Cat declawing- a controversial topic for good reason. There are so many stories defending either side but, the facts are often left out or, misleading information is the only information owners hear. The United States is not on the huge list of countries that have banned the practice altogether. That is a fact and one that is very, very disturbing.
For years veterinarians across the country have been declawing cats. It had become so commonplace that declaw procedures happen every day in vet offices across the country. Cat comes in one day and goes home the next. Done. An experienced vet can complete the procedure in 30 minutes. But don’t be fooled. Just because the time spent removing the claws is short, doesn’t mean the implications from doing so won’t last a lifetime.
I have worked with many vets over the years and still find it shocking how many are still willing, and even recommend cat declawing. Just this fall a vet explained to me he found owner’s issues with declawing to be “ridiculous”. He went on to say that he recommends declawing to all cat owners that come into his office because it, “Keeps the animal in the home”. At that exact moment, I knew he was not a vet I wanted to work for.
Are you willing to put the welfare of your new couch before the welfare of your cat?! Because to me, and anyone that opposes declawing, that is exactly what you are doing. Declawing is a surgical procedure involving a series of bone amputations. It is not merely the removal of the claws as the name suggests. In humans, nails grow from the skin. Clipping them is easy and pain-free. In cats, however, the claws grow from the bone! In declawing, the last bone is amputated so the claw cannot then re-grow. Tendons, nerves, and ligaments are also severed. The surgery is performed by using a laser, nail clippers or a blade. In attempts to lessen the adverse effects and complications from the procedure, partial amputation and tendonectomy (cat still has claws but cannot control them) are common, too. But, the end results both physically and behaviorally are the same or, can be worse. And despite what you may have been told, it is an extremely painful recovery involving very aggressive pain management. The AVMA doesn’t even deny that fact (but they do support the practice). In an article in DVM Best Practices, when compared to other surgical procedures done, declawing is associated with “severe pain” compared to spaying (“moderate pain”) and neutering (“mild pain”).
Surveys of veterinarians that have performed the surgery have found that cats are very seriously under-medicated during the procedure and most definitely afterwards. This is due to the cost of pain medications but also due to the very little knowledge there is about how cats show pain and how they handle analgesics and anesthesia. Because of this, it is common practice for some vets to forgo any post-surgical pain management! Just inhumane and cruel. Pretty sure if my finger was removed from my knuckle I would want/need pain meds not to mention bottles upon bottles of wine.
So why is it so common? Lots of reasons but none of them are good. One being veterinarians make a lot of money performing it (recent vet I spoke with charged about $400 for just the front claws). Another is because of pet over-population. It is believed that if you remove the physical factor in a behavioral issue, then the pet is more likely to stay in the home- essentially, a cat that physically cannot scratch won’t ruin your new sofa. Another big reason is that owners just don’t understand what it really means to declaw and they do what a vet says to do when not given other options. After all, your vet took an oath to protect animal health and welfare. Why would they recommend something that shatters that oath? Unfortunately, adding to the problem, many vets themselves don’t really know the behavioral ramifications from the procedure until after they have already performed it…
You only wanted your cat to stop tearing the antique chair but, what you end up with is a cat that doesn’t pee in the litter box and…bites. A cat that bites with the blazing fury of the sun in August. You removed it’s only first line of defense and so now when it is agitated, it bites you! You took away its ability to dig, and when it tries it is uncomfortable, so now it doesn’t bother digging in the litter box at all and pisses everywhere. You cut away it’s “fingertips” and so now it can’t play as vigorously, it is depressed and, obesity is setting in. But, hey, your loveseat looks brand new, right? Shame on you. The behavioral consequences from declawing a cat are immense and extremely difficult (if not impossible) to reverse. Dozens of studies have found that declawed cats are actually more likely to develop behavioral issues post-surgery than cats left with claws. Shelters have found that relinquishment of cats for issues like biting and house-soiling is significantly higher in declawed cats than cats who are not.
Why does the procedure even need to exist when there are so many other options?! I always say you can train any animal and a cat is no exception. But, you don’t even need to do significant training to prevent the problems associated with cats whose owners want them declawed. Here is a quick list of tips to prevent scratching:
1. Buy and apply nail caps! You can find them in most pet stores and online. They are cheap and last for 4-6 weeks. Most boxes come with enough for 2-3 months at a time!
2. Offer appropriate things to scratch like scratching posts and toys or an old garage sale chair. Rub catnip or wet food on the surface to entice a cat to scratch there.
3. Spray anti-scratch sprays (they usually smell of citrus) on furniture. It deters the cat.
4. Apply tape to areas on furniture that may be scratch prone. The sensation is not pleasant to cats and deters scratching.
5. Cover furniture with plastic or cheap tablecloths/blankets.
6. Play with your cat!! Play games that engage their paws and makes them tired.
7. Contact a behavior specialist for more help/advice!!!!
You don’t need to declaw your furry companion! It is painful, inhumane and just simply unnecessary. If your vet recommends it to you, find another vet!