The Problems with Declawing Your Cat
When I was a young girl, we always got our cats declawed.
I remember coming home from school and seeing our little kitten with wraps of gauze around her front paws. I always felt sorry for her as she wobbled throughout the house, wincing as she struggled to walk.
I grew up thinking this was the norm: if you owned a cat, you got it declawed. Otherwise, it would destroy your house. However, after many years of owning cats, I learned that declawing was actually very bad for cats. In fact, it would feel approximately the same as if you removed the tips of your fingers. Could you imagine????
If you are contemplating having your cat declawed, here are some things to consider:
Why do cats scratch, anyway?
Scratching is a very normal behavior for cats. Cats scratch for several reasons. First, their nails naturally shed layers as they grow so this is a cat's way to "file" their nails and prevent overgrowth. In addition, scratching allows cats mark their territory. Also, scratching just feels good.
What does the surgery actually entail?
Techniques can be different, but they all involve one thing: you have to remove the claw. It isn't only the claw, but also little piece of bone that the claw grows from. Otherwise, the claw will try to grow back.
Cats are normally declawed through use of an instrument with a sliding blade (like a guillotine). It cuts a straight line through the joint between the little piece of bone and the next piece of bone, also slicing the cat's paw pad in the process. When the pads are cut, it becomes extremely painful for the cat so that it can't walk on them without a lot of discomfort. Ouch!
Another procedure, called cosmetic declawing, uses a tiny curved blade is used to dissect out the claw and the bone. This way the paw pads are not cut, and the cat will be able to walk comfortably soon afterwards. However, this procedure is still NOT an easy procedure, it is time-consuming, so many vets do not perform this type of surgery.
What are some problems cats encounter after surgery?
Although it hasn't been proved that declawing can alter a cat's personality, there are a few things you need to be aware of. Think about it. If your cat can't defend herself with her claws, she might find it necessary to bite instead.
Also, using kitty litter can become very troublesome. Litter can get stuck inside her unhealed paws, leading to infection. Some vets recommend switching to shredded newspaper during the healing time. However, this may cause your cat to avoid her litter box altogether.
In addition, this procedure can make life difficult for outdoor cats. I had my cats, Casey and Oliver both declawed, and I now regret this decision. When they got older, they switched from indoor to outdoor cats, and because they had no claws they had no way of defending themselves. It is too late for me to do anything about this, and I can't force my cats to stay inside. However, you should really consider this before having your cat declawed. You don't know whether your cat will become an outdoor cat when she grows older.
This procedure is also worse for cats that are overweight. Remember, they have to bear all of their weight on their fragile, damaged paw pads. Can you imagine how awful that would feel? Just think of your feet with your toes and soles cut. Then imagine having to walk on them after 24 hours. Ummmmm, I don't think so!
Especially if your cat is older, you should NOT let it have this procedure. An older cat cannot heal as quickly and will experience more pain. Some vets refuse to do this surgery on cats over 3 years old.
So if I don't do surgery, what else can I do?
Sure, surgery is bad, but what alternatives are there? Here are some things you can do instead of declawing:
- Trim her nails. Keeping your cat's claws regularly trimmed will keep them from using their nails to damage your furniture.
- Buy nail caps. These are temporary plastic nail covers that need to be replaced as nail grows out, but they are effective and easy to use.
- Provide a scratching post. Your cat will scratch this instead of the. You can train her to do this by redirecting her to her post whenever you catch her scratching in places she shouldn't. You can also try adding catnip to her post to try and get her to scratch there instead.
- Deter them with tape. If you don't want your cat to jump up on the furniture, try double sided tape. Most cats don't like the feel of tape on their paws.
If you are a cat owner or hoping to become one, try to find alternatives to declawing in order to take care of your cat. Surgery is painful and unnatural for cats, and there are now so many other alternatives to make sure your cat's claws are never a problem.