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Last updated December 27, 2018

Declawing Cats: Definitive Guide For Cat Owners

The Complete Guide To Cat Declawing

Declawing cats is a highly debated issue among cat lovers. A lot of cat owners used to mistakenly believe that declawing is a harmless procedure to resolve unwanted scratching issues. However, nothing can be further from the truth. Declawing is in fact a cruel and inhuman act towards your pet. It is the same as cutting off your fingers at the first knuckle. The main reason for cat owners going for declawing is due to unwanted scratching. To resolve unwanted scratching issues, there are better and more humane ways to do it. If you are thinking of getting your cat declawed, understand what is cat declawing and its pros and cons first.

What is declawing?

Contrary to popular belief, declawing or onychectomy is not a procedure to just remove the claws. Declawing is actually a surgical procedure in which the end bone of each toe is removed from an animal’s or cat’s claws. This is necessary to fully remove the claws as well as prevent the claws from growing again.

The proper medical term in which the end bones are removed or amputated is called phalangectomy. There are no benefits to a cat being declawed. In fact, your cat will be worse off after the declawing procedure. As such, declawing is considered an act of animal cruelty.

How is a cat declawed?

There are several methods used in declawing. The most commonly used methods involve the use of a scalpel or guillotine clipper to cut off at the end bones. The wounds are then closed off with stitches or surgical glue. The paws are then bandaged to prevent infection of the surgical wounds. Complications such as bleeding, infections, long term loss of balance and certain behavior issues may occur.

Another method involves the use of a laser to remove the end bone. A small but intense beam of light is used to cut through the tissues to amputate the last bone. After that, the wounds are either closed off with stitches or surgical glue. Wounds are then bandaged to prevent infection. Similarly, the risk of having certain behavior issues, bleeding, infections and losing balance long term may be observed in cats after this procedure.

Another method in declawing is called tendonectomy, though it is not technically the same. This method requires the tendon that controls the claw in each toe to be severed. The claws are not removed, but your cat will end up having no control over its claws and unable to stretch them. The same complications such as bleeding, infections, loss of balance and behavior issues may arise.

However, there is set-back in this method. The claw will continue to grow thicker and you will need to trim your cat’s claws more frequently. Otherwise, you will find your cat’s claws growing into its paws and snagging on carpets, drapes, furniture or other people. This will usually end up with your cat having to undergo another round of declawing which will inflict yet another round of pain to your cat.

Why people declawed their cats

As you probably know, unwanted scratching can be a big source of headache for cat owners. It may result in bad relationships, especially if you have family members who suffered as a result of your pet cat destroying some treasured possessions such as expensive carpets and furniture.

Aggressive and excessive scratching behavior resulting in injuries to cat owners or other family members is also one of the reasons why people want to declaw their cats. For families with young children, this is a legitimate cause for concern. Though, the right way to resolve this is by training your cat to scratch only at appropriate objects.

The Complete Guide To Declawing

A cat will bite more often if it is declawed.

Why you should not declaw your cat

  • Declawing is a cruel and inhuman act. Declawing a cat is the same as cutting off a person’s finger off at the first knuckle. Imagine that happening to yourself. Do you want the same thing to happen to your pet cat?
  • Depending on the surgical procedure for the declawing, your cat may need to learn how to walk again. Some procedures will affect your cat’s balance and hence the need for your cat to relearn how to walk.
  • Scratching is a natural behavior of cats. Cats scratch to mark territories, sharpen their claws and stretch their muscles. Without their claws, their natural behavior is suppressed, leading to a host of mental and physical issues.
  • Cats use their claws to defend themselves. This is especially important if you let your cat outdoors. Without claws, a cat will be defenseless and more likely to suffer injuries or even death if attack by other animals while outdoors.
  • While there are claims of cats being more aggressive after being declawed, studies have not shown anything conclusive. However, take a moment and think about it. After a cat had been declawed, its only tool left for defending itself is its teeth, so it is not illogical to say a declawed cat will tend to bite more often.
  • Declawing is a surgical procedure and as such will cause pain to your cat after the procedure. The pain can last up to a few weeks. In cases which the surgeries are not well performed, nails can grow back and cause extreme pain to your pet.
  • Like claims of cat being more aggressive after being declawed, your cat may also develop litter box issues after declawing procedure. As scratching is a way for cats to mark their territories, even if your cat is house trained, there is a chance your cat may start defecating or urinating outside its litter box.
  • Many countries, such as Australia, England, Japan and New Zealand have banned or restrict declawing of cats. Also, many veterinarians will refuse to perform declawing due to ethical reasons.

Declaw your cat only when it is absolutely necessary, such as in certain medical conditions where the claws are damaged beyond repair or there is tumor growth around the area. Your vet will be able to advise you if such situations arise.

Alternatives to declawing

As previously mentioned, the biggest reason people declawed cats is due to excessive or unwanted scratching. It is actually very easy to prevent this behavior problem. If you fully apply the following tips below, there is no need to declaw your cat.

  • Buy multiple scratching posts and/or scratching boards made of different materials such as cardboard, carpet, sisal and wood for your cat to ease its scratching needs. Bride your cat to use these scratching posts or scratching boards by using catnip or different types of cat toys.
  • Train your cat to use the scratching posts and/or scratching boards using positive reinforcement training methods. Once your cat gets used to using these scratching boards and posts to ease its scratching needs, your carpets, furniture and other household items will be saved.
  • Apply special materials such as sticky tape to objects that your cat like to scratch. This will deter your cat from scratching these objects.
  • It is important to trim your cat’s claws regularly to prevent your cat from damaging household items such as carpets and furniture. If the nails are too long, it will be easier to damage objects and the damage will be more serious.
  • Check with your vet on the use soft plastic caps, glue to the nails to prevent excessive or unwanted scratching. This method, while effective, needs the caps to be replaced every four to six weeks.

Questions on cat declawing

What age to declaw a cat?
If you want to declaw your cat, it is best to do it before the age of two years old. Cats older than two years of age may have more difficulty adapting without claws. They will also take a longer period of time to recover from the declawing surgical procedure.

What age to declaw a kitten?
The ideal age is around eight to twelve weeks old when a kitten starts to scratch. Though. It is recommended to declaw a kitten the same time it goes for a spay or neuter procedure. This is to lessen the trauma on the young kitten by having it placed under anesthesia once rather than two separate times.

How much does it cost to have a cat declawed?
Having a cat declawed can cost anything from $100 to $500. It depends on the method employed. The more complicated the declawing procedure the more expensive it will be. Do take note of follow up medical costs as well, especially if your cat starts developing an infection or other complications. So it is not a one time cost as what many people believe.

There are many cat lovers in both camps. It is really hard to say who is right or wrong. Personally for me, I feel it is not right to remove some things that naturally belong to the cats. If you seriously love your pet, you should not declaw your cat. Unless, it is to resolve a medical condition, I do not advocate declawing. At the end of the day, cat declawing is a personal decision. Think of your cat’s welfare first before you make any decision.


Image Credit
Photo by  Jill Allyn StaffordOrias1978CC BY 2.0

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Last updated December 27, 2018

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