claw in each toe is severed. While the cat keeps its claws, it can no longer control them or extend them. This method can cause abnormally thick claw growth, requiring frequent and difficult nail trims to keep the claws from snagging on people or other objects, or from growing into the cat’s paw pads. Additionally, the cat may actually require later amputation/declawing; and it carries with it the same risks as the other two procedures.
Cats use their claws in a variety of ways: defense, to settle disputes amongst themselves, to climb trees and other objects to escape danger and predators. Some of the most common results of declawing are that cats are less likely to use the litter box and/or are more likely to bite. Declawing can also lead to physical problems for your cat. They are more at risk and prone to pain in the paw, infection, tissue necrosis (tissue death), lameness, and back pain. Claw removal changes the way the cat’s paws touch the ground, similar to wearing a pair of uncomfortable shoes. Regrowth of improperly removed claws is a risk, as well as nerve damage and bone spurs.
Veterinarians also recommend shredded newspaper as litter for several days after surgery. This sudden change in litter, in addition to paw pain, may lead the cats to stop using the litter box.
What are alternatives to declawing? For starters, cats usually begin scratching when they are about 8 weeks old, and this is the ideal time to train them to use scratching posts and receive nail trims. Pet stores offer a variety of products to help with this. Such products include scratch deterrent sprays, and sprays to use on scratch posts you WANT the cat to use. Soft plastic caps such as Soft Paws are glued to the cat’s nails and need to be replaced about every six weeks. You can also attach special tape such as Sticky Paws to furniture to deter scratching. Click here for more ways to deter unwanted scratching.
In short, sometimes the easiest method isn’t always the correct or most beneficial choice, and can oftentimes lead to more problems than solutions. Our pets are family, and they deserve the same careful consideration we would give our human family.
The Humane Society of the United States
Community Concern For Cats
Doctors Foster and Smith
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