Should I declaw my cat?
As a cat owner in Broken Arrow, it is your option to have your cat declawed or not. But before deciding to have your kitty’s claws removed, make sure to consider the reason(s) for declawing as well as the advantages and disadvantages of the procedure.
What is declawing?
Declawing is a surgical procedure done to remove an animal’s claws by amputation of all or part of the distal phalanges of the animal’s toes. The medical term for declawing is onychectomy, but onychectomy simply means “nail cutting” and we all know that declawing doesn’t just cut the nail or claw. The claws grow from the first toe bone so in order to actually de-claw a cat; the first toe bone also has to be removed.
What are the reasons to declaw my cat?
Declawing can be done either for medical reasons or as the owner chooses (elective). The procedure is indicated in diseases of the distal phalanx such as chronic inflammation, tumors, persistent infection and gangrene. In medical declawing, the healthy parts of the claw are left intact.
If you are suspecting that your cat’s paw or foot is infected, inflamed, in pain or has a tumor, bring him to the vet in Broken Arrow as soon as possible so he can be checked and given appropriate medication.
Elective declawing can be done to housecats to prevent them from scratching and damaging furniture and other things in the house and to prevent them from scratching and hurting people.
Also, if the owners have a compromised or suppressed immune system or those with bleeding disorders, their cats are subjected to declawing to prevent them from getting infections due to scratching.
How is declawing done?
There are two kinds of ways to perform declawing: excisional and guillotine method.
With the excisional method, all of the last bone of the toe (third phalanx) is removed. The third phalanx is where the claw grows from so in order to completely remove the claws, the bone is removed as well. The procedure is done using a scalpel blade or by laser.
In the case of the guillotine method, only the distal (end) part of the third phalanx bone (together with the claw) is cut using a nail clipper.
What are the disadvantages or risks of declawing?
- Complications of the surgical procedure
Your cat is at risk of complications from the anesthesia and/or the surgical procedure. Complications from the surgical procedure include excessive bleeding, nail bed infection, nail regrowth in the case of guillotine method, pad injury during surgery, pain and limping.
Declawing is a painful procedure for your cat and the pain may last for weeks or months.
- Change in behaviour
Although there is no concrete evidence, some owners claimed a change in behaviour in their cats—from being friendly and lively cat to being withdrawn, fearful and/or aggressive.
- Litter box problems
Some claim that studies reveal no change in litter box habits after declawing. Some vets, however, stated that there is an increased incidence of litter box problems (cats urinating on the floor, mattresses, sofa, carpet) in cats that have been declawed compared to cats that have their claws intact.
- Lead to decreased muscle tone and agility
Physically, declawing can result in gradual weakening of the cat’s muscles in the legs, shoulders and back which can affect agility and balance.
- Results to an altered gait and joint problems
Domestic cats walk on their toes and removing the first digit of the toes can result to an altered gait and can affect all the joints of the legs which later result to joint problems like arthritis of the hip and other joints
- Impaired ability of the cat to defend itself
Claws are a cat’s primary defense mechanism. Without claws, your cat is in danger of being attacked by dogs, other cats or predators. Declawed cats should not be allowed to go outside the house because of this reason. But even inside the house, your cat is still in danger as it cannot defend itself.
Before I Declaw My Cat What Alternatives Do I Have?
- Introduce a scratching post
It is a cat’s natural habit to scratch and so you need to provide your cat with a scratching post. To prevent your cat from scratching your furniture, place a scratching post in front of it and gradually move the post as the cat uses it regularly.
Buy or make by yourself a scratching post that is accessible and tall enough that he can stretch while scratching and sturdy and stable enough that it will not wobble. You can use natural wood or cover it with sisal rope. Using a catnip or catnip spray can also “attract” the cat to use the post.
You can also put contact paper (sticky side out) on your furniture to discourage him from scratching it.
Training your cat (while still a kitten) not to scratch furniture is also an effective way to prevent damage to your belongings.
- Trim your cat’s nails regularly
Trimming the nails of your cat can prevent him from damaging your furniture. Have him get used to having his nails cut while he is still young. You can start by holding his feet first until he gets used to it. Then, you can introduce the clipping procedure while he is relaxed. Give him treats as a reward for letting you hold his feet and clip his nails.
To properly clip the cat’s nail, examine the nail and look for the pink “quick”. Cut about an eighth of an inch forward of the quick. Do not cut the quick or it may bleed and cause some pain to your cat. You can also have your vet in [city] teach you the proper way in trimming the cat’s nail.
- Padding for the claws or nail caps
You can also have nail caps glued on to your cat’s existing nail. They are non-toxic and are usually applied every 4-6 weeks depending on your cat’s scratching frequency.
- Mood therapy
Therapies are also available for your feline pets in order to modify their behaviour (train them not to scratch people, etc.). Ask your vet in [city] on ways to deal with your kitty’s bad behaviour and how to train them properly.
Before having your cat declawed, consider your reasons and remember that declawing is irreversible. For more information on declawing and on alternative ways to solve your cat’s scratching problems, contact your veterinarian in Broken Arrow by calling 918-258-0040.
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Village Vet Animal Clinic
2026 West Houston Street
Broken Arrow, OK 74012
Should I Declaw My Cat?